Would You Buy A Previous Rental Car?

April 29, 2011

As a car salesman in a former life, a third of my pre-owned customers refused to consider a car that had been a rental in a former life. They envisioned drivers abusing the car in ways I couldn’t even imagine. What they failed to realize is many rental cars are driven by busy executives, retirees, and families on vacation. These are people who are often focused on returning the car, truck, or SUV in good condition, and making sure there isn’t a claim on their insurance. Still, there’s no way to know for sure how a given vehicle was driven by the large number of drivers who sat behind the wheel.

Rental cars: they are everywhere

You can buy a previous rental car almost anywhere. Some rental companies set up their own sales lots. Virtually any car dealer can buy them at wholesale auctions to be resold as a regular pre-owned vehicle with the rest of their used car inventory.

If you’re a discriminating buyer who prefers not to buy a previous rental, check the vehicle history report. The vehicle history report will also tell you if a vehicle has been in a reported accident, had odometer issues, has been in a flood or natural disaster, and so on.

A chief concern to many used car buyers is previous maintenance. Many rental companies pride themselves on the regular maintenance performed on all vehicles. Besides servicing their cars regularly, they clean and inspect each vehicle each time it goes out, including inspecting the tires and oil, and topping off fluids. However, buyers should be warned: proper maintenance and servicing is up to each company.

Do I have to?

Pre-owned vehicles are in short supply. This means prices are staying high. Consumers looking for a good deal in a tight market may have to consider buying a previous rental for two reasons:

  • Supply and demand – Used cars are in demand and in order to buy a small, fuel-efficient vehicle at a reasonable price where you live, you may have to consider buying a rental unit.
  • Price – Most car dealers offer a slightly lower price on previous rentals. It’s generally assumed that a previous rental has somewhat less value. In this tight used car market where prices remain strong, car buyers on a tight budget may have to consider buying a rental to either get the price they want or to qualify for the loan they need.

What should you do if you’re considering a previous rental? Here are a few considerations:

  • Check the vehicle history report to make sure there aren’t accidents or other negative issues in its past.
  • Like any pre-owned vehicle, make sure you look at the mechanic’s inspection report so you know some basic information before you buy. This includes the general condition of the car and if there are issues that will cost you money down the road. If the dealer won’t make the mechanic’s report available, consider getting a pre-purchase inspection done at an independent shop.

If you still aren’t sure, you can always purchase an extended warranty to cover future problems.


The author's The 8 Biggest Mistakes Used Car Buyers Make and How to Avoid Them is free at BayAreaCarGuy.com.

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