Summary: Buying a rental car can sound like a great idea on paper. The rental car costs less and often has nice features, but sometimes it isn’t worth it.
Consumers have been looking for ways to buy cars on the cheap for decades. One strategy is to buy a rental car, a car that was used at a car rental agency. This can shave thousands off the asking price, but you might shell out more down the line.
If you want to get in your car and drive really far, there’s something you should figure out beforehand: Is buying a rental car a good idea?
The answer seems to fall into the maybe category. It depends on several factors.
People are attracted to the idea of buying a used car because they are often well priced. The inventory is decent, and some people don’t mind driving a car with a few extra miles on it.
In some cases, rental cars can have fewer miles than one might expect!
There’s definitely risk involved, however. Many of our articles share tips on buying a car. One common piece of advice is not to invest in a car with a lot of owners.
Too many variables factor into the equation, and you could wind up with a vehicle that hasn’t been properly maintained, costing you big bucks down the line.
A rental car is like a car with an almost infinite number of past drivers. You never know who slammed on the brakes too much, who smoked in the vehicle (although prohibited), and who caused those bumps and dings.
On the other hand, most rental agencies spare no expense when it comes to vehicle maintenance, at least when talking about the national and international name brands. Local agencies have been known to do their own thing.
This means that the oil was probably always changed on time. Any repair required was done without issue. The corporations have the money to maintain the vehicles, and they’d rather not jeopardize their reputation by having bad cars out on the road.
When the selling day comes, however, all bets are off. Every detail is now on the new owner to repair, and there are miles and miles (and miles) under the car’s belt, the new driver better have a good warranty!
Why Do Rental Companies Sell their Cars?
Curious minds want to know if buying a rental car is a good idea; even more curious individuals want to know why the cars would be sold in the first place.
Rental companies buy new cars for their fleets all the time. Many consumers only want to drive the latest and greatest when renting cars, and the international and national brands are forced to play along.
As the cars get brought in, the old ones have to go somewhere. The average lifespan of a car is about twelve years according to most reports. The average lifespan of a rental car is a lot less. Nobody wants to pay big money to rent a car that’s seven years old.
These old models can be sold in the following ways:
- Dealerships buy the cars at wholesale prices
- Auctions are held to get the cars off the lot
- Consumers purchase the older vehicles directly from the rental agencies
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that rental car companies sell their old cars to make room for new ones and not to lose their behind on the past inventory in the process.
Most Recognized Car Rental Agencies in the USA
There are some rental agencies that should be a green light if you’re thinking of buying a rental car.
These names include
As stated, smaller or local agencies are a bit of a gamble, depending on how they run their business. If the fleet is older, and the car seems to be in sorry shape, then perhaps the deal isn’t so grand.
If you’re interested in learning more, call up the companies and ask to speak to the car sales division. They may have all the information you seek.
What are the Benefits of Buying a Used Rental Agency Car?
If you’re on the fence about buying a rental car, perhaps studying the pluses and minuses will help you determine if this route is worth exploring.
For example, cars owned by rental agencies are a lot more likely to be subject to problems associated with wear and tear. However, they are better maintained.
A huge part of the rental car agency game is risk management. The leadership does everything they can to eliminate risks and accidents. As part of the process, thorough inspections are done, and often.
If you’ve ever rented a vehicle in the past, you already know that the inspection process before and after taking the car out on the open road is exhaustive. They check the mirrors, the bumper, the interior, and the hood.
Another concern is the mileage. In many cases, these cars rack up miles more quickly than other daily drivers. This is because people love to rent cars for lengthy road trips. In fact, smart drivers prefer to put all the miles on somebody else’s car.
Fun Fact: Various reports reveal that rental cars are often taken off the menu after a year to a year and a half. In mileage, this is 25,000 to 35,000 miles, but sometimes rentals are offered until the 40k mark.
Some of these cars are still covered under factory warranty! Even sweeter, some agencies offer a special “powertrain warranty” for a given amount of time, typically a year or 12,000 miles.
Of course, the major reason people want to buy rental cars is because of dollar signs. They want to save money and get the best deal possible. In the eyes of some savvy consumers, buying a rental car hits the target.
For the rental agency business, their bread and butter is not reselling their used cars. They want to unload the vehicles as quickly as possible, so they set the fees at competitive rates.
Some car shoppers have saved over $4,000 on year-old models using the rental agency approach.
In fact, another perk is that some agencies will allow you to “rent” the car to test it out. If you go through the purchase, you aren’t charged for the rental.
Buying a rental car is easier than buying regular cars in some ways. Because you’re dealing with a streamlined corporate process, when dealing with the big names, you can do a lot of the process online or over the phone.
That sure beats dealership hopping and meeting strangers from the classified ads.
Tips for Buying a Rental Car
When you’re on the hunt for a rental car, you may as well enlist the advice of the pros. Here are some tips to help you manage the process.
- Remember to do your homework, people. You should research recalls and other common problems with the model(s) in question.
- If you can, bring your mechanic friend with you to check out the car. If not, find a reliable and certified professional to inspect the car.
- Request the documents related to repair and maintenance. A major corporation should be able to pull these up for you quickly.
- If you will be taking out a loan, the best bet is to shop around for the best deals. Look at total prices, not monthly payments.
Is Buying a Rental Car a Bad Idea?
You may have mentioned to your friend that you’re thinking of buying a rental car. A negative Nancy is going to have you stopped dead in your tracks with all the reasons why doing so is a terrible idea.
There are some minuses to the plan that should be recognized.
For example, the car history could be cloudy. You really never know how well the car was treated by all those drivers. Some drivers are brutal on the car, especially knowing it’s a rental.
If the car wasn’t well maintained, the savings you see up front may not be realized when the repair bills come.
Other than that small risk, buying a car rental vehicle may make sense in your situation. Our advice? Do what seems right for your situation. Pay no attention to what the haters have to say.
The Truth about Buying a Rental Car in the Twenty-First Century
These days, buying a rental car may sound like a smooth move, but it might also sound like one that carries a lot of risk.
The used car market can be tough for many reasons. People are hot to sell their cars because they want cash. Sometimes this causes people to make unethical sales decisions, lying about the car’s details and history.
Luckily, corporations don’t usually lie about such things because they can’t afford to be liable for it. Instead, they are more likely to just take care of the problem. Their mantra is better safe than sorry.
After all, if a rental car is pulled off the lot after 12 or 18 months, that means the model for sale is fairly new! That’s good.
If you don’t drive a lot of miles for your daily commute, this could be an outstanding option. Yes, the miles are logged from the past, but you won’t be adding more. In the end, it could average out in your favor (at least better than a lease might!).
Again, that corporate maintenance system means that oil changes weren’t skipped and that brake work was done as soon as necessary. You can’t say that about the cars offered in private sales.
Some estimates say that discounts are about $1,000, but steeper cuts have been seen.
Remember, not all rental cars have high miles! Sometimes the cars are being sold due to months on the road, not mileage. That’s an added bonus for the buyer!
The last perk to be mentioned is that these cars aren’t usually “customized” in a way that the new driver will dislike. A lot of people do aftermarket tinting or stereo systems. Rental cars don’t bother, so you’re basically getting the vehicle with the factory options and nothing more.
There are some cons, though:
- Rental car inventory is less, and you’re likely to see a whole lot of the same old, same old.
- Resale prices for rental cars aren’t always so great, so if you plan on unloading the vehicle later, don’t expect to jack up that price.
- Some people just don’t get it. You’ll be very excited to talk about your rental car bargain, and some negative person will speak up.
In the end, buying rental cars isn’t for everybody. If you’re interested, start the process by researching the car companies located near your home. Reach out to ask how the cars are sold when they are retired.
If you’re buying a rental car from a dealership or private sale, take extra precaution. The problem with this method is that it can be a great deal for the first buyer. Down the line, however, the later buyers could see more problems related to car troubles.
Sending a Rental Car to the Junkyard
Let’s start with this fact: you cannot send a car you’re actively renting to a junkyard as tempting as it may be.
You can, however, sell your rental car to the junkyard if you are the rightful owner with the title in hand. Perhaps you get a good deal, and you drive the car until it can’t be driven anymore. Then comes junkyard time.
No worries! A local junkyard will be happy to take the rental car off your hands, offering a cash payment. It’s the circle of life (for cars).