Are former rental cars a good buy?

We are soon going to be looking for a new car. I long ago made the decision that a new car is a bad economic move. It is used cars for us. Here is my question for all: Is a former rental car a good deal? I know you can’t tell how they have been driven, but you can’t about any car. You can, however, tell how they have been maintained. That is better than almost any other car you might get.

I know the prices usually seem just a little better than on other cars.


Pro: Better maintenance schedule
Con: Poorly driven by many drivers

Most rental cars are bean-can Japanese or loss-leader American cars that I would not drive if they were free. I prefer to buy nice one-owner, low-mileage cars with a full service history. You may save a bit buying a rental car and pay more over time.


I probably should have also added that we are cheap! Total budget will likely be about $8000. We have had good luck being cheap. Our good car is a 97 Crown Vic which we bought (stole?) for just over $3000 170,000 miles ago. Our other is a 91 Crown Vic on which we have put about 120,000 miles. It is near death and needs replacing.

We don’t expect top end here.

Personally I think they’re a much better risk than any other used car.

Rental agencies change their cars for accounting reasons and to maintain competitive product (be able to rent as nice a vehicle as the competition). Private owners generally change their cars because there’s a chronic problem or the car’s worn out.

I’d guess that the percentage of former rentals on the market with problems is very small. The percentage of formerly privately owned cars with problems on the market is probably very high.

The exception may be vehicles that get terrible mileage. I’ll bet there’s tons of those on the used vehicle market that are there simply because of the bad mileage.

I bought a 1988 Ford Taurus that had been in a rental fleet and I had great service from the car. Mine had about 8000 miles and I got the balance of the warranty. I purchased the car from a Ford dealer.
The latest vehicle that I purchased was a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander in 2006. This minivan was a “program” vehicle so it may have come from a rental fleet. (I suppose it also could have been leased to a spike tester for the railroad to drive up and down the tracks to see if the spikes are pounded down). At any rate, it had 15,000 miles and I got it for a good price and got the balance of the warranty. I have about 50,000 miles and have had no problems.

I agree with mountainbike. If I were in the market for a used car I think I would make the rental lot one of my stops.

As long as the car passes your mechanic’s thorough inspection, the car should be fine. Unfortunately, some of the best economy cars, like the Civic and the Camry, have initial sticker prices too high to be rental cars. This means that looking only at rental cars limits your selection to cars that may not have a very good reputation for reliability. I think you should check out Consumer Reports’ used car recommendations. If you can find one on the list that was a rental and passes your mechanic’s inspection, it should be a good car.

Keep in mind that some cars that cost more up front have a lower per-mile cost of operation. In cases like this, you get what you pay for. There is also a reason some cars depreciate slower than others. In cases like this, you also get what you pay for. So don’t be too cheap when considering the initial cost or you might find that you were penny wise and pound foolish.

I bought one (a Forester), and it’s been fine. I agree with the comments on both the ‘good service record’ and ‘few options’ (I wanted it that way). Another reason was that very few Foresters were available other than used rentals.

The real gems are low mileage corporate LEASE cars, 3 years old, coming off lease. These cars are one driver, well maintained and should present very low risk. I’ve bought two of these over the years, one I had driven myself.

Company owned cars that are well depreciated are also good buys; my 4 year old Impala with only 71,000 miles on it cost me all of $3000, a small fraction of its new price.

However, in all cases, have the car checked out by a mechanic.

If you like Crown Vics (they are hard to beat) you can pick one up at a police car auction and have PLENTY left from your $8000 budget. Colorado sells there hiway patrol cars on e-bay auctions…They are usually 2-3 years old, 100,000 miles on them. $3500-$4500 will buy one. Some are real nice, some are real bad…You really must inspect the cars and not bid blind…A P71 Vic will run forever if you give it a little maintenance.

I think the bad rap for rental cars is over-stated and these cars are often a good buy, especially if you buy it directly from the rental company. Also, lots are overflowing with 3 year old lease returns and dealers are under great pressure to move 'em out…Think Pontiac…

I’ve got no issues with “rental cars” as used cars. They are being sold not because they are lemons, but because the accounting numbers say it is time to sell. Tires, and brakes maybe worn and need replacement so a mechanic inspection can tell you what kind of mainenance or reconditioning is required in the first year or two.

While some rental drivers may thrash the cars, most are likely pretty normal drivers. When I rent I’m careful because I don’t want to turn in a dented car.

In the end you must like the car. I rented a Caliper and it was ok as a rental but I wouldn’t want to own one and have it for lots of years.

I’m in a similar situation in a CX-7 I found online. it’s an 08 GT model, will be titled as a new vehicle, but it’s got almost 20k miles on it and the salesman I talked to said it was an extended demo vehicle. Sticker price is $31k, he’s asking $23k

I will add that it also depends on the type of car. I would not buy a Mustang from a rental company, it would be driven like hell by every 20 some year old kid around the block. On the other hand a Minivan; the type of people who rent a minivan are just conservative adults that need a car to get around-for the most part. I would say it is low risk.

If you ever rented a car did you care about how you treated it? I looked at them as an option, the prices weren’t bad but found better deals on the streets.

I have a former rental vehicle and after 5 years there are no problems at all.

We have decided that we want to get something a little smaller this time. My wife travels a lot in the area for her job. Gets a little reimbursement, so we really want something a little better on gas and a little less “boatish.”

I currently drive a former rental car (Mazda6). I’d do it again if I found the right car. But, I bought directly from the rental company itself, and not from a dealer.

That is good. When I rented a Mazda 6 once the sporty ride was very tempting. All my friends were saying I am being too nice to the car. With the police around there is so much you can do without getting in trouble.

Five or six years ago, my son needed another car. We drove into Chicago to the Hertz outlet. They claimed they only sold those with no serious repairs, and only those which complied with the maintenance requirements.

My son got a 2 or 3 year old small Mazda with 28,000 miles. He has had real good service on it, it has more than 100,000 miles on it and still running okay.

I don’t even know if Hertz Outlet still exists, but if it did, we would definitely consider buying another car from them.

I’ve rented a Ford Focus on two occasions, most recently last year. It was a 2008 model that was.

However, one edge that might help you out is that rental companies should by now have all of the redesigned Focus models. If they don’t, they are probably trying to make that happen for the competitive advantage in their lowest line.

If image isn’t your priority, keeping an eye out for a 2007 Focus could be a terrific value for the dollar. 2008 was the redesign year so the last year of the older look is on the outs. I’ve always enjoyed how they handle “for what they are”. Great on gas as well although it is much smaller than the Vic.

Just an idea. I would advise to lean Japanese if you had a choice between the two, but this is an idea that will be very inexpensive.