Car buyers can often find a great deal on a vehicle if they purchase a used rental car. It’s not really as crazy as it sounds. Although rental cars may have a reputation of being driven hard and neglected, that’s not at all true.
A former rental car, believe it or not, often has less wear and tear and has been better maintained than other used vehicles. Rental car companies must follow strict schedules for maintenance, which private owners who trade in their used vehicles to a dealership or sell them privately may not. No matter how much abuse car renters put the vehicles through, rental car companies take care of their fleets.
Before you dismiss the idea of buying a rental vehicle, read on to discover the benefits of purchasing a used vehicle from a rental fleet and how to find one that serves you well.
What to Do Before Buying a Rental Vehicle
As with any car-buying endeavor, you want to decide on the best make and model for your needs and then find a vehicle that fits those parameters and your budget. You may want to test drive several models of cars before deciding on the vehicle you want.
Fortunately, when you’re shopping for a rental car, the rental car companies often allow you to take the car for a two-hour test drive.
Alternatively, you may be able to take advantage of a three-day rent-to-buy program. If you decide to purchase the vehicle from their rental fleet, many rental car agencies will refund your rental fee.
Also, look for a company, such as Enterprise or Hertz, that has a seven-day return policy if you’re unhappy with the vehicle.
Once you’ve found a few rental car companies and decided on the type of car you want, you’ll want to make sure the used vehicle you’re considering is a good value for your money.
How to Decide if a Used Rental Car Is a Good Deal
The Kelley Blue Book remains a trusted resource when determining the resale value of used vehicles. Kelley Blue Book doesn’t specifically list the resale value of rental cars, but you can still search for the car’s value based on its mileage, condition and features.
You may expect to pay less than Kelley Blue Book value for a rental car, because rental car companies buy newer models in bulk and negotiate savings with vendors. The car may also have high mileage, further driving its price down.
However, some rental car agencies have low, no-haggle pricing, leaving no room for negotiation. Rely on Kelley Blue Book value to decide if it’s a good deal or if you should walk away.
How to Tell if a Used Rental Car Will Be Reliable
Car buyers purchasing used vehicles are usually taking a chance. It’s a good idea to have a trusted mechanic inspect the car for signs of damage or excessive wear and tear. While rental car companies, just like any seller, must disclose problems they know about, a mechanic may spot components that could wear out soon, including brakes, suspension, and tires.
You should also request a vehicle history report, which will detail if the car has ever been in an accident.
Finally, ask about a limited powertrain warranty. Most rental car agencies offer a 12-month limited powertrain warranty, even if the vehicle’s manufacturers’ warranty has expired due to high mileage.
Can You Get Financing for a Rental Car Purchase?
When you purchase a used or new car from a dealership, the dealer can often handle every aspect of financing for you, including helping you submit the loan application and closing the deal right on their lot.
However, you may not always get the best rates when you go with the dealer’s lender, unless you have excellent credit and they're offering a 0% financing deal.
Similarly, some rental car companies, such as Enterprise, can take care of securing financing for your used rental car purchase for you. But it often pays to shop around for better rates.
Read More: The Best Auto Loan Interest Rates for 2020
Pros of Buying Used Vehicles from Rental Car Agencies
In spite of many people’s fears about buying a rental car, the experience can be positive, and you can leave with a great car for your money.
Because of the reputation rental vehicles have as used cars, you can often pay a lower price for a former rental car than for a comparable vehicle owned by a private driver in the past.
Plus, since rental car companies often phase out their used vehicles after a year or two, you can get newer models from their rental fleet for less than you might pay from a dealership.
Although rental vehicles may have high mileage on the odometer compared to the average used vehicle of the same age, they still have relatively low mileage because they’re only a year old. In other words, you’ll probably still have many more miles left to drive before experiencing any issues, and you may even enjoy a limited powertrain warranty with your purchase.
Plus, remember that they receive regular maintenance on the manufacturer's schedule, which goes a long way toward keeping used vehicles in good working condition longer.
Rental cars also enjoy the experience of being cleaned, inside and out, after every rental. If you’re looking for a well-maintained, beautiful used car, you’ll often find one on a rental lot.
The opportunity to try the car for up to three days before you buy it can be a huge selling point for many shoppers, and one you won’t enjoy at a dealership.
People who don’t enjoy the game of haggling that often comes with car sales will like that most rental car companies have set, non-negotiable pricing. On the other hand, if you enjoy seeing just how low your salesperson will go when it comes to pricing, buying from a dealership may deliver the thrill you seek.
Cons of Buying Used Vehicles From Rental Car Agencies
Of course, there may be a few drawbacks to purchasing your next car from a rental car agency instead of a dealership.
Rental car companies often purchase the least expensive trim package for their rental fleet. The trim package describes what features a new car has, from leather seats and a sunroof to decorative features like upgraded rims.
If you’re looking for a ride with a pricier trim package and luxurious features, you may not find it on a used rental car lot.
Keep in mind, because of the stigma attached to buying used rental cars, your vehicle may not retain its resale value if you decide to sell it or trade it in for a new car.
Read More: How to Trade in a Car That You Owe Money On
Some states, including California, require that you disclose when used vehicles come from a rental fleet. But not all states do. A vehicle history report, however, would disclose whether the car was ever part of a rental fleet, so you’ll want to tell the truth to prospective car buyers or the dealership, in the case of a trade-in.
Should You Buy a Used Rental Car?
Buying a used rental car may not be as crazy as it sounds, but it may not be the best choice for everyone. If you’re looking for a standard vehicle without a high-end trim package, don’t want to haggle, and don’t mind a car that’s been driven by potentially dozens of people, you can save money buying your next ride from a rental car fleet.
- Edmunds: Are You Buying Trouble if You Buy a Rental Car?
- Enterprise: Everything You Need to Know About Financing
- US News & World Report: What Does a Vehicle History Report Tell You?
- AutoSlash: How to Make Sure a Used Car Was Never a Rental
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Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer, content strategist, and founder of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. A seasoned finance writer, her work has appeared on Forbes, Bankrate, Lending Tree, Solvable, Moneycrashers, and many other personal finance sites, including the award-winning Chase News & Stories portal. With more than 20 years editorial experience, Dawn seeks to take complex concepts and simplify them for today's busy readers. Whether she is writing about taxes or technology, her goal is always to educate, inform, and entertain.