If you’ve been shopping around for a used car, odds are you’ve come across former rental cars for sale. As you can imagine, these cars have a wider variety of drivers and often colourful backgrounds. Of course, these once-rental vehicles are known to be well-maintained – often more professionally than your average owner – yet are listed well below market value.
Each year, thousands of cars leave rental fleets and go to dealers, many of which are unaware that the vehicles were ever rental cars. On the other hand, a buyer can go straight to the dealer, which is very similar to any regular dealership. They will handle the inspections, offer warranties, and often have the exact same services as a used car dealer.
Naturally, purchasing a rental vehicle comes with its own unique considerations.
Why Are Rental Cars Sold To Begin With?
Here’s how it works: car rental companies are always cycling new vehicles into their offering. To keep inventory balanced and maintain their customer base’s desire for the latest models, they will sell off older ones.
Due to the fact that these vehicles – everything from compacts to SUVs – tend to be well maintained and not considerably old, these often find their way into dealerships without anybody knowing. Many of the largest rental companies – Hertz, Discount, and Enterprise – also have specialized visions for selling their cars directly to consumers.
The primary concern is that a rental car has been beaten up by countless drivers who don’t care about long-term maintenance, or generally mistreat it knowing it’s not actually their property. Although a vehicle may have been driven hard during its tenure as a rental, it’s also likely to have been well cared for by the rental company during that time.
“We’re not looking to make a ton of money on our used cars,” Gregg Nierenberg, Vice President of Fleet Services at Avis Budget Group, told NerdWallet.com in October 2017.
The worst you will have to expect in most cases is cosmetic wear-and-tear on the inside or minor aesthetic issues, but since these are noticeable these are the precise reasons you should get them for a much better price. And rest assured that all the hard work has been put in on everything under the hood.
Higher Mileage: A Dealbreaker?
The next largest concern for buyers is that Rental cars tend to have logged more KMs over a similarly aged car owned by an individual. A 12 to 24 months rental car usually caries more mileage than a similar privately-owned car. The major car rental companies typically sell vehicles at 30,000 to 50,000 miles—the concern is often that these miles tend to be the more driven ones since they come from multiple drivers who may not be inclined to take good care of the car.
The vehicle’s age and mileage will be a factor, and the majority of factory warranties will carry over from owner to owner, including powertrain.
Rental cars sell for better prices compared to privately owned cars. These cars are usually offered for a free two-hour test drive and for a three-day rental option, where a reduced rental fee is paid. The companies refund the rental fee if you buy it. Enterprise has a seven-day buyback offer, as well. However, keep this in mind: A former rental may be more affordable up-front, but it will greatly affect the resale value later on.
Limited Inventory is a Feature, Not a Bug
It’s common for rental vehicles to have limited options, so your opportunities for adding on extras is going to be rare. This will also affect additional safety features if that is a big concern.
So, while you will have less opportunity to be enticed by features you don’t want or need, you may need to shop around longer to find the car that’s right for you. If you decide to purchase a rental vehicle, you can do most of the process online, over the phone or if necessary in person. In the majority of cases, contracts can be signed at a rental location or even delivered to your home or office.
Before you buy
Despite the clean reputations of rental companies, be sure to have the car inspected by an independent mechanic. If you have a long enough rental period, you can do this quickly and affordably for around $100.
While these rental organizations offer their own warranties and financing options in-house, it’s best to spend a bit of time investigating car loans on your own to secure the best option.
A disadvantage for rentals though is that rental cars typically don’t have a full record of accidents since rental companies have their own insurance and provide their own repairs, so not all the history is recorded.
Overall, don’t overlook the option of purchasing a rental car. If you find a good deal that you intend to keep for the long haul, then it is a viable alternative.