Tell me about buying a rental

I have heard mixed views about buying an ex-rental car from an agency. Some contend that the cars have been driven to death by hundreds of different drivers, others argue that the cars have been inspected and maintained continuously with extensive records, they usually still have factory warranties, and that except for body damage a driver can’t really do much to hurt a modern car in a short time. So if I wanted to look at ex-rentals, what should I be alert for? Are any of the major companies – Hertz, Enterprise, Avis – better or worse to deal with than others?

The answer is that most rental cars are in the middle of those 2 scenarios with a few exceptions either way; meaning a few cars are perfect and some are already beaters.

Rental cars are still used cars and should go through an inspection before you consider purchasing one.

As to which chain is better or worse I cannot answer that one. The only one I have had personal experience with is a “nationally” known chain (Shouldn’t be hard to figure that one out) and based on what I saw from their maintenance department I would be very hesitant about buying a car from them.

A dealer I worked for provided a lot of new vehicles to this chain and even with problems that were easily warrantable they usually chose to try and fix the cars on site, usually by someone with no clue, rather than bring the car to us. When they hit a wall or had mangled something up THEN they would bring it back to us for warranty.

My favorite was the new Subaru with only 4k miles on it that “needed an engine overhaul”. I raised the hood and found the engine had been torn into and reassembled with 7 or 8 tubes of RTV silicone sealer. This goop was protruding everywhere including the oil pump. (Using RTV on an oil pump, and head gaskets, is a huge no-no.) These guys had also broken a high pressure A/C line along with the radiator inlet nipple, and glued (iffy term) them back together with the same RTV sealer they had slathered the engine with.

While even factory records may be sketchy you might consider getting the VIN of a potential purchase and contacting the car manufacturer to see if the car has any history of nagging warranty problems. Hope that helps some.

I owned a 1988 Ford Taurus that came from a rental fleet. It had about 7500 miles when I purchased the car. It was a very good car. It had traveled over 100,000 miles when it was totaled in an accident. I later had a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander that was a “program” car when I bought it. I drove it four years and then sold it to my son who still drives it. It has had no major problems. In both cases, I received the balance of the factory warranty when I purchased the cars.

Just like buying any other used car, the only assurance you can have will depend on you taking the car to your mechanic for a thorough inspection, rental car or not.

I know someone who bought a used 1999 Chevy Cavalier in 2001 that had been a rental car. She is still driving the car, so I think it’s been pretty reliable. She bought it at a dealership, so there’s no telling which rental agency it came from.

My wife’s 98 Ford Windstar was off a one year company lease. She had it 8 years and it was still in great shape when we sold it.

On the other hand, while my 2010 Cobalt was in the shop, the dealer got a 2009 Pontiac G6 loaner from a national chain. The car was a mess. Dents and dings all over the body, both front and rear bumpers cracked, wheel covers scraped up, and multiple cigarette burns in the interior. I took a bunch of pictures with my cell phone before I signed the paperwork for it.

Ed B.

I bought a rental through a dealer and haven’t had any issues. I’m sure the dealer picked through them a little but there was really nothing wrong except a little scratch and small ding. I think you are going to find that if you want a one or two year old car, that a lot of them on the lots have served the rental business first. They’ll get rid of them in a year or so as soon as they approach the end of the bumper to bumper warrenty. Just remember that what you pay for a used one will be about what they paid for the new one but so what, you can’t buy at the same volume discount that they do. The used car market is pretty tight right now I hear. Before buying though you might want to look at new and see what the difference would be.

Most people that rent cars are on business trips. The folks I know that rent do not abuse their rentals for the most part. Of the couple hundred business people I am acquainted with that rent cars, only two abused them. Look for cars with no visible problems and then start narrowing the field. You should expect to pay a couple hundred bucks for a thorough check by a good mechanic.

Also depends on the type of the car. The extremes would be a Mustang (won’t buy from rentals) vs a minivan (safe bet).

While I agree that most rental cars will be fine over the long haul that brings up the question of how do you really know? There may be serious problems lurking that even the finest of inspections will not detect.

My youngest son was telling me about 2 years ago about a guy who works in his office renting a car for a week while his car was in the shop for something.
He said this guy was actually bragging about the whaling he was putting on that car and that he even stated “I might have done something bad to it but I don’t know for sure…”.
This guy also said that when he returned the car he was going to drop it off after hours and to quote him, “the rental company can go get …”.
Someone, somewhere ended up with this car.

I Won’t Even Bother To Try Add Up The Number Of “Rental Cars” (Program Cars) I’ve Purchased And I’ve Never Bought A Bad One.

However, I buy fairly new ones with less than 10,000 total miles, lots of warranty left, and usually at a very low cost. If I ever do get a bad one I figure I can bail out of it without much of any loss because I shop a long time for the right unit and negotiate a below market price.

My wife loves her Impala “rental car” I purchased last fall. She drives it 100 + miles/day. It was purchased last fall at 15 months old and 10,000 miles for less than $14,000. It came with 48 months / 48,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 60 month / 100,000 mile warranty (all from original in-service date). It was purchased from a GM dealer as a Certified (fleet or program) car. Car Fax showed it to be a rental. Sometimes the cars’ options build sheets show them as fleet equipped.

What Makes Anybody Believe That A “Used Car” Has Been Treated Better Than A "Rental Car " Pre-Owned Car ? It Sounds Right, But There’s No Guarantee.

I rent cars and I don’t abuse them. Besides, when I rent it is a requirement of the agency that no teenagers can drive the vehicle. There’s no such requirement on a used car.

Don’t want to take a chance that the car was mistreated ? Pay the big bucks and get a brand new one, but be careful. Even new cars have defects or design flaws. As with any pre-owned car, make sure the car wasn’t crashed and repaired (by inspection).


Budget sells their own cars on their own lots, eliminating a new cars dealers markup…Rental companies can buy fleets of cars cheaper than anybody so their cost is lower than a dealers and they price them to SELL…If they have what you want they can be a good deal…But remember, that “Rental” marker that shows up on CarFax reports will make it harder for YOU to sell it when the time comes…But if you are going to keep it 10 years that’s not an issue…