Buying cars that had been in rental fleets

I have been looking at buying a used Avalon and see that vehicles that were owned buy rental companies are 4 to 5 thousand dollars less on comparable cars. On one side of the equation is that persons who rent Avalons (older drivers) are probably not the type to abuse the car, but also are not as apt to follow maintenance procedures as a personally owned car. I know that buying any used car is somewhat of a gamble, and am trying to look at all the angles. Would appreciated any thoughts on this. Thanks,

I’ve Bought Former Rentals Several Times.

I usually find ones that are less than 1- 1/2 years old with fewer than 10,000 miles. It takes some digging, but it’s possible.

I purchase through manufacturers’ dealers and try and buy Certified Pre-Owned vehicles that often come with great warranty coverage (GM, for example, gives the balance of original warranty and adds a year and 12,000 miles to the bumper-to-bumper coverage. Drivetrain is balance of 5 years/100,000 miles). I’ve never had a problem and typically save a third of original cost.

Accident damage/repair is not covered by warranty. So, if you don’t know what you’re looking at then always have the car inspected by somebody who knows auto body repairs before you buy.

I can’t help with the specifics of Avalon (Toyota ?), but check CPO cars at a dealer and put on your negotiating hat.


I bought a flower delivery van that had over 150K on the clock and it was just 3 years old. I paid peanuts for it and it was one of the best vehicles that I ever owned. I realize that I was very lucky since I put another 100K on it before it was sold as a project vehicle. Good maintenance makes for a good vehicle.

I’m not sure if you are talking about a rental company; like Hertz, or Enterprise. Or, a leasing company that leases cars to companies for drivers of fleet cars, such as sales people.

The rental companies keep up with regular maintenance, oil changes, tire repairs, etc. The rental companies often sell the cars off before they need any major maintenance. Most are sold with about 25 to 30K miles on them.

Leased cars used by fleet drivers are usually turned in every 3 years and with about 50 to 70K miles on them. The fleet driver is responsible for scheduling the maintenance and getting the car serviced but the bills are paid by the leasing company. Still, even though they don’t pay anything, some fleet drivers are just lazy or “to busy” to take their cars in for service. I still think most are good cars to purchase and you should be able to get service records from the leasing company offering the car up for sale.

I bought a 1988 Ford Taurus that had come from a rental fleet and it was quite satisfactory. My wife thought that car was great. I also bought a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander minivan that was a “program” vehicle which may or may not mean that it was in a rental fleet. It is a great vehicle. My son has that vehicle now and it has been trouble free for 120,000 miles.
I suppose an occasional renter may abuse a rental vehicle, but if one renter is hard on the vehicle for 1000 miles, but the other renters drive normally for the remaining 25,000 miles, this is better than a one owner vehicle with 25,000 miles where the owner beat the hell out of the car.

My Local GM Dealers Sell Certified Pre-Owned Cars With Included Extended Factory Warranties. They Also Provide Free Car Fax Reports On Any Vehicle One Is Considering.

I don’t put a lot of stock in these reports because of what could be missing, rather than what is contained in them. I do use the information that shows when the car was registered and the location, miles, etcetera.

The most recent Impala I purchased for my wife was registered new as a rental car in Wisconsin for 6 months and 10,033 miles. From there it went into inventory at the GM dealer in my state where I purchased it as a CPO car. The whole thing was a very pleasant experience and we’ve been very satisfied with the car.


Has it been abused, maybe, has it been maintained, probably, now look at any other car and the questions are similar. An independent mechanic assessment is advised for any used car purchase.

I prefer buying new but for my work car I bought my G6 as a rental return. It had been in service for about a year and a half with 30K on it. I haven’t had any issues with it and I’ve put 60K on it myself over the past three plus years. Read the post above on why people don’t maintain their cars to get some idea that maybe its better that a rental company be the first owner than others that want to cheap out on maintenance. At least the work will be performed.

Now our old fleet manager who traded every year, was not fond of buying rentals. He said because the price that they sell for after they’ve used the warranty up is about what they paid for them in the first place. That may be true but if the car checks out ok, it is lower in price than others, and selection is better, I don’t see any reason to shy away from it. Might want to consider the factory extended warranty though just in case.

In 1990, my mother purchased a Topaz the local Lincoln-Mercury dealer. It had been in the Budget fleet. We had no issues due to it being a rental. It was well maintained before her purchase.

On the other hand, I have rented cars from national franchisers that have run far, far over the manufacturer’s oil change requirement, or clearly had significant maintenance repair issues that should have taken the car out of service until the car was repaired. This seemed to happen in Columbia and Charleston, SC the most. I would not purchase any of their local offerings simply because of the poor experiences. It is still buyer beware and verified maintenance records are still important.

At least with most rentals the maintenance has not only been done, but documented as well. They often have a lot of miles for their age, but it’s likely to be almost all highway miles. Not many people are running their local errands in rentals. I’d have no reservations about buying a rental, and we might have recently but we wanted a compact hatchback and they mainly have sedans except for in the tiniest, cheapest categories. They’re a great source for unpopular cars as so many wind up in rental fleets. Want a Chevy HHR? Plenty of them available. Not such a bad car, really.

My girlfriend bought a used Cavalier that had been a rental car, and it was pretty reliable. I wouldn’t walk away from a rental just because it was a rental.

Having said that, I’m not sure if you’re confusing a rental car with a leased car. If I was going to buy a leased car, I’d want to see the maintenance records. A former rental car isn’t likely to have maintenance records since it’s likely the rental company that did the maintenance.

In any case, ANY used car, regardless of its history or “certified used car” status should be inspected by your mechanic before you sign anything. The inspecting mechanic should be paid by you to make sure he doesn’t have a conflict of interest.

I understand that most rental cars are leased to the rental company, and either returned to the original maker or kept and sold by the rental company. The story was (some years ago) that the maker took back the cars that were below the mileage limit from the lease, and that had no accidents, no major flaws, and were ready to be resold as Certified Used Cars. The rest were kept by the rental company, rather than pay the penalties to the maker, and either wholesaled or sold directly by the renter. So, if you buy a former rental from a franchised dealer, it’s the one that has survived their inspection. The one sold by the rental company might be one step down, either with greater miles or maybe some history of minor body work or repairs. The one you buy from a used car dealer, or the used car lot of a different franchised dealer, is the one that might have major repair history or greater obvious wear, and got to you through the wholesale market.

I would be careful about economy, compact and special interest cars like convertibles. I feel like they are the most likely to be abused.

And @Whitey is right - inspection is the key.

Having said that, I'm not sure if you're confusing a rental car with a leased car.

Is there really that much difference? :stuck_out_tongue:

I don’t know that it could be any worse then buying any used car. One thing i see an advantage is that they were rented by experienced drivers and probably driven by few teens. They did get regular maintenance. I would think it might very with the vehicle itself. I’m guessing that Avalon renters might be pretty easy oing and not into high speed runs.


I worked at a dealership for many years, as did many of the posters here.

It was my experience that the lease returns were ridden hard and put up wet

Most of the guys leasing cars treated them as if they were someone else’s problem.

@bscar2 Yes I think there is a difference. Leased cars are generally used by one person for a lease period of 2, 3, or 4 years. Maintenance would depend on the individual which the person may or may not be very concerned with. Some leased cars could also be used in fleets and may be driven by multiple people in a pool or by an individual. Maintenance might be better with a fleet manager in charge but depending on the usage, wear and tear might be worse.

Rentals would be from a place like Avis, Budget, and so on. Maintenance would be managed by the store manager and wear and tear of course depending on the people doing the renting.

It was my experience that the lease returns were ridden hard and put up wet

Most of the guys leasing cars treated them as if they were someone else’s problem.

I’ve stated this more then once in this forum.

I work with a guy who leases a new vehicle every other year. NEVER…and I mean NEVER does ANY MAINTENANCE what-so-ever. That includes oil changes. He usually buys a Mercedes, or Lexus, or Infinity…Puts about 30k miles on the lease before he trades it in…I can’t imagine what that oil looks like after 30k miles. He hasn’t blown an engine yet…but the last 2 were smoking pretty good toward the end of the lease. I think he adds oil if needed…although I’m sure someone does it for him since he doesn’t know how to open the hood.

I’d HATE to be the next owner of one of his cars.

I guess I should have stated that my meaning was that leasing is just a long term rental.

How many people would lease a car if they said “Come on in and trade in your old car and we’ll put you into a 3 year rental of a brand new (insert make/model here) for just $XXX a month”

I bought a car off a 2 year lease many years ago. It was a Taurus SHO with a 5-speed trans. The car had 24,000 miles was 55% of the cost of new. It was priced below NADA, so it was a great deal and we enjoyed the car for many years… 'cause it was FAST and handled GREAT!

I’d recommend buying a 2 or 3 year lease car OR a rental off the Hertz or Avis or whatever lots. The rentals should be generally be the boring cars, Mustangs and Corvettes tend to be abused by renters (Why YES, I’ll take the extra collision coverage!) as they aren’t abused. Cheap, reliable transportation regularly serviced before you bought it.

Rental fleets may do their own maintenance, but they keep good records, and when I’ve looked into buying them those records have been available. They advertise their cars as well maintained.