If you told friends and family that you bought a used rental car, you’d probably get some shocked and confused reactions. Traditionally, buying a used rental car is something people approach with great fear and trepidation. Rental car mentality might as well be an invitation to abuse and be careless with the car, especially if you bought the agency’s insurance.
But then if you told friends and family what you paid for your used rental car, you’d be sure to get reactions mixed with more shock and understanding. Used rental cars generally have a lower resale value than their non-rental brethren on the used car lot, which make buying one highly affordable.
Pros of buying a used rental car
Is the risk of buying a used rental car myth or fact? The truth is, despite their occasionally high mileage, most rental cars are very well taken care of. Unlike some owners, rental car agencies follow the maintenance schedules exactly as required by the manufacturer. You don’t know if a regular used car got its oil changed every 3,000 miles (or ever), but that used rental car sure did. It also had very frequent interior cleanings, engine inspections, and any minor issue was fixed immediately. The cherry on the sundae is that you get all that on a newer model than you could otherwise get for the same price. Used rental cars are sold young and at lower prices than regular used cars.
Cons of buying a used rental car
If you’re starting to think why wouldn’t you buy a used rental car, there are some pitfalls to be aware of. Some rental car agencies have their own body shops where they can take care of the occasional fender bender and not have to run it through a major insurance company, meaning Carfax may not pick it up. If you purchase the rental company’s insurance when picking up your rental car, this is what will happen to the car should you get into a minor bump.
There’s also a chance you might not know that used car you’re looking at was once a rental. While some used rental cars are sold at lots run by companies like Hertz and Enterprise, others are sold wholesale to car dealerships to be sold on their own used car lots. These cars won’t have big red signs that say “used rental car” on them, but requesting the Carfax report on any car you’re considering will let you know it’s history, including if it was a rental. Car value guides like The Black Book or Kelley Blue Book mark down the value of used rental cars, which means you can get quite a hefty discount on a used rental car on a dealership lot. If you’re looking at a used car that’s affordable, newer model year, and has higher mileage than it should for its age, find out if it’s a rental first.
Certified Pre-Owned vs Used Rental Car
If you’re in the market for an affordable Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry or minivan/SUV, there are plenty of newer model used rental cars to meet your needs. But many rental car companies carry sports cars (like the Nissan 370Z) and luxury cars (like the Cadillac CTS). You might even be able to uncover a Mercedes Benz, BMW, or Audi! Though you’ll want to remember that a high-powered rental car is going to attract a certain kind of driver, and that usually isn’t the type that accelerates slowly and obeys the speed-limit.
The bottom line is that there can easily be a problem when you buy a used rental car, but it’s just as likely that a regular used car will have issues. If you’re planning on keeping your used car for many years you will get plenty of value out of it regardless of whether it was a former rental. Your best plan is to have any used car, former rental or otherwise, thoroughly inspected for problems or hidden damage by an independent ASE Certified Technician.
Used rental car prices
Former Hertz rental cars undergo a full mechanical inspection and come with a 12-month/12,000 mile powertrain (engine and transmission) warranty, in addition to whatever manufacturer warranty is left. Most of their rental cars are sold when they have about 30,000 miles on them, but you can find models with fewer miles.
While used rental cars are more affordable than their privately owned counterparts when comparing similar mileage vehicles, costs still vary due to age, condition, mileage, and other factors. So as with any used car, be a smart shopper and be sure to do all your homework. And always be sure to check the CARFAX report!
Here are a few examples of used rental car models and their prices at lots in Southern California.
(Note: The following are all model year 2008 or 2009 vehicles and are to be considered examples only. Visit rental car sales agency websites for exact prices and offers.)
Hertz Car Sales:
Hyundai Sonata GLS: (31,274 miles)--$13,995
BMW 328i: (25,724 miles)--$23,995
Toyota Sienna: (34,725 miles)--$15,995
Honda Civic: (28,775 miles)--$14,995
Infiniti FX35: (27,661 miles)--$22,995
Nissan Altima S: (38,225 miles)--$13,995
Enterprise Car Sales:
Toyota Tundra: (15,274 miles)--$23,995
Nissan Maxima: (23,924 miles)---$22,995
Pontiac Vibe: (12,276 miles)---$12,995
Nissan Quest: (20,787 miles)---$17,995
James Hamel is a freelance road tester, auto journalist, and Motor Press Guild full member. Find past work at Autobytel.com and current work at iSeeCars.com. Contact James at [email protected].