CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Purchasing a used car (rental)

Should buying a used rental car be avoided at all costs or can they be a good value? I’m looking at a 2009 Pontiac G8 with 10,000 miles on it, previously a rental car. Two schools of thought…rentals are well maintained and check often or rentals are abused by the drivers because it’s not their personal car.



Thoughts?

Yes and yes. Rentals are well maintained, but for the first 10,000 miles, this is really only oil changes.

And rentals are a crap shoot if your worried about about driver abuse. Especially a performance car. Some people rent them just to drive the h-e-double-toothpicks out of them. However, most cars can handle certain levels of abuse without damage, especially when it is new and everything is tight.

The thing to worry about is if the factory warranty is transferable and if it is decent. By that, I mean at least 5-yr, 100,000 miles or better. Some cars only come with 2-yr, 25,000 mile warranties, and the better one is a separate purchasable extended warranty to 5-yr by the manufacturer. Is the extended warranty still able to be purchased?

And, stay away from ANY extended warranty offer by anyone else that the manufacturer. These are typically rip-offs and will fight tooth and nail to avoid paying out any claims.

I purchased a 1988 Ford Taurus in the fall of 1988 that came from a rental fleet. The car had 9000 miles and was a great car. I purchased a Chevrolet Uplander minivan in 2006 that was a “program” car so it may have actually been a rental. It has been reliable for the 40,000 miles I have driven it.
There may be an abusive driver or two of a rental car, but I would bet that most drivers treat a rental reasonably well. The rental may be better than a single owner who always “dogs” the car.

Today, I think the abuse thing is largely overstated…Many rentals have built-in monitors that guard against that…Maximum speed and tachometer readings are recorded and scanned and abusive drivers put on the “Do Not Rent” industry black list.

Rentals tend to be a good deal because the rental company obtained the car directly from the manufacturer at below dealer cost…This allows them to sell them below market value…But consider that GM is operating in bankruptcy and Pontiacs are no longer being made. This will effect YOUR ability to sell the car a few years from now…

It works both ways. Some are good and some are bad but like any used car they should be examined closely before purchasing.

My son (live in another city) was telling me last year that a guy he worked with rented a vehicle for several weeks while his car was in the body shop and the guy was bragging about absolutely flogging this car into the pavement. He also stated that the guy told him he returned the car at midnight and dropped it off for fear they were going to catch him on something; which they possibly would have done anyway.

I worked for a large dealer who sold Subarus (by the hundreds) to a nationally known rental outfit and while I can’t say how this or that car was driven, I will say the rental outfit had their own maintenance shop and the guys in that shop were on pretty shaky ground, mechanically speaking.
Even with the cars being under factory warranty they would often try to cobble something together or butcher it rather than bring the car over and get it done for free under warranty.
The mechanic cursing would start every time we saw a repair order with the rental agency name Nxxxxxxx on it.

Not saying all rental cars are bad ones; just proceed carefully as you should with any used car purchase.

I think a rental or lease car is a far better risk than any other used car.

Leasing and rental agencies change their cars over to keep their fleet fresh. The vast majority of the cars they trade or sell probably have nothing wrong with them.

Private owners trade late model cars in because either their needs have changed or there’s something wrong with the vehicle. I’m going to wildly guess that it’s 50% needs change and 50% problems.

That makes rental or lease vehicles a much better gamble in my mind.

In 1999 I helped a friend buy a 1997 Ford Taurus which was rented to an oil company executive who was going back to Europe.

The car had only 17,000 miles on it and had been well maintanied. He got the car for 50% of the cost of a new one and had remaining warranty.

Today, in 2010 he is still driving the car and it has given him no unusual problems.

Yes, a low mileage rental or lease return can be a good buy, provided the car is good to start with. A 1997 Taurus with the small V6 is an excellent vehicle.,

This car should be a good bet provided it looks good inside, outside, and underneath. It is possible that someone beat it. After all, it is a muscle car. Take it out for a long test drive and see how it behaves.

I wouldn’t buy anything that appealed to a driver likely to beat it up. No luxury cars, no economy cars, no sporty or performance cars. What you want is what people rent at airports to make business calls and families rent to move around away from home. Mid size cars.

It used to be that car companies often leased cars to rental companies, who returned them at a given mileage or date. If the car was clean and in good shape the car company took it back and wholesaled it to its dealers as a clean used car. If the car was beat, damaged, repaired, whatever, the company rejected it and the rental company bought it from the leasing company and sold it or wholesaled it. So, the used rental cars you bought at a same brand dealer were often the better bets. I don’t know if they still do business this way.

If it is the Chryser 300 I rented recently I would say no, There was the unseen curb, then fording 3 streams scraping the heck out of the gunnels fording some streams, Then a couple of other things where I said out loud a few times sure glad it is a rental car and we bought the insurance. Make sure you can get a repair history for the car as 10k sounds a little light for them to get rid of a car. The 300 had mismatched tires, brutalized rims, and 46k miles, pending transmission issues.

I think I’m going to pass. The risk factor and my little voice says people don’t respect rentals…I kow I don’t drive as carefully when I rent, and I’m a pretty reasonable guy. Plus all those electronic buttons constantly adjusted by new users every day, etc… just doesn’t feel right. Thanks for all the comments.