Buying a Used Car


What is the difference between buying a previously rented car, a previously leased car, and a previously owned car?


Rental car - comes from a rental agency (Hertz, Enterprise, etc.) Usually average mileage (although this varies - large cars have fewer miles generally, small and minivans might have more.) Also maintained reasonably well by the rental company, and are usually only 1 or 2 years old. Prices are reasonable.

Leased - ‘owned’ for three or so years by a private party, then returned to the dealer, who then sells it. Average mileage, maybe a bit lower, but maintenance is hit and miss - if the owner knew he/she would get rid of it in a couple years, why ‘waste’ money on repairs and maintenance. Prices may be a bit higher.

Pre-owned - vehicle was owned outright by a private party. Condition and mileage may vary dramatically. Prices vary dramatically.

For all of these, some cars are better than others. Sporty models likely got abused, large cars probably didn’t.

Also, a car can be a combination. My 97 Crown Vic started life as a rental, but has since been owned by four other people, before finding it’s current home.


lprocter has it correct.

One thought about Lease cars…Personally I’d NEVER buy one that came off of lease. I know a couple people that lease cars…and they NEVER do any maintenance…including oil changes. One of these cars had 20k miles after 2 years with NO oil changes…and he’s PROUD of that too. The lease company started requiring maintenance records/receipts a few years ago…so he just dummy ups some receipts.

Also buying from a used car that was bought and traded in…you have to wonder why they’re getting rid of it in the first place. Yes there are many people who just buy a new vehicle every couple years…or their needs change and they need something different.

What ever used vehicle you buy…take it to a independent mechanic to check it out. If the place you’re buying it from won’t let you, then pass on it.


Shop Smart. Avoid the hot, trendy vehicles everyone else wants. Civic 2-doors and such…Hunt for a low mileage wall-flower with a stogy image and drive cheap. You are buying transportation and the only thing that counts is cost-per-mile. The radio and wheels are COMPLETELY irrelevant, but MANY buyers base decisions on these items and get taken for a very expensive ride…


Excellent points buy if you buy something you don’t want then its a bad buy. You will be much more inclined to sell/buy which is an expensive and risky process on many fronts.


Shop Smart

“Shop smart, shop S-Mart… YOU GOT THAT?!”

Sorry, couldn’t resist a little Bruce Campbell/Army of Darkness humour.


I wouldn’t worry about the “type” of used car as much as the condition and maintenance history. Depending on how much you are planning on spending, have a good pre-purchase inspection performed and expect to see some documentation of past maintenance (i.e., has the oil been changed as required, is it overdue for a $800 timing belt replacement?). Obviously, the “standards” of a $2000 car are going to be different than a $20,000 car. You may find a very good car without any documentation, but you will be taking a larger risk.


I’d be very careful of previous rentals. I treat them well, but a lot of people don’t. I just had a compact rental while my car was in the shop. There was coffee on the headliner over the pasenger’s seat and other stains over the driver’s seat. I didn’t want to know what the dark spots on the driver’s seat were.

You might also look at car auctions. There is a large one near me in Jessup, MD. Auto dealers and leasing companies auction cars to get rid of ones that they don’t want to sell themselves. You can find a great deal there. Just be aware that you buy it as-is. I know someone who bought his last 4 or 5 cars there and he is quite satisfied.


Buying privately is a crap shoot,Buying a rental vehicle…please people intentionaly abuse rentals, Lease returns …leasee is responsible for vehicle maintence in terms of lease on trade also vehicle will go through a rigorous inspection by dealer. **** best used vehicle to buy is one that is know for longevity ie. a Honda product also known for value retention. Buy from a new car lot that sells that product maintence has been done by skilled mechanic and waranty certification is available.


leasee is responsible for vehicle maintence in terms of lease on trade also vehicle will go through a rigorous inspection by dealer.

You must be one of the people who lease. Yes a Leasee is responsible…but what does that mean. That rigorous inspection is a selling gimick by the dealer. If it were true then my friend NEVER would have been able to trade any of his leases in.


Lease cars do worry me because some folks who lease cars tend to be driving cars they cannot really afford, and are probably not as rigorous about maintenance as they should be (other folks just lease cars because they don’t know how to do math). Low end lease cars are probably the worst risk, I would be leery of a low-end car from a luxury manufacture (i.e., 3-series, c-class, etc.) because the are more likely to be neglected than a mid/high-end lease car and the service is still pricey.


I lucked out on my 2 door civic off a lease. It had over 46k miles on it and it was the end Oct. '01 when I bought it(car is a 99) and it currently has just over 84.5k miles on it. While I might not be able to produce every receipt for oil changes, I can show someone the ones for my timing belt/waterpump and brake jobs, and I’m pretty anal about having my oil changed. Sure my oil may be almost as clean as the day it was put in, but $25 every 3 ~4 months is cheap insurance.
I’m at the point where I’d like to have a new car, but I don’t have anymore car payments, and am reluctant about getting back into them. I have a cousin that’ll be turning 16 in a couple years, so I might keep it till then and sell it to him and go buy my new car. Also, waiting is the best thing for me right now as I can take as much time as I need finding that one perfect vehicle that makes me feel comfortable sitting in it, yet having just enough fun to love it everyday. I’m thinking of a Chrysler 300 srt-8, but if the Sebring hardtop convertible is comfortable to sit in(g6 and EOS have horrible side bolsters on the seats that dig into my thighs), I may go with that.


Go for the 300, the Sebring is unmitigated garbage. It would have been marginally decent 15 years ago. Now, it shouldn’t even register on your radar. Let the rental companies have the Sebring, buy the 300.