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Purchasing a former rental car – good idea? Or not so bright?

There are always pros and cons to buying a used car. For one, you are never quite sure what you're going to get, and it is certainly a mixed bag (kind of like those “grab bags” you used to love as a kid). Same with purchasing an ex-rental—there are certainly some pros, but it’s best to weigh the cons as well. 


One thing you need to do, whether it is a used car off the sales lot or a rental lot, is to find out as much as possible about the vehicle’s history; it may cost a little money, but it is money well spent if it keeps you from buying a lemon. CarFax or the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System can help you get some important information on your mystery vehicle before making a big purchase. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking those reports will be 100% accurate all the time. For example, if a vehicle was involved in an unreported collision, it won’t be on those reports.


Some of the rental car companies like Enterprise allow you to drive the car for up to seven days prior to finalizing the purchase. This is a great time for you to take it to your favorite auto body shop to have it inspected before you purchase. 


Good selection of newer cars but with many miles

Car rental companies keep the latest models on their lots for renters. As the cars on the lot rack up the miles, they are replaced and sold. This means a car buyer can get a fairly new car for a fairly good price. While a used car lot’s average car is 4 years old, most rental car companies get rid of their cars after 1 to 2 years. 


Good maintenance but likely driven more aggressively

Another nice thing about buying a rental car is that you know that it has been getting serviced on a regular basis. Likewise, the exterior and interior are well maintained and cared for, but unfortunately, the drivers of rental cars likely don’t drive with the same care as they would their own car.


Good price but low resale value

Rental companies buy a large quantity of cars, and therefore, get a great original price which allows them to offer consumers an attractively priced newer used car. They also want to get rid of inventory quickly, so they price it below value for quick sales. Of course, if you decide to sell it in the future, it will likely have a lower value and will have depreciated a great deal faster than many other used cars. 


Good news, no upsell—bad news, no upsell

If you like bells and whistles you won’t get many options with an ex-rental car purchase. There are no options to upgrade to leather seats and seat heaters. The good news is you don’t have to try to convince a salesperson that you truly DO NOT want the self-warming steering wheel. But to be honest, who doesn’t want the heated steering wheel.


Online buying

Buying a car off a lot can be as tedious as closing on a new home--hours of time and thousands of signatures later… but buying a used car from a rental car company is often and mostly done online, saving you tons of time as well as hand cramps!


Warranties

Another positive with purchasing a car that was once a rental is that some of the car rental companies offer good incentives to sweeten the deal. According to Consumer Reports, Hertz and Enterprise also offer a limited powertrain warranty for 12 months or 12,000 miles that covers the engine and the transmission.


Used rental cars have enough positives and perks to make them worth considering. As with any used car, do your homework to minimize the risk and increase the return on investment: take it to your auto shop and auto mechanic and have it inspected, get info on its history, and give it a nice long test drive (remember another perk of some rental car sales— they will let you drive it for up to 7 days before you have to sign your name—but it will cost you the price of a 7 day rental if you don’t go through with the purchase). Happy shopping!


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