Buying via Rent-A-Car Dealership vs. Open Market

Which is better? I’m on a tight budget. Enterprise Rent-A-Car offers a year of powertrain warranty, free CarFax report, haggle-free pricing, and a few other perks. I’m trying to decide if it’s worth the extra $ when I could a (supposedly) comparable vehicle on the open market for a less price. Any ideas or personal anecdotes would be appreciated. Thanks.

There are people who will say to stay away from buying rental cars, because the people that rent them don’t care about them and beat the cr*p out of them. I suppose that’s true but then you could say that about any used car, even if it’s only a year old. My wife drives a car that we bought as a 1 year old rental and it’s been as trouble free as any car I’ve had. Many rental agencies do maintain their fleets well.

A few years ago I was Best Man at my friend’s wedding. He and his lovely bride wanted to be driven away from the church in a nice big car. I made arrangements for and paid for a Lincoln Town Car at a national rental agency. That morning when I arrived to pick up the car I was told that they would have to substitute another full-size car or I could have a minivan at the same price. The reason? The odometer reading on the car showed that it was scheduled for maintenance and would have to go in the shop before being rented out. It took a manager and a phone call to one of his higher-ups to get me that Town Car. Can you imagine if I had shown up at the church in a minivan?

They advertise the price as haggle-free but I’m sure if you made them a reasonable offer and were prepared with your own financing they would listen.


Years ago, I bought a 2 year old car from Hertz car sales

It was the most pleasant car buying experience I’ve ever had . . . BY FAR

The salesman was very pleasant and simply told me to let him know if I wanted to look at a particular car. When I did, he didn’t exert any kind of pressure to buy the car.

All in all, I’d say buying a car from a rental agency is the same as buying from any other dealer, except there’s less pressure and no haggling

If you love haggling for a rock bottom price, shop elsewhere

If you want to pay a fair price, but don’t care to haggle, an ex-rental car might be for you

By the way, I paid cash, so financing terms were not an issue for me

In regards to your screen name . . . are you a songwriter?

I owned a 1988 Ford Taurus that came from a rental fleet and it was a very good car I also owned a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander that was a “program” car for whatever that means. It was also a very good vehicle. I am certain that both vehicles probably had quite a few drivers before I bought them. I suppose a couple of the drivers may have driven the vehicles harder than I would have driven them, but most drivers probably drove them reasonably. I would rather take a chance on the rental vehicle than a one owner used car that had been really thrashed by the previous owner.

My Pontiac was a one year old Enterprise rental from Boston, that I bought through a dealer. There were several at about the same price from either a rental company or from GM dealers. The prices were about the same though so if you are paying more at a rental company, I’d want to know why. Usually these are cheaper or very competitive anyway.

The same ole thing when buying a used car but I am really leary of used cars now based on people trying to go too far between oil changes and so on. I’d be very careful that I knew the history of any private sale or regular used car from a dealer. I’d want to know why someone traded. A rental company at least will maintain them and if a dealer picks one up, they are probably better than just any one from the rental agency. Carfax isn’t going to tell you much though.

On this site we have yet to encounter a buyer of a rental or lease return vehicle who had a bad experience. I believe the rental car companies will send their beaters to the auction, and keep the good ones. After all it would be very poor advertising for them if they sold clapped out cars.

Dealers usually have these Progam Cars that are lease returns from large firms or demonstrators driven by their own staff. In all cases, these cars are generally well maintained and a buyer would have access to the maintenance records.

A few years ago a colleague bought a 3 year old lease return with only 25,000 miles on it and with full maintenance records. It was the best non-new car he ever owned.

The chances of a rental car being abused is small and any used car may have had a history of abuse, Heck a new car that has transport miles on it may have been abused.

Keep in mind many places like Car Max and other car dealers also buy previous rentals to put on their lot, so you might be getting a rental at other places as well.

I had a rental Chrysler 200 when my car was being repaired from a run in with a skunk, and I never abused it. I did drive it hard a few times ( I floored it several times, the 283hp Pentestar Begged me to), but that’s not going to hurt a car. My biggest concern would be getting a smoke free car, The first day I had a Camry and despite being a non smoking car, it reeked of smoke. I had to take it back and got the Chrysler 200 which had 24k on it and was spotless on the inside, and still smelled new.

I looked over the 200 closely and I would have had no problem buying it, But I would have it inspected, make sure there is no undercarriage damage ect…

When I worked at the dealership, the hoopties were sent off to the auction

You probably won’t find anything like this at Hertz, Avis, Enterprise, etc.

I bought one 5 years ago, still have it, no problems.

Think about this-the rental company has to keep it in pretty good shape for each renter or they’d have lots of complaints. Much better maintenance than many privately owned cars get.

Checking the site for the closest enterprise car sales, i found some that were a little higher than book value and others like a Fiat 500 that was pretty close to KBB and others. The Carfax won’t always reveal things like service history so you should ask to see records since many of the ones i found had 30,000+ miles on them. Back in 1990 or thereabouts my church bought a E350 Super Club Wagon from Budget which was a very nice if not totally loaded van (A/C but only an am/fm stereo) for a fair price. They kept it for 20+ years with basically normal repairs.

I’ve always felt that late model cars that are for sale privately or on a lot are more than likely there because they have some form of damage or problem that isn’t repairable or worth repairing. And these days, I’d also worry about flood damaged cars.

Rental agencies sell their cars simply to have current models for their customers. I’ve always felt that the likelihood of one having a problem is much lower than one that’s on a car lot or on the private market.

Neither Carfax, which is extremely unreliable as an indication of whether the car’s been in an accident, nor haggle-free pricing are “perks”. They’re purely marketing gimmicks, nothing more. Don’t be fooled by them.

Carfax suggests that it has access to some universal database that records accidents. They don’t. There in no such database. And I should add that title-washed and flood damaged vehicles are commonplace in some regions. Reputable rental agencies don’t mess with that stuff, and to me that’s another reason that buying a rental car is IMHO a better risk than buying any other used car.

Unless someone is thinking about buying a rental Mustang GT, Corvette, or Challenger. The odds of being whaled on go way up then. :slight_smile:

Other than that, I don’t really see a problem with buying a rental car although there is one cough “national” chain that I have a bit of a personal sour taste for. Maybe their policies have changed.

The used car lots often get the cars from the auction, from what I understand

The new car dealers send the trade-ins and lease returns they don’t want to the auction . . .

That would imply the used car lot might have second-choice cars

I think rental cars as used cars are a good bet. The reason I’ve avoided them is only that I prefer to own a car equipped w/a manual transmission.

@GeorgSanJose --I did have a rental car that had a manual transmission. My wife and I went to Flagstaff, AZ via Amtrak and rented a car from a small rental agency. The car was a Chevrolet Vega Station wagon with a 4 speed manual transmission. This was back in 1980, however.

The local Ford dealer recently opened a separate lot as a we finance everyone type of lot. Much of their inventory seems to come from the auctions including a few ex-rental Mazda 3’s. The inventory of the closest Enterprise car sales is a variety of 2012 vehicles with around 33,000 miles on them, but I can find similar cars without the rental history for the same money in a higher spec. Certain local new car dealers get lots of their used inventory from the auction particularly from California (Bright yellow Camaro’s,'03 or similar T-Birds,Land Rover/Range Rover’s)

I bought two ex rentals, my father-in-law bought one. They were all very reliable and gave many years of good service. You won’t find high end options though, but that’s ok with me.
They were all considerably less expensive than the same car on a new car dealers used car lot.