Tell me about buying a used rental car

Many of the rental car companies in the US (Hertz, Avis, etc.) run their own ‘dealerships’ where they sell their cars to the public. I’ve heard positive and negative advice from friends, but none of them have actually done business with these guys. My main concerns:

  1. Are the cars well maintained or abused?
  2. Does any of the warrany carry over?
  3. Are the prices really ‘no haggle’ or can you make a deal?
  4. Are the prices any better than you’d get elsewhere?
  5. Is there any kind of indication on the title that it was a rental and if so, does it hurt the resale value?


I can’t answer your specific questions, but as a former frequent renter and leaser of various cars, I can say that the only people who would ever consider buying a rental or lease car is someone who has never rented nor leased a car. I know it’s lame (and I was young at the time) but I did horrible things to rentals just to satisfy my curiousity. For example, I had always wondered what would happen if you were traveling down the freeway at 55mph, then suddenly put the car in Reverse (it stalls). That’s the kind of thing people do with rentals since they’d never want to try it out on their own car.

If I were you, I’d run screaming from any dealership that sells used rentals…and don’t look back.

I don’t have firsthand or even secondhand information about buying a rental car, but I personally would not do it. Not worth the risk. There could be a lot of wear to the engine and transmission. Maybe if you paid a mechanic to check it out carefully first.

My sister bought an ex-rental Caravan and she seems to be satisfied with it. You get a newish car with high, hard mileage, but the price should reflect that.

If it doesn’t, obviously, run.

  1. It really depends on how many miles the car has on it. We sell rentals from Enterprise occasionally and we have never gotten one in that was less than well maintained. They have high service standards for the cars. We try to get them with between 10 and 20K miles on them, to minimize the risk of getting something that was abused. I’m sure there are some nutballs out there who would try to destroy a nearly brand new car simply because it wasn’t theirs, but most people are normal and don’t do those kind of things.

  2. If it is still under factory warranty it will.

  3. Never hurts to ask. Some places will haggle and some won’t.

  4. Do your research for this one on whatever car you are interested in.

  5. The title has no indication of rental history. Does not affect resale.

To quote Jeff Foxworthy * Buying a used rental car is kind of like going to a house of ill repute looking for a wife. Anything that’s been driven that hard by that many people, you really don’t want to put your key in it.

* [about rental car employees who ask if he wants the additional insurance]

I say "Yes, I would. 'Cause you've got a Ford Fiesta that's about to see more airtime than a skateboard at the X-Games."


People have this notion that all cars must be pampered or they’ll immediately fall apart. Meanwhile, there’s a subset of the population that will, say, buy a brand new Porsche and take it to a racetrack every other weekend and beat the ever living snot out of it. It’s not uncommon to see dedicated track cars with 100,000+ miles. Granted, they go through oil changes and brake pads and suspension bushings and ball joints and whatnot, but there’s not a lot you can do on public roads to seriously impact the life of a vehicle. Even an occasional neutral drop or throwing it into reverse on the highway probably won’t do anything drastic. Heck, people think that doing a burnout in a rental is destroying it, but anyone who’s ever taken their car to a drag strip on DRs or slicks does burnout after burnout without any ill effects. Aside from things like worn tires and brake pads, there’s not a whole lot to fear from your average driver’s version of “abuse.”

Now, there’s always a risk that some numbskull drained the oil in his rental car and drove it for a month, but honestly who does that? And you run a bigger risk of something stupid like that when you buy a regular used car, because at least the rental company checked the oil frequently. Of course, that’s about all the maintenance you’re going to get from a rental car company, because a one or two oil changes are usually all that’s required in 20k miles.

The important thing, as with all used car purchases, is to have the car checked out thoroughly. Check for accident repair, busted interior pieces, etc etc, just like any other car.

The nice thing is that even if you don’t get a former rental, the fact that they’re out there will depress the used car market for everyone trying to sell that make/model. I recently bought a Sedona minivan, and I looked at a lot of former rentals. I ended up saving even more money by buying one from a chap who was having the hardest time unloading his because of all the cheap rentals out there.

The selection is likely to be heavy on the stripped-down trim levels, if that matters to you. Cloth seats, no sunroof, no keyless entry, maybe even manual windows.

No personal experience, but i worked with a guy who bough ex-Avis cars. all came with the balance of the warranty, and were maintained per factory specs. he never had a problem.

Interestingly my better half bought a used car from Enterprise last week. I think she made a good decision and ended up with a car that was what she was looking for at a decent price.

  1. Are the cars well maintained or abused?
    Hers seemed to be well maintained, if anything it was exceptionally clean. I would guess it was washed weekly if not more often. When I first looked at the car I thought it was brand new although after a second look we have found a few scratches. We considered the Foxworthy angle but there’s also no guarantee that a car you bought from a person was not abused. I mean no maintenance and fast food wrappers up to the windows is easy to hide as well. Also you have to consider, why would a person sell a year old car with milage unless it was a lemon…at least with a rental you know why they are selling it.
  2. Does any of the warrany carry over?
    The factory warrantee carried over. They were confused over exactly what the factory warrantee terms were but they still carried over. They also offered an aftermarket but she declined.
  3. Are the prices really ‘no haggle’ or can you make a deal?
    This was no haggle, I don’t think she pressed it.
  4. Are the prices any better than you’d get elsewhere?
    The price was clearly competitive. If anything (as an outsider) I think she got a good price.
  5. Is there any kind of indication on the title that it was a rental and if so, does it hurt the resale value?
    I think car facts (fax) lists the previous owner as a rental. She’s planning on driving it until the wheels fall off so it wasn’t a consideration. We don’t know if this would hurt the resale.
    Tom Tildrum… we didn’t find this to be true. Hers had leather/heated seats, power everything and remote start.

In addition, they took the old car as a trade and offered financing. Being they didn’t have a brick and mortar dealership, they delivered the car to her to test drive. At this point (a week in) we’d do it again.

I bought a used Camry from a Toyota dealer and was surprised at the time of title transfer to discover that the previous owner was Hertz. :eek:

156,000 miles later I unloaded that dog like a hot potato.

It was competitively priced, appeared to be in excellent shape, retained the warranty (and had a dealer’s one year warranty that had better features), and had an initial mileage of 17,000 miles.

The only noticeable wear on it at purchase seemed to be the windshield. Seemed to be more pitted than I would have expected.

The only serious mechanical problem was caused by me driving through high water and warping the head when it tried to compress water in the cylinders. Even then it took a few years and over 20,000 miles later to get to the point where I had a rebuilt engine int stalled at 102,000.

I used to manage a rental car place. I wouldn’t recommend it. They are pretty much abused early in life. That is the critical time for maintainence. But, if its super-cheap and you don’t plan on keeping it too long, you might get lucky.

Oddly, I have seen rental car companies selling their used cars at prices higher than the dealers were selling new cars.

Used cars go at a mugh higher interest rate. New cars now often can be had for 0% and even a rebate on top of that.

If you combine the two, the old CW wisdom about buying a late model used car often falls apart.

Right now, dealers (even rental companies) are hurtin’. They *will *deal.

I bought a former rental car. It was only one year old and had fewer than 20,000 miles on it. It was 2/3 of the cost of a new one. I made sure it had a warrenty.

I’ve been driving it for 18 months now but I’ve had absolutely no problems with it at all.

I purchased from Enterprise. I liked the fact that they provided a computer printout of everything that happened to the car the moment it rolled onto their lot.

As was pointed out earlier you’ll probably only run across a couple of oil changes (be prepared to change the oil in the transmission). What was important was what as not on the printout…the word collision.

Then I kept the choice to a model with a Consumer Reports good repair record, like a Toyota or Nissan.

Ended up with a Toyota Camry and (four years later) am happy.

I currently run several Budget offices in Texas.

We don’t have a “used car lot”. We wholesale to the public and other dealerships. The majority of our sales are to dealerships. However anyone can come in the door and purchase a vehicle for the same price. I recently purchased a Toyota Corolla S (loaded) for $2000 under wholesale blue book.

From what I understand, the majority of used cars sitting on lots in Texas are repurchased rental cars.

I’m sure everyone’s got a story about someone who abused a rental car just as we have stories about people who trashed a hotel room.

Still, I’d have to think the chances are pretty small of something like that happening to a rental car you’ve bought. I"m not sure I can find a cite, but most cars are rented either by businesspeople or families on vacations. Dad isn’t likely to go hot rodding with a 2 year old in the back seat and a sales executive isn’t going to do reverse doughnuts in the parking lot on a trip to Kansas City.

The saying goes that “the only true off-road vehicle is a rental”. I would not buy one.