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Frugal Shopper: Does It Make Sense To Buy A Used Rental Car? Page 2

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Over half of the market is looking for a new car in the next two years

Over half of the market is looking for a new car in the next two years

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That said, the pricing can be quite attractive. For instance, we looked for a late-model Chevrolet Malibu—a vehicle still quite common in some rental fleets—in a major metro area (we picked Chicago as an example), and from Hertz found a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu LT, with nearly 29,000 miles, for $13,400. With the same mileage, according to Kelley Blue Book, the '09 Malibu LT would be worth $18,135 as an excellent-condition used car or $18,635 in excellent condition under GM's Certified Used program, which applies new-car-like coverage to the purchase. But as a private-party sale the Malibu would be worth just $14,885 in good condition (or $13,585 in fair condition, which might be the case on closer inspection). Provided the car is in excellent condition, you're getting it for thousands less than its proper dealership value; but if it has a few blemishes or signs of hard use—more likely the case—the deal wouldn't nearly be as sweet.

In most cases, the pricing is officially no-haggle, meaning that you're expected to pay what they're asking; but in cases where you think a branded title or cosmetic issues will keep the vehicle from being worth as much in the short term, there's still room to haggle despite that. Inspect the vehicle thoroughly yourself, and don't hesitate to bring it to your mechanic or a body shop for a second opinion.

Signs of use...or abuse?

Most of these vehicles are at least visually in good shape. After being taken out of the fleet, they're inspected with a relatively thorough process, as well as cleaned and detailed for an almost new look. Things like cracked cupholders or broken trim are replaced, though the signs of hard rental use like ignition-key scrapes and upholstery wear spots might remain.

Vogelheim also advises that not all rental-car companies are the same either—not so much because of the way they maintain their vehicles, but because of their type of customer. Enterprise vehicles are likely to have less general wear and tear and signs of abuse than those from other companies, Vogelheim says, while not costing any more, because the company is known for appealing to longer-term local renters who need a replacement while their vehicle is in the shop. Vehicles from other rental companies are more likely to have been driven hard by travelers in a hurry, on unfamiliar roads.


 
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Comments (11)
  1. this is hugely helpful. still think there are some good deals to be had out there with the rental car companies. but what was once a pretty clear no brainer is now a bit questionable. will be curious to see if the cycle-of-life repeats itself in 2-3 years as OEs ramp up production and start selling more and more with the fleet buyers - then the rental car providers may start to look good again.
     
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  2. I will keep away from used rental cars no matter what.
     
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  3. How many of you have bumped against a curb or gone off-roading in a rental car? 'Nuff said!
     
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  4. Isn't 'drive it like you rented it' synonymous with 'drive it like you stole it?' Although flogging a PT Cruiser is a bit desperate.
     
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  5. Interesting article with good points, but at the end of the day it is all a matter of demand and supply and these points should find their way into the buying price of these cars.
     
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  6. Great and very useful article. Had no idea that some states have title flags, for instance. But I'd still just stay entirely away from any used rental car, 'cause I know how *I* drive them. Especially "in a hurry on unfamiliar roads" like you say. Hadn't thought about the Enterprise exception, though, that's worth chewing over. Thanks for posting this.
     
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  7. Hi everyone. I work at Enterprise Car Sales and wanted to confirm that we do indeed certify all of our vehicles before we sell them. Each vehicle must pass a 109-point inspection by an ASE-Certified technician. We also offer a free CARFAX Vehicle History report on each vehicle. And, to be sure you are completely satisfied, we offer a 7-Day Repurchase Agreement which means you can return the vehicle within 7 days or 1000 miles and either pick out another vehicle or we'll take the original vehicle back minus a $200 cleaning and documentation fee. If you're in the market for a used car, please consider shopping us. We have over 140 locations nationwide. http://www.enterprisecarsales.com.
     
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  8. I just rented a car from Enterprise, and I was painstakingly careful to not ding or dent it. I think I treat rental cars better than my own!
     
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  9. Thanks, Marianne, for the ad. To other readers, I should caution not to shop for any vehicle (including rental cars or certified pre-owned (CPO) by the number of inspection points. 'Inspect tire tread' might be one point to one company but four points to another. In general, the inspections that rental cars get aren't always on the same caliber as the model-specific ones (some of them preemptively replacing wearables) that you'd get with certified pre-owned used-car (CPO) programs.
     
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  10. 10 years ago I bought a Certified Pre Owned Lexus LS400 with the "Lexus CPO warranty" with all the touted (and bogus) "inspections".
    While car looked perfect, it had severe drivetrain vibrations over 60mph and neither Lexus nor the dealer were interested. I had second and third inspections and each suggested that the vehicle had been severely rear-ended and the prop-shaft and diff were not aligned properly. It was obvious that the vehicle had not been inspected as described by the Lexus CPO program. I was considering suing the dealer and Lexus for misrepresenting the condition of the vehicle, but I traded it for a new vehicle.
    The CPO warranties are worth nothing. I'd rather by a cheaper new car than a CPO used car, and will never buy a used car again unless I personally know its history.
     
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  11. AH crud! I don't know what to do! I have a limited budget and really don't want to finance because of interest payments and depreciation on new car purchases. So, this column and comments posted here give me the chills. I need a newer car and I drive them into the dirt, so the next one I buy is for the long-term. UGH!
    I know. I'm a cheap skate! ;-D
     
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