Buying used versus long-term rental



I will be in the U.S. for 3 months and have been surprised at how expensive it will be to rent a car (even monthly). If I were to purchase a used car and then resell it after 3 months, is there any way to estimate what I would lose on the transaction (other than taxes, title and registration)? Are cars usually sold by used car dealers at or about Kelly Blue Book retail price and when you sell back do they usually pay trade-in price or something in between retail and trade in? Help, please.


They should easily be able to hit KBB on sale price, but I doubt they will hit the trade-in price unless you are actually trading it in. The odds that they will want a used car back is slim. Your best bet is to try to find an extremely cheap used car (like $1,000) and make sure it’s mechanics are in good working order. That should last you 3 months and you might be able to sell it for around what you paid. However, there are always risks with such cheap cars.



You’ll lose on insurance likely. Most insurers charge a fee to cancel a policy. You also will pay a premium to get car insurance since you likely have not had contigious car insurance in the United States. Just be sure to inquire on insurance costs which will likely make renting look cheaper.

Are you trying independent more local rental/leasing agencies vs chains? Not sure where you are from however I find renting a vehicle in the USA significantly cheaper than France and Italy.


Look for “Rent a Wreck” type car rentals. There are companies that rent slightly older cars MUCH cheaper than the “Airport” rental companies…

Also, some independent Used car lots will sell you a car and agree to buy it back at a set price up front, depending on mileage and condition when you bring it back…


Agree that if apprearance and cosmetics is not an issue, renting from Rent a Wreck makes sense; just do not plan to tour the whole USA because the mileage charges of this firm are steep. Two naive Australian tourists did tour the USA in a R.A.W car and had a mileage charge of $2200 on top of the rental. Many years ago I helped a German exchange student buy an old car to tour North America before he went back to Germany. We found an old Pontiac staight 6 with no accessories whatsoever in reasonable condition. He called me back just before retunring to Europe and said he had drive 30,000 miles that summer and visited all of Canada and the USA. Asked him how the car held up he said he spent $30 fixing the manual gear shift, and sold the car for what he paid fo it. So, you might buy a good “beater”, buy 6 months insurance, the usual minimum, and sell it when you leave. But you’ll need help form a local.