Mar 192012
 

$5.80 a gallon for gas, only at Orlando Airport - $3.75 most other places within 100 miles

I’ve been in the Orlando area for the last week, driving as far afield as Tampa and Melbourne.  During my travels, I’ve noticed that regular unleaded gas sells for a low price of about $3.75/gallon, no matter whether it is in the Melbourne area, Orlando, or Tampa area.  Some places would sell for another 10c or so a gallon, but consistently, within close on a hundred mile radius of Orlando, the low price was around $3.75.

With one exception.

I went to return my rental car on Monday afternoon, and had agreed to return it with a full tank.  Payless threatened to charge me $7/gallon if the tank wasn’t full (actually, a reasonably fair price, by rental car company standards) but I thought I’d simply fill up myself and save $3.25/gallon.

So, on Semoran Blvd, just off the Beach Line Expressway and about a mile from the Payless depot, I pulled into a large prosperous looking gas station that didn’t have prices advertised on any clearly visible sign.  Only on getting in to the station forecourt did I see a reference to prices in the high five dollar range, almost six dollars.  Surely that couldn’t be for regular unleaded gas?  Maybe it was for some sort of special eco-fuel?  I went up to a pump, and there were the prices, every bit as much as shown on the sign – pennies less than $6 a gallon!

There was another gas station on the other side of Semoran Blvd, so I quickly left this rip-off gas station and went over to a similarly large and prosperous gas station opposite (again with very discreet if any pricing signage), expecting that normal prices would surely apply at this other location.

Nope, same prices.  Needless to say, like most people when returning their car, I didn’t have the spare time to drive further afield, in an unfamiliar part of town, in search of normal prices, and so I had to swallow my pride and pay $5.80/gallon for gas that should have been costing me $3.75.

As best I could tell, everywhere else for 100 miles around, you pay $3.75 – $3.90 a gallon for regular unleaded gas, but when you get close to the airport and the rental car return depots, the price magically shoots up to $5.80.

That’s not just wrong.  That’s exploitive and dishonest in the extreme.  Orlando lives or dies by its tourism reputation, and just about every tourist rents a car.  Its city fathers need to do something about this appalling exploitation of people returning rental cars.

  18 Responses to “Outrageous Orlando Airport Area Gas Price Rip-off”

  1. I agree $5.80 is an obscene amount to charge, but it is a free market and they’re just taking advantage of the “convenience” factor being so close to the airport.

    What I do find shady though is the fact that they don’t post the price so you can’t see it until you get up to the pump.

    • At least one of the stations does have the price posted where you can see it from the road. As I always fill up well out of range of the airport, I did not need to pull in. I only noticed it as I was getting a bite to eat (good sports bar) about 1 mile north of the gas station.

    • Hi, Paxton

      As a long time reader (thank you) you probably already know that I abhor unnecessary government regulation of ‘free’ enterprise. And I well recognize the convenience factor and cost associated with it – we all know that gas from a station adjacent to a freeway exit is usually more expensive than gas ten miles away from the exit, but we also know/expect that this convenience factor will be in the order of 10c – 20c a gallon, not $2.05.

      There are exceptions to the efficiency of the free market system which are recognized by all economists and by even the most ardent free marketeers – or most of them (which is not said in an attempt to marginalize your comment at all).

      One of these exceptions is profiteering – taking a scarce commodity and selling it for outrageously higher than ‘normal’ prices that a free market would otherwise sustain. What exactly is profiteering? Perhaps it is defined in a manner similar to the definition of pornography – ‘It is hard to explain exactly what it is, but you know it when you see it’.

      In this case, these two gas stations – clearly working in cahoots with each other – are not only oligopolistic and colluding (ie a very few players dominating the market and distorting market forces – think airlines for a great example) but are also exploiting a scarce resource – nearby gas for time pressed travelers unfamiliar with the area when returning their car.

      Profiteering (and collusion) is dishonest/unfair and also illegal. So happily we don’t need more government regulation, but we do need existing laws enforced.

  2. Yes, it is a complete ripoff of the time-constrained traveler. Unfortunately, this has been the case for years; I travel to the Orlando area about 4 times.year. I have learned that if you go north on Semoran another mile or so, you will find much more reasonably priced gas.

  3. I also was in Orlando 3 weeks ago and saw the same gas station, about 3 blocks north of where the interstate turnoff to the airport. Obviously set up for car renters who forgot to fill up earlier. Yes, a rip off. One could accept a 10 cent higher price, but 70% higher is “highway robbery”.

    Smart car renters fill up about 15- 20 miles before the airport as gas guage will still read Full when returning the car. And usually near airport prices are somewhat higher no matter where one goes.

    Tourists pay super high taxes for car rentals, hotel taxes, etc. as they have no vote and most people visit the same place rarely and don’t remember the “pain”. By the way, I live near a very small town (2,000?) with 3 interstate interchanges within town limits (big area, few people). Sales tax is 13% as those “passing through’ who stop for food, etc. never think to ask about the tax in advance — sort of a sham revenue scheme.

  4. I would publicize the name of the offending station, so that we could boycott it, and possibly their home office

    • Good point. It was Sun Gas on one side and Suncoast Energys on the other side. But I don’t think these are national or even state-wide brands, I think they are sole outlets.

  5. I sent this email this morning to the Florida Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services (http://www.freshfromflorida.com/onestop/std/petinsp.html)

    Hi

    I have just spent five days in central Florida. All around the Orlando area as far west as Tampa and as far east as Melbourne, gas prices varied with a common low price for regular unleaded being about $3.749/gallon.

    Yesterday – Monday – I went to return my rental car to Orlando Intl Airport and was confronted with two gas stations opposite each other on S Semoran Blvd – Suncoast Energys on one side at 5928 Butler National Drive, and Sun Gas opposite (don’t know its address). Both were selling regular unleaded for $5.79 a gallon, with obscured or no signage at all indicating this.

    This seems to be both collusion and profiteering – both illegal actions. A bit of simple Google searching indicates that this is a longterm practice on both companies’ parts rather than a temporary aberration. See, for example,

    http://www.ripoffreport.com/gas-stations/sun-gas-station-orla/sun-gas-station-orlando-inte-de396.htm
    http://maps.google.com/maps/place?q=Suncoast+Energys&hl=en&cid=17109537535882540266

    Are you the appropriate person to complain to and to seek enforcement action against these two enterprises?

    If so, is this email sufficient complaint or do you require additional information. If not, can you please advise where I should direct my concern?

    Many thanks

    David M Rowell
    17321 NE 31st Ct
    Redmond WA 98052

  6. Here, in Lincoln City, Oregon, every station is ALWAYS at least .25 -.30 higher than in the inland communities. This is a tourist area and rip-off prices are commonplace. Not only for gasoline but for groceries and other commodities. Whenever I MUST buy gas locally I never put in more than a few gallons because I normally go to Salem or Portland at least monthly, where I’ll fill up. I’m finding it very difficult to keep this comment from becoming political.

  7. I’m guessing that the folks at the Orlando International Airport aren’t too happy about this situation either. Theirs is the only airport website I’ve encountered that has a map of nearby gas prices. There’s a link to it from the airport’s rental car info page. It saved me a bunch of money on my last trip to Orlando by tipping me off to these two over-priced gas stations.

  8. Not long ago both of these two stations were fined for NOT having their prices posted. It was an eyeopener to many travelers. I live in the Orlando area and know that it is better to drive up the road a couple of blocks to find the average gasoline prices. All travelers need to be forewarned.

  9. The off airport rental shuttle in Orlando usually had a driver who drove past those stations and warned us not to buy gas there.

  10. When I rent a car, I always pay attention to how far down the road I am when the gas gauge moves off Full. I make a mental note to fill up the tank there when I bring the car back. From Melbourne, if you take 95 north to 520 west, you can fill up at the exit from 95, and if you keep to the speed limit and don’t have a lead foot you can make it to Orlando airport with a still full tank.

  11. Try a smartphone app that tracks gas prices in your vicinity, like GasBuddy. It helped me save about $15 refueling a rental in downtown LA this month.

  12. […] wrote a week ago about being tricked/trapped into spending $5.80/gallon for gas (when the going rate everywhere else was $3.80 or less) while returning a rental car to Orlando […]

  13. There have been many articles about these stations in our newspaper, The Orlando Sentinel, and many attempts by the local authorities to “regulate” them to no avail. The owners claim they pay the highest rents for any gas stations. Your article gives good warning to our visitors…

  14. I just experienced the same scam. There is no market justification, as several other gas stations just a block away have reasonable prices. By not posting their prices and being positioned as the first station outside the airport, Suncoast is simply preying on unsuspecting tourist returning their rental cars with little time to try another station for a reasonable price. I fell ripped off and betrayed by the Orlando tourist industry for allowing this to continue (for years given the dates of these posts!) and by my rental car company for not flagging it either. Definitely leaves a bad taste in my mouth after an otherwise pleasant trip. Same one you Suncoast.

    • 2017 and these SOBs are still overcharging. Funny thing is, it’s not like they are they only place around. Drive a block down to Wawa.

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