A fleet vehicle is a truck, SUV or car utilized by an organization like a company or government agency, rather than a private individual. Businesses that want to upgrade their fleets may sell their old vehicles to help acquire new ones.
To save money, several rental companies resell their used fleet vehicles. Sometimes, there are even whole divisions dedicated to this purpose. If you are looking around for a used vehicle and hear the term, “fleet vehicle” or “fleet car”, it’s probably been a rental car.
Any car used for work is considered a fleet vehicle. Fleet vehicles mainly served as transportation vehicles for people or goods, though branded one are also used as mobile advertisements.
Aside from rental car companies, taxicab companies, public utility companies and police departments depend on vehicle fleets. To keep track of company vehicles and to communicate with drivers and time their arrivals and departures from the company premises, fleet managers use fleet management software.
Private mail companies and government organizations rely on large networks of fleet delivery vans or motorbikes to deliver mail everyday, and buses are most of the time sold or leased to schools to transport students to and from home. Majority of fleet vehicles are owned by the organizations that use them, but there are also some privately owned or rented by employees. Those who owned these “grey fleet” vehicles may get reimbursements or cash allowances for expenses on fuel.
Types of Fleet Vehicles
Some typical fleet vehicles include trucks, cars, SUVs, buses, trailers, motorbikes, coaches, bicycles, rickshaws and trains. Farm vehicles like harvesters, tractors, and industrial vehicles like loaders and graders, also considered as fleet vehicles, so do boats and aircraft. Space vehicles count as fleet vehicles in the burgeoning category, and towable machines like wood chippers may sometimes be considered as fleet vehicles as well.
Used rental vehicles are some of the most common and known fleet vehicles on the road since rental agencies sell them to the public when replenishing their stock. Such vehicles usually come with a lot of wear and tear since rental companies prefer to keep the vehicles in service for as long as possible, and renters tend not to take care so much of the cars they’re renting.
Like former rental vehicles, used company cars are typically sold to private buyers at a low cost. However, unlike used rental cars, used company vehicles are not as common on the road since several companies particularly service and delivery ones use their vehicles as long as it runs and junk them instead of reselling them. Government fleet vehicles, on the other hand, prefer to sell their used vehicles at auctions when they want to get rid of them. This way they can get a good deal.
Another common type of fleet vehicle is the program car. This refers to a car that serves as a demo model in auto dealerships. Dealers sometimes offer program cars to managers as rewards for their hard work. Moreover, automakers usually reserve a fleet of cars for test driving even though there are typically hard limits on when these can be sold. Lastly, there are pool vehicles. These refers to fleet vehicles where several organization members have an ownership stake.
Fleet management companies sell fleet vehicles directly to organizations but there are also traditional car dealers who have specialists who sell fleet vehicles. Like any other cars, fleet vehicles can be leased and fleet leasing companies usually give bulk rates when leasing out and some may even provide repairs and maintenance.
How To Get a Fleet Vehicle
If you want a fleet vehicle to use personally, you can purchase one from a rental car company, auction for fleet vehicles or dealers selling fleet cars, typically rental cars. To get a fleet vehicle to use in an organization, you can purchase one from a fleet management company.
There are also organizations that directly sell their fleet vehicles. When buying a used fleet vehicle, it is always best to obtain a vehicle history report on the vehicle from Carfax or a similar company to know its accident history, title status and ownership. These reports, however, may not be able to tell everything about the vehicle since many organizations service their fleets in-house which is out of reach for vehicle history reporting agencies. Another thing you should do is to have the vehicle professionally inspected in case the organization replaced any parts with substandard items.
Used fleet cars are often an affordable alternative to ordinary vehicles for organization that allows you to save money by purchasing or leasing fleet vehicles from fleet management companies in bulk. Fleet vehicles come in many shapes and sizes. They are important assets of many organizations, from courier companies to police stations.
For individual used car shoppers, fleet cars are usually rental vehicles and are typically good deals because they are relatively newer and often are manufacturer Certified Pre-owned.
Is it good to buy a fleet vehicle?
Somewhere in your used vehicle shopping, you have likely encountered a used fleet car for sale. They are usually advertised as a great deal, seemingly well-cared for, and have complete service records. There are rental car companies that have entire divisions dedicated to resell their used cars. It is typically the same story with government surplus cars and old company vehicles.
Is it worth it to buy one? The answer depends on many factors such as what type of fleet vehicle, how much discount is available, whether it was well-maintained, its mileage and the type of warranty included. The bottom line is you need to view a used fleet car just as you would any other used car, exhausting all means to determine its real condition and research the cost you should pay.
What type of fleet vehicle is a good buy?
As mentioned previously, there are plenty of types of cars and trucks that can be counted as “fleet”. Here we take a closer look at each one of them to determine what typical conditions are they in and if they are worth buying.
Used Rental Cars
This is the most common and popular of fleet vehicles, and can be the most problematic. Rental cars tend to be well-maintained, however, rental companies have significantly lengthened the service time of their cars. They tend to keep them for a long time before deciding to resell it. Finding one with less than 15,000 miles on the odometer that is less than a year old is a lot more difficult than it used to be. May rental cars are kept for double or triple the number of miles before they get to the used car market. It is normal for you to hear someone that the fastest car they have ever driven is a rental car having full insurance. That statement alone speaks volume on how customers handle rental vehicles. It is typical for drivers to be harder on a vehicle that is not theirs and are not mainly responsible for.
Used Government Cars
Government vehicles are usually well-cared for but it may be a challenge to find one that is still in great shape. They are mainly sold at auctions and agencies only get rid of them when they feel that the vehicles are not economically viable to use, or safe enough for everyday driving.
Used Company Vehicles
A corporate fleet vehicle can be a good buy in the used market. Some delivery and service vehicles are used to within the every end of their service lives before they’re disposed of, but there are others driven by executives or sales reps that typically are replaced more often, and driven more mildly.
Used Car Manufacturer and Dealer Cars
Car dealers typically retain fleets of cars that serve as demo models, vehicles to loan to service customers, and as rewards for managers. Auto makers also have fleets of vehicles for training, executive benefits and media loans. They usually have strict limits on when the vehicles have to be sold, and several of these vehicles are still under warranty when they are being sold in the market. Dealers often call their fleet vehicles “Program Cars.”
How to buy a used fleet vehicle
The process of buying a used fleet vehicle regardless of where you are buying it from (a car dealer, a company vehicle, or a rental car company) is the same as buying any other used car, with a couple of exceptions.
Get a Vehicle History Report
The first step is to get a vehicle history report from a company like Carfax. This is important because you’ll want to find out everything you can about the car. However, car history reports may also have some blind spots especially when it comes to fleet vehicles. Several government agencies and rental car companies have their own service and repair facilities. Even if maintenance may have been done religiously, there is no means for the vehicle history reporting company to access that information. If this is the case, you will have to ask the seller for all the service information that they have on the vehicles you are considering.
Similarly, if a company has done crash repairs at their own facility, chances are the damage reconstruction won’t appear on the vehicle history report. Make sure to check history reports for any reported accidents, and then ask the seller about any repairs that were done. Always have an independent mechanic check if the repairs were done properly.
Have the Car Inspected by an Independent Mechanic
Getting your car inspected by a mechanic that has no relationship to the seller is even more crucial with used fleet vehicles than with others. The mechanic will check all wear items to confirm if maintenance was performed timely and properly that meets industry standards. The mechanic will also have to pay particular attention to the quality of parts used to make sure that the company that owned the vehicle was not using lower-grade replacements parts to save money. While that should not immediately disqualify the car from consideration, it can play a part in negotiating the price.
If the seller does not grant your request to have the vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic, consider it a red flag and walk away. The car might be okay but it is not worth taking a chance as you might end up spending a lot of money for repairs.
Test Drive the Vehicle
When taking the car for a test drive, pay special attention to any odors in the vehicle. You should not pay top dollar to vehicles like rental cars that have smell that can never be fully removed due to carrying smokers. Also, some fleet vehicles are stored for a long time in warm, humid, or damp areas before their disposal so they may have dangerous mold and mildew in the HVAC systems and cabin.
Get Competing Financing Offers
You should have a financing offer in place before visiting any seller. The dealer might be able to beat it. This way you are giving them an incentive to find you the best offer. This won’t happen unless you have something for them to compete with. Make sure you inform the lender that you are looking at a used fleet vehicle. Some won’t loan money on a used fleet vehicle, and others may have you pay a higher down payment, higher interest rate, or shorter loan term for used fleet vehicles.
Find Ways to Protect Your Purchase
Many fleet sellers provide programs that will give you confidence in what you’ll buy. For example, certain remarketer of vehicles for rental car companies can offer powertrain warranty on the cars it sells. Make sure to read the fine print on any seller-supplied warranty so you can have the car serviced at a shop of your choice.
There are also used vehicle dealer and manufacturer fleet vehicles that are still young enough to qualify as certified pre-owned cars. While they may be more expensive than non-certified models, they come with a manufacturer-supplied extended warranty.