Would You Buy a Rental Car?

This is part of a seven-post series discussing our journey to buy a new car. Scroll to the bottom of this post to explore the entire series.

We think so–in fact, we just did it, and thus far we’re very impressed. You can now read my complete review of the Hertz Rent2Buy program.

But I have no doubt that this post will be tough to swallow for many of you. When you tell someone you’re going to buy a rental car, I’ve noticed you get three types of responses:

  1. Indifference: 48% of people have either never rented a car, or treat them just as well as their own, so they have no opinion. However, they’ve “heard” that buying rental cars is not a good idea, so if pushed, they probably would not recommend it. Their typical response to you: “Okay, cool!”
  2. Horror: Yet another 48% will tell you horror stories about how they themselves have treated rental cars, or things they have heard through the grapevine. They are appalled that you would even consider such a travesty. Their response “OMG, never EVER buy a rental car.”
  3. Encouragement: Then there are the 4% that have actually purchased a rental car in the past. And without fail (I have yet to find an exception), they will tell you that they got an awesome deal and a reliable car for years! Their response: “You should totally do it.”

I’m generalizing in a big way, but the story is the same whether you poll your friends or Google the issue. Read between the lines, and you find that the people who have “walked the walk” would do it again. Those who have not, run scared. How about you?

Here are some points to consider (as we did) when looking at a potential rental car purchase:

Pros of Buying a Rental Car

There are some big benefits when you buy a rental car versus a dealer vehicle or a private sale. Here are a few:

  • Price is the biggest benefit. For the car, year, and mileage you are getting, the price is well below “street value.”
  • The vehicles are usually one or two model years back, so you get the latest features and safety equipment.
  • Some rental programs let you try out the car for several days before you make the decision to buy. This is a good chunk of time to get a “feel” for the practicality of the vehicle and get it inspected by a mechanic.
  • Less hassle, usually, then trying to deal with a private sale, since the company takes care of your paperwork, title, loans, etc.
  • You usually get a short-term warranty or a money-back period to fix problems that become immediately apparent or if you change your mind.
  • The rental company follows the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule, and you can expect that they fix all problems as soon as they come up (after all, a broken car can’t be rented). Hertz, in particular, apparently only sells the “cream of the crop” from their fleet–cars that have not had any major work done.

Cons of Buying a Rental Car

There are also some actual and potential negatives to weigh when it comes to rental car buying, such as:

  • Most people’s first objection is “the car has probably been driven extremely hard.” You can let this be the deal-breaker, ignore the issue, argue that most people would drive rental cars responsibly, or ask “So what? The car can take it…”
  • The car selection is limited to the specific rental company’s fleet. (We got lucky, since our model is popular with Hertz).
  • Most of the cars in the fleet are the basic trim, so if you’re looking for bells and whistles as standard features, you need to look elsewhere.
  • For the model year of the car, the vehicles are fairly high-mileage (20-25,000 miles per model year), although exceptions can be found.
  • You have to put up with a fair amount of aesthetic blemishes. In other words, the car will be banged up, dinged, scratched, and blotched a bit more than usual.
  • The cars are also fairly “dirty” on surfaces like cloth, carpet, etc. You’ll have to spring a few bucks for detailing or shampooing.
  • You don’t get the benefit of a bigger warranty, like some “certified pre-owned” dealer cars.

What’s Your Take?

I’m curious to see where you stand on the issue. Have any of you gone through the experience in the past? Would you ever consider buying a rental car? Do you think I made the worst mistake of my life? (You can be honest, I don’t mind!)

This is part of a seven-post series on our new car journey. Below are links to posts that have already been published as part of this series:

  1. Our One-Car Experiment and Car Decision
  2. How to Sell Your Car on Craigslist
  3. Using Consumer Reports to Select a Car
  4. This post
  5. Should You Buy a New or Used Car?
  6. Is an Extended Car Warranty Worth It?
  7. Review of Hertz Rent2Buy

Photo by Bluewaikiki

Comments

  1. says

    You say that price is the biggest benefit, but you are definitely “paying” for the cons. It is below street value because it has been dinged up, high mileage, dirty carpets, driven hard, etc. It is definitely a trade off…not good or bad, just a trade off. Do you want a deal? Or, do you want low mileage and clean carpets? You have to choose. I wouldn’t buy a rental car, but I can’t knock anyone who has though.
    .-= Hank´s last post: 50 Important Personal Finance Moves to Make in Your 50’s =-.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      Good point, though I still feel like the inconvenience of the couple of dings here and there is more than worth the savings. For many people, it would be a deal-kill (and honestly, I am amazed that my wife went for it), but I just didn’t mind at all. You’re absolutely right in that it’s a trade-off.

    • says

      I’m not sure I agree with the point that you have to choose between low mileage and clean carpets -and a good deal. I think you can have it all. My last car was a rental – and it was in pristine condition – clean carpets, less than 30k miles, and it was about 1000 dollars less than comparable non-rental cars. I honestly don’t think most people drive rentals that much harder than normal – my rental that I bought lasted me another 100k miles til it was traded in. Plus, most rental companies take good care of their cars while they have them making sure they’re clean, regular oil changes/etc.
      .-= Peter´s last post: Own Your Finances. Your Choice To Struggle, Not Save, Or Live Without A Plan =-.

      • Wojciech Kulicki says

        Peter, in the end I think it’s all about perception. That’s why I was so fascinated with George Akerlof’s “Market for Lemons” study (see my Craigslist post). From Wikipedia:

        “So the buyer’s best guess for a given car is that the car is of average quality; accordingly, he/she will be willing to pay for it only the price of a car of known average quality. This means that the owner of a good used car will be unable to get a high enough price to make selling that car worthwhile.”

        Since most people perceive rental cars to be of inherently lower quality, the market price is lower. But as you point out, the quality issue is not always (or even rarely) true, so rentals end up being really good deals, most of the time. Sucks for the rental company, bonus for the little guy.

        I don’t know why, but I find the whole study of economics and market forces really interesting. Funny, since I had a lot of trouble with economics in high school. :)

  2. says

    Would and did! I bought a 2005 Chevy Malibu from a dealer that was previously a rental. It had approximately 16,000 miles on it. It is now running at 65,000 miles and I have yet to have a major problem besides regular wear items such as brakes.

    You can get great deals on rentals and I feel that if you treat it right after you get it, it will treat you right. Rental companies usually only keep them for a year and put a little over 10,000 miles on them. That gives you plenty of time to treat it right!
    .-= Adam´s last post: Packing Lunch For Work Just Got Easier =-.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      Awesome! I guess the mileage depends widely on the company you buy from (and probably the location, too!). I would imagine Florida cars are driven much further than an urban location, like New York.

      • frank says

        I would think that too. However, I’m looking into buying a rental car. A 2010 Hyundai Sonata. According to car fax the car was purchased in September of 2009 where it spent its entire life in New York. The car now has 38,000 miles. That blows my mind.

  3. says

    Rental cars definitely get more use than the average. But are they really driven “harder” than other cars? I’ve been renting cars routinely for nearly 12 years. I work with many people that also rent often. In all those years and in all those cars I only recall us driving them like we would drive any other car, with one exception.
    If you find any White Castle remnants under the seats or in the vents… sorry!

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      That was my gut feeling, too. There’s that 1% that will just go nuts “because it’s not my car,” but the rest of us, I think, are fairly reasonable and well within the limits of what a car can handle.

      • says

        I beat the living hell of rental cars, don’t let them warm up properly before driving. Drive fast, and with disregard. I look at it as my chance to not care about a vehicle. I don’t think I am in the 1%. I think that it is much higher, maybe 20%, but then again everyone thinks they are in the majority.

  4. says

    The last car that I bought (not my current one) was a rental car in it’s previous life. After checking the carfax report and talking with the dealer I found out the car had been a rental in Hawaii of all places. It was a bit strange when I got in the car because you could still smell the ocean air – in Minnesota.

    In any event the car was in pristine condition, and I drove it for over 100,000 miles before I traded it in for my current car.

    Personally I think buying a rental car is often a good idea because a lot of the time they are just cheaper, and so often the generalizations about never buying a rental just aren’t true. Rental companies usually take pretty decent care of their cars, and you just need to take the same precautions when buying a rental as you would buying any other used car.
    .-= Peter´s last post: What Types Of Insurance Do I Need To Protect Myself And My Family? =-.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      Glad to hear another success story, and your point about exercising care is definitely true. The nice thing about our experience was the three-day “trial period,” where we could have the car inspected and really put our minds at ease. Definitely beats the 5-minute test-drive you get from most private sellers or dealers.

      • mpstrex says

        That’s my only “regret… ” I bought a rental car from a used car dealer who had bought it at auction from Enterprise. All I got was a 5-minute test drive, and that was it.

        I know I said this below, but I’m curious why Hertz Rent2Own has 3 Nissan Rogues for $17,000 (under 30,000 miles, which is nice), when I found a few used models at used car dealers with anywhere from 32,000 to 45,000 miles, and they want between $12,000 and $15,000… Same with Enterprise.

        • Wojo says

          Maybe it’s a low-demand model? Not sure why the price difference, but I definitely think that Rent2Buy is not the best choice for ALL used cars–have to pick your battles.

          • mpstrex says

            Could be; I know the Raider is a low-demand truck, so the price dropped on it.

            I’m glad your Rent2Buy experience was good!

  5. says

    You know, I would have been one of those people who responded in horror (“People drive rental cars into the ground!”) but you make some good points. And I’ve always leaned toward solid used cars — no need to buy something pretty if it means making crazy payments for the next 10 years. You’ve given me something to think about when it’s time to buy a car again. (I live in Manhattan and have been car-less for six years!)

  6. thisisbeth says

    In my life, I’ve bought two cars. Both were rental returns bought at a car dealership; they were a year old and less than 20K miles when I bought them. The dealer had them cleaned and pass their inspections.

    I’ve ran into no major problems with either that could be attributed to being a rental car. With the second one, they couldn’t budge on price, so I negotiated to have them add cruise control to the car–other than that, it had all features I needed. The first car had just rolled over 100,000 miles (as in, the week before) when it was totaled in an accident. My current car has 118,000 miles on it. At this point, any problems that I have are likely attributed to age and mileage, not being a rental car.

    So, I’m not sure if I’m just really lucky to buy two like this, or if in general rental cars are no greater risk than anything else.

    (The second car, incidentally, was a rental car in Chicago–behind the sun visor on the driver’s side are directions to O’Hare and Midway airports. I live, and bought the car, in Minnesota. I’d prefer it to have come from Hawaii!)

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      I know!! That promise of the sea breeze sounds pretty enticing. Mine just smells like vanilla, for some reason (maybe I’ll find a Twinkie in the A/C system in a few years).

      Based on what I’ve heard, and most of the comments here, I would say your story is fairly common. I have yet to find someone who’s had major problems with their rental, which is unusual since most cars will have problems at one time or another…

      • mpstrex says

        Only problem I’ve had with this former rental car I own is the turn signal/headlights/windshield wipers started acting weird recently. I turn off the lights, and sometimes they stay on, but then go off when I switch on and off again. Left turn signal doesn’t work well and the wipers go at their own pace.

        Compared to a 1989 Ford Probe I bought in 1995, which was a complete repair nightmare, my problems are minor. 53,000 miles and 3.5 years on it (including the 6 months I’ve owned it).

  7. Aaron says

    I guess my gut reaction would be that it’s a bad thing because I’m the type of guy who rents a car in Las Vegas and then runs it at 80 mph through the desert and mountains for seven hours. My only real concern is that the break-in period might not be observed as if it was a new car.

    That said, you do have the benefit of knowing all routine maintenance was done on time, unlike the majority of other used buys. Maybe these two even each other out because most modern cars are slightly over-engineered on purpose.

    How much of a price negotiation do you get with these companies?

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      With Hertz, there is no price negotiation, period. It’s a “take it or leave it, no-hassle” price, similar to the concept AMEX, Capital One, and many other companies have pioneered. That’s both good and bad, but the price is low enough to where you don’t really need to hassle them for more discounts. I was able to find a $250 coupon though, and while it’s not much in the grand scheme of things, it’s still $250. :)

      Good points about break-in, although I think most modern car buyers have no idea how to break in a car anyway, so in my mind–what’s the difference? Heh…

      • Raquel says

        Break in periods are so important. New cars don’t need a lot of maintenance so who cares if the rental agency changed the oil twice…if someone ran that car hard in the first few miles it could lead to longterm consequences.

        • Pat says

          Most new cars do not require break in anymore. Otherwise you’d have to break them in everytime you bought a new part. Yes there are certain things like bedding your brakes but a quick turn of the rotor and new pads and you can do it yourself. As far as rings being seated properly? They do that at the factory now and the tolerances are too tight to make a difference anywyas.

  8. says

    We bought an ex-rental car and have had such a good experience that we are confident this will be the main way we buy cars for years to come.

    At our level the cons aren’t that big a deal because any car in our price range isn’t the belle of the ball, and I am also a total slob in the car so any sort of stain is about to be topped by me anyway. We’ve put a great deal of miles on it since it’s purchase and have had zero problems.

    The try-out period for the rental car was a lifesaver for us. I took the car to my mechanic and he told me it was a good buy, except for an axle problem that wasn’t a big deal now but he said would get worse with time. Took it back to the rental car place and they fixed it rather than losing the sale.

    I think if you are really into cars or are on of those people who are a stickler for details about cars, the cons can add up. But your average a-car-is-a-tool a to b kind of person, you can’t really beat it.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      “…any car in our price range isn’t the belle of the ball…” Great point, Kevin! It’s tough to find like-new cars that have any decent miles on them, so why bother trying? Some may call that settling, but I call it…realistic expectations. :)

  9. says

    It’s confession time around here. I personally wouldn’t buy a rental car because I know how they are driven at times. When I was 23-25 I worked at tech company and my job was to head out to most of the metro cities in the US and train Cellsite Techs how to install our product out at their cellsites. I would log about 300+ miles a day driving that car for all it’s worth the entire time. I have a particular hatred for the Chevy Corsica. I worked with 9 other guys who did the same thing and I indeed witnessed the same driving habits. I’m sure there are much more that drive responsibly but it only takes one of us.

    On the positive side I know that Hertz was one of the companies that wouldn’t rent to those under 25 so maybe by then we’d all grown out of it. Okay maybe not me. I just keep thinking of the phrase we always use to say “Drive it like it’s stolen… or a rental.”
    .-= Paul @ FiscalGeek´s last post: PocketSmith Personal Finance Software Review and Giveaway =-.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      :) I knew it–you’re one of “those!” Haha.

      I think some people just instinctively let loose with rentals. I guess my next question would be (and I alluded to it in the post)–what if the car can take all the abuse anyway? Then it doesn’t make a difference…

  10. says

    I would totally buy a rental car, if I were on the market for a vehicle again. I’ve rented vehicles for almost a decade now, and I’ve never been any harder on a rental than I am on a car that I owned. Hey, I’m in the thing, I’m interested in my own safety and the safety of others still!

    Once in my life I bought a new car, probably because I could. I was young and foolish. It kills me now to think of a depreciating hunk of steel in the driveway. I don’t think that the car I drive is an accessory, I really don’t need flash. Frankly, I’d rather quietly be thinking “go ahead and laugh at the dents and chips on the bumper, it’s paid for and it’s reliable and I got a great deal”.
    .-= Tracy´s last post: Learning to negotiate =-.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      Yeah, very true. We’ve grown so accustomed to cars as status symbols in our society that if I were to pull up to a meeting in a ’95 Toyota, I guarantee someone would make a comment. And that’s sad… (and nothing against ’95 Toyotas, by the way, lol).

      I just want something reliable, like you.

      • mpstrex says

        I live in South Florida, and it’s amazing how many new cars are always on the road, luxury or not. Lots of leases and trade-ups down here. I lived in Orlando and Denver for a time, and it seemed like everyone were smart and drove their cars into the ground!

        Yeah, status symbols all the way.

        • Wojo says

          We’re in the same neck of the woods. South Florida is its own animal and I try to not to form my perceptions of the “real world” by what I see down here. LOL

          • mpstrex says

            Yeah, it’s definitely a Southeast and Southwest Florida thing, that’s for sure. When I grew up in western West Palm Beach, the kids at school drove BMWs, while I had a Ford Escort! :-)

            I lived/worked in Tampa/St. Pete/Clearwater for about 3 months in 2008, co-producing an indie film, and I was happy to see people getting the most out of their cars, like in Orlando.

            Then again, I’ve seen friends get cheap leases on BMWs and Mercedes lately (low-end models). I’d say go with a Hyundai Genesis, but it could be priced about $5000 less.

  11. MyFinancialObjectives says

    I definitely don’t think you made a mistake. I could care less about how my car looks, or how fast it is, so I have a pretty unique opinion. My sole purpose for my car is functionality. Does it get me from A to B, and what is the MPG?

    I’d consider buying a rental some day. The only down side I can see if that it was probably driven pretty hard. I’m not a picky driver:)

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      I have an eye for aesthetics, but I think it comes with being in the creative field. I would say I’m 85% functionality and 15% looks when it comes to selecting cars. :)

  12. Sand and Tsunamis says

    We bought a 2006 Jeep Commander from Carmax that was fleet car…It has been great. It had about 35K on it when we bought it in 2008, and just went over 50K. No major problems; I keep on the 3.5K oil changes, take it in for regular services, and it’s been a fantastic vehicle. We definitely would do it again.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      Awesome! I think getting into a maintenance groove is definitely important as soon as you have ownership, since as many future problems as possible can be prevented!

  13. Wiseguy says

    A few years ago my parents bought a car from Enterprise. They were given this suggestion by someone who had done the same and been very pleased. They, too, have been quite satisfied. They got a very reasonable deal, and the car is still in great condition and has needed no major work, as far as I’m aware. As a result, I would definitely consider buying a retired rental car if a model I want is offered.

  14. Kaity says

    I bought a rental car that was a 1996 model in December 1996. Two months after purchasing, it was in the shop with an oil leak. After that visit and the leak was “fixed”, I had to take that car to the shop b/c it was leaking oil every six months or so. By the time I traded the car in 4 years later (after getting stranded on the side of the interstate in the middle of summer – twice in three months), I was putting a quart of oil in it every other day! When I bought the car I was a teenage girl who knew nothing about car care, and when I sold it I knew more about how to take care of a car than I ever wanted to know! Not necessarily a bad thing to know. Other than that *small* annoyance, the car was in great shape on the inside, carpet, seats and interior was immaculate. I would never do it again b/c of that bad experience.

  15. says

    I must admit that I am one of those who had no opinion…I have driven rental cars but never seriously considered buying one. However, after reading this post and the comments (pro and con), I would definitely consider it next time I shop. You can get dirty carpets and dings buying from any individual, and how would you ever know for sure how THEY drove it?

    We will be looking to buy another car in about a year, so I will be checking into buying a rental. Thanks for the helpful post!
    .-= Joe Plemon´s last post: Five Reasons Why a Penny Saved is Better Than a Penny Earned =-.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      Awesome, Joe! I’ll be happy to add my own experiences into the pool of comments when you’re ready to make the choice next year! :)

  16. says

    I think buying a retired rental car is another good option when searching for a “new” used card purchase.

    I agree with Joe; I don’t think rental cars are driven any harder than your average used car. I rent cars often for work and drive them like the grandma I am.
    .-= Bucksome Boomer´s last post: Do You Have a List? =-.

  17. Jan says

    Bought a rental from Hertz. It was still under warranty. Got the top replaced (it was a soft top). Paid exactly half of what a new one would have cost.
    That was three years ago—never looked back!

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      “Paid exactly half of what a new one would have cost.” That was the sweetest part for me, too, especially since the car was only 2 years old. :)

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      Sooraz,

      Unfortunately, I have no frame of reference for commenting on specific cars from Hertz. The model is your personal choice, and the Hertz information page won’t give you much more beyond the mileage. You need to rent the car and see for yourself/have your mechanic check it out. What I did find when I was looking are prices significantly below Blue Book value, across the board. You might want to compare that to the asking price.

      I can tell you that I have been fairly happy with Hertz Rent2Buy thus far, but the process is not over. Once I have everything complete, I’ll publish a complete review.

  18. says

    You are bang on target with respect to the KBB value. It is about 2 to 2.5 grands less than the estimated market value. The make is 2009 mazda with 30k miles clocked in. It is still under company warranty (36k miles or 3 years). So, I would seek your input on whether to go for a vehicle model X with about 6k miles of warranty left? Car model and make is perfect for me. Also, can you give me any leads on the financing schemes of these used rental cars.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      All things considered, I think you can find lower mileage 2009′s from Hertz (20,000-25,000), but that’s just based on my area. Our 2008 purchase had 32,000 miles as a point of comparison. If you can’t or don’t want to, then make sure the price reflects the relatively high mileage as compared with other cars of the same model.

      I think you’re right on target with wanting to get something with a leftover warranty. Mazda also has 5yrs/60,000 powertrain, if I remember correctly, so you’re covered there for major stuff for a while. Hertz also gives you a 2,000 mile limited warranty.

      I did my financing right through Hertz, and they supposedly “shopped around” for me and landed me with Chase Bank. The rate I got was superb, as good as I could have gotten even from my local credit union, so I had no qualms about that process.

  19. Adam W says

    Another thing to possibly note is that, especially when a car is new, the engine and transmission can take a lot more abuse if it did, in fact, get driven hard. Actually, most of my friends who are very knowledgeable about cars say that when breaking in a new vehicle you are better off driving it relatively hard. Their explanation was that certain internal components, such as piston rings, need to seat themselves properly and adhere to the other materials. When a car is brand-spankin’ new, there is always microscopic flaws in the metal between components, and the more oil pressure and strain you place on those parts, the better they form to each other. It’s kind of like a human being who never exercises: you go 3 years without moving and try to run 5 miles, you’ll probably faint, but a person who’s prepped and lubricated (so-to-speak) will be able to handle the run. Bad metaphor I know, but it’s something to think about. Additionally, when cars are “tested” for safety and performance standards or car reviews by, say, edmunds.com, they routinely drive the hell out of them MUCH harder than a renter would.. and I’m sure they don’t just break apart.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      “they routinely drive the hell out of them MUCH harder than a renter would.. and I’m sure they don’t just break apart.”

      Great point, and that’s pretty much how I sold the whole concept to my wife.

  20. says

    I must admit that I am one of those who had no opinion…I have driven rental cars but never seriously considered buying one. However, after reading this post and the comments (pro and con), I would definitely consider it next time I shop. You can get dirty carpets and dings buying from any individual, and how would you ever know for sure how THEY drove it?

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      Exactly. :) At least with rental cars, you have the law of averages on your side (if one out of 100 people drove it poorly, at least 99 didn’t).

  21. Boone says

    In the process of buuying a rental car..a very nice but noisy 2008 350z. yes I expected the car not to be perfect, but I now apreciate Carmax and other dealers of used cars that are meticulous in preparing used cars for sale. I am just lucky that I can give it back per the Repurchase Agreement-7 days or a thousand miles,( but there are probabley so many loop holes in that i’ll have to endup keeping it). I did the test drive it was fine no noise at all..radio was off and the agent wasn’t talking…I get the keys take I95 home, park the car , take a nap, get up , go for a ride and as I am pulling off Ihear a rattle back near the schocks. Not only that when stopping to start again to see if I was hearing things the brakes begin to squeal. Shucks!

  22. 29palms says

    I bought two rental cars from Enterprise. Where else can you buy a late model car that is almost like new with all these features for under 15 grand? A mid sized sedan? I bought the first one, a Buick Skylark, I’m still driving it around going on 11 years. It’s a 1998 car. That one cost me around ten grand. The other one I bought recently is a Pontiac G6 they had on sale for the month of May, got it for 12,987. Fully loaded. onstar, Satelite radio, 5 star crash rating, automatic and slap stick, warranteed up to 5 years or 100,000 whatever comes first. How can you beat that. It looks clean, smells clean, and lots of bang for your buck. It had 38,000 miles but they tell you that most of their cars sell between 35-45 thousand miles. Still way below the Kelly’s blue book value. I only rack up about ten thousand miles per year. My buick now has 134,000 miles, still kikin. Brand new, this Pontiac G6 goes in the mid 20′s range. So there is a slight trade off, but its still under warranty.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      Awesome that you got your car fully loaded. I didn’t see any of these models available from Hertz (at least not the specific model we were looking at), but I’m curious if companies like Enterprise offer higher-end versions of their models.

      • swmo jeepfan says

        Even Enterprise rentals are mostly base models… but most base models anymore have power windows, power seats, cruise control, Sirius or XM radio, digital info display, etc… so you’re still getting lots of bang for your buck. Anyway I hate leather interior. For some strange reason me and leather seats just don’t mix. Give me cloth interior any day ;-)

  23. Drew says

    In the process of buying a 1 year old Maxima with 16,000 miles, negotiated down to $9,000 off sticker price (below Kelly Blue Book Trade In value). I’m reassured by reading others’ experiences.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      Care to share what company you’re negotiating with? Unfortunately, with Hertz there was no negotiation possible.

  24. cyndi says

    Consumer Reports does not recommend buying rental cars – that is enough for me.

    Also, a friend of ours did buy a rental cars (admittedly a decade ago) and he had very bad luck with it – and found that it had much more road noise than expected. Someone in the industry told him that car rental companies bought stripped down models, sold specifically from mfg as rentals, and had less insulation/soundproofing, etc. as cars sold to the public. that may or may not be true.
    the biggest deal breaker for me is the smell of cigarette smoke which always seems to be present in ex-rental cars.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      I typically agree 100% with CR, but in this case I would have to disagree. I have been more than happy with my experience, and it sounds like many others have too. Yes, once in a while, you’ll get a lemon, and unfortunately I think those experiences taint the rental car image in everyone’s mind.

      Interesting observation about the “stripped down” models…I, too, am curious as to whether this is true.

      Ditto on the cigarette smoke, by the way, but after a few months, we’ve finally gotten rid of the smell. :)

      • aoklabk says

        How did you get rid of the cigarette smoke? I am ready to purchase a 2011 hyundai elantra that was from a rental fleet. It smells funny inside-not sure if it’s cigarette smoke but could be. Mechanic I brought it to says it seems to be in good shape. Forgot to ask him about the odor-he didn’t seem to notice, or at least didn’t bring it up. Look forward to your advice. Thanks!

        • Wojciech Kulicki says

          It went away on its own after a few weeks. We also had the seats professionally cleaned at one point, but I’m pretty sure the smell was gone by then.

  25. says

    Sad to say but no I wouldn’t. I worked at a rental car company for a year in college. I have seen rental car agencies cut corners too many times on maintenance. They use all sorts of tricks to keep those cars running.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      Would corners cut by rental agencies be comparable to those cut by regular owners?

      Just a thought…I haven’t exactly been an angel when it comes to maintaining our cars on a regular basis, either.

  26. SarahJ says

    I’ve been renting cars routinely for nearly 12 years. I work with many people that also rent often. In all those years and in all those cars I only recall us driving them like we would drive any other car, with one exception.

  27. mpstrex says

    Other than buying a used Ford Probe in 1995 because I thought they looked cool (what a bomb that was–glad I got rid of it 2 years later, before I spent another $1000 a year to repair a car I paid $5,000 for, that dropped a lot in value because it was such a bomb), I’ve always bought new.

    Well, that changed this past May when I went to the local (and reputable, believe it or not) dealer and bought a used 2007 Mitsubishi Raider (re-skinned Dodge Dakota with a 60,000-mile/7-year warranty) for cheaper than buying a used Dodge Dakota or similar truck. And definitely cheaper than buying new!

    I also found out via the CarFax and at Mitsubishi (I need a small warranty-covered repair to fix the lights/blinkers/windshield wipers) that Enterprise sold the car to the dealership at auction. How about that?!

    Why a Raider? I like the way they look and drive–I had to rent a car when my old XTerra needed a big repair at 98,000 miles (before the warranty expired), and they needed a few days with it to get the parts, etc. And I couldn’t drive it anyway. Warranty covered the rental, and for the same low price as a compact car, I got the king cab Raider, full four-door. (I ended up buying the extended cab, since it was cheaper.)

    I liked it enough to buy it used. I did some research, but I wish I’d bought my Consumer Reports online subscription BEFORE I bought it. Mitsubishi claims it gets 16 miles per gallon in city. Well, I read some user reviews at CR, and they all love it except it gets 12-13 mpg in city. I work from home, but I drive enough around town locally that the truck eats up gas like it’s going out of style.

    I plan on selling the truck privately, paying off my loan, possibly getting around on a bike for a while (to save up money) and getting a used Nissan Rogue. Better room, better gas mileage. And yes, I’m doing my research.

    I’m interested in Hertz Rent2Buy, because I saw some under-30,000 mile models on a cars.com search, and it was Hertz. But I also notice the price is about $2,000-3,000 higher than those with around 40,000 miles on them (probably bought from rental car places to be re-sold at used car lots). We’ll see what happens, because I’m a fan of extended warranties, and buying one before 36,000 miles/3 years is up is a better idea.

  28. Aaron says

    I’m thinking of buying a used rental. You can worry about how rental cars were driven, but if I’m the type of person whose going to be constantly trading my new car in every 2 years, am I going to maintain it, or give a darn how much wear and tear I put on it?

    The kind of people that are diligent about taking care of their car and driving it easy are usually the kind of people that are trying to get max life out of it. That’s why I’d actually feel a little better about a rental.

    The way I see it, these cars with ~25,000 have been through about 15% of their life. I take an additional 5% for the risk of buying used, so I need to get more than 20% off the new price to entice me to buy used.

    • swmo jeepfan says

      20% off new shouldn’t be a problem when buying a used rental. I’ve bought three of them over the past 10 years and have averaged 40-50% off new. If you find a nice one that has a clean history, I wouldn’t hesitate buying. I’ve had great luck with every rental I’ve bought.

  29. Rumi says

    Hi, Do you have any experience with AVIS? My husband and me plan to buy Rental from them…. Please let me know if you know something…
    Thanks a lot.

  30. swmo jeepfan says

    I’ve purchased three rental cars over the past 10 years… all less than a year old, all priced well below NADA book value, and all with 20-30k miles. Only expenses I had with those cars were for tires and normal maintenance. Only car I’ve had major problems with in the recent past is with a Pontiac Grand Prix that I bought NEW. It burned a quart of oil every 1,000 miles right off the showroom floor and was definitely a “basket case” in many respects.

    I’ve kept every used rental until the 80-90k mark and they have all been awesome to say the least. As long as the rental has a clean Carfax / Autocheck and appears nice and clean… I have absolutely no issues buying one and I’m about as “picky” as you can get when buying a car.

    I just bought a 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee about a month ago that’s a former Enterprise rental. Barely has a blemish on it. It’s basically like new in every respect… and I got one heck of a deal on it.

  31. Rick says

    I am currently looking at a 2010 Volvo S80 with 17,000 km. It’s being sold by Volvo dealer as a volvo certived pre owned car. They are giving 6 year 160,000 km bumper to bumper accept regular wear and tear…

    They are asking $33,000. Brand new 2011 cost about $48,000

    What will you do?? Buy / Stay away?

    • Wojo says

      Sounds too good to be true, but that might very well be how quickly it depreciated. I would look into reviews on Consumer Reports for that model year and see how it performs, test drive it, etc. Also, if that is in fact how quickly it’s going to depreciate, be prepared to have little value in the car once you’ve driven it for a while.

  32. Jack says

    I recently purchase a Maxima 2008 from a dealer which has rental history of 8 months.. driven 30k miles in first 8 months and then 20k in next two years by second owner.
    Till here I am good.. but just noticed in Carfax there was third owner who owned this car for just 18 days. Now this made me skeptical and hence the post.
    Not sure if I made right decision… any comments?

  33. Jack says

    To add, I do have option to return car in a week…

    Car’s KBB Suggested Retail Value is $20,880 and dealer offered me $16,000.
    Its 2008 Maxima SE Sedan 4D.
    Need expert’s suggestions…

  34. Sanjay says

    Ok, so i have similar issue like Jack’s. I am planning on buying a Camry, initial 1year 2 mo as a rental in Florida, followed by 4 years in KY under a private party, now the person i am negotiating with has had the car for a few weeks and plans to sell it – he will not be on the title, he has got a notarized title from the previous private owner. it is a 2005 toyota camry le with 97k miles and he is offering to me @9000. Going for it — would it be a mistake?

    • Wojo says

      As in Jack’s situation, I would not buy a car only owned for a few weeks, but it might be worth it for you. I would also never buy a vehicle from someone who wasn’t on the title–how do I know they have the right to sell it?

  35. James says

    I have bought a rental car before it was a 2006 with about 36,000 miles on it. It was a pretty good car except the cruise control quit working. I took it in for repair and it worked for about a year and half and quit working again. Other than that it has been ok. What I am looking at and want your opinion on is a 2010 Nissan Altima. It was owned by a rental company since Feb. 2010 in Arizona listed as a fleet vehicle. Does fleet mean a certain company rented it for a period of time? It was purchased at an auction by a local dealership in July 2011. It has 34,199 miles that has been put on it in a relatively short period of time. Would you consider this car? Or would you steer away because of the “high mileage” that has been put on in only a year four or five months? Any insights would help a lot. Thanks

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      I’m not certain what a fleet vehicle designation could mean. It’s possible that the system simply considers any rental vehicle part of a “fleet.”

      The mileage itself would not be a turnoff for me–it could just be that the car was used on the highway a lot, which I would consider a positive as opposed to city driving. The only thing I would make sure is that the price reflects the mileage–sometimes, such a new model year with high miles can be overpriced simply because it’s recent.

      • James says

        They are asking 16,552. Not for sure if that is a good price or not. When I check on KBB it said if I were selling as private the excellent value would be 14,925.

        • Wojciech Kulicki says

          Sounds close enough, but it would be tough to tell without doing a lot of research. I would check eBay and local dealers, too.

  36. B-Dub says

    I did. Bought a 2008 Dodge Caliber SE with 48,000 miles from a Budget sales lot. It wasn’t the base model. It has power windows, mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, and looked like it just came out of the showroom.

    Been real happy with it. No problems of any kind.

  37. BenF says

    Hi, I’m in the 3 day test rental period on a 2010 Nissan Versa hatchback from Hertz R2B in Boston MA. The pick up site is actually at an “Advantage Car Rental” site.

    Sifting through the responses, I was a little skeptical, but it seems that they have taken some of your concerns to heart because, from the time I submitted my test drive request, I have received numerous emails and courtesy calls to explain the process. I was contacted by email when my car was ready to pick up at it was clean inside and out with only a few minor scratches and scraps. The stated mileage on the website was pretty close to what was on the odometer when I arrived at Advantage.

    I took it to my mechanic this morning and he noticed that the front tires were worn very low and said that they would not pass inspection in the state of MA. He also pulled the air filter which was pretty dirty as was the oil. No other problems otherwise. I know it’s a no haggle price, but do you think they would adjust the price in order so that it would pass inspection? I am going to call them as well, but was wondering if anyone has had a similar experience. Thanks! Ben

    • Wojciech Kulicki says

      Anything is worth a try, right? I haven’t heard of anyone getting a discount; you might be better off getting another copy of the same model from Hertz.

      • Ben F says

        A belated update… I got a response from Hertz after I returned the Versa and they said they would indeed replace the tires if they would fail an inspection. While I ended up in a Honda Fit, the Hertz Rent2Buy was a good experience, but I would caution folks to do due diligence and not be blinded by freshly detailed cars. :-)

        • aoklabk says

          It makes sense that they wouldn’t lower the price but that they would replace the tires. Same thing happened to me. How do you like the Fit?

  38. Neil says

    Bought three rental cars. Currently has two in my driveway. My first rental lasted over 7 years and well into 100, 000 miles. My current two a 2004 4runner that I bought in July of 2004 is 8 years old and currently has 176,000 miles on it. Just beginning to have problems. Still a very strong vehicle. My second is a 2005 Galant and it’s seven years old and has 140,000 miles. This vehicle will last at least another three years. Maybe I’m just lucky. But i’m about to roll the dice on my 4th rental purchase to replace the 4runner. All were bought from Enterprise. i will always buy rental cars.

  39. brittney says

    My grandmother purchased a 92 ford escort from enterprise back in the day, it is now 2012 and my younger brother currently drives it. Even tho the interior is now super ghetto and falling apart, it still has less than 100,000 miles on it and has been a wonderful and reliable car. My 98 Nissan Maxima was recently stolen (god damn the heartless soul who took my baby), I’m thinking of buying a new car. Since the Escort has been so wonderful to us, I’m thinking of purchasing a rental. Thank you for the pros and cons list. It has been very helpful

  40. Seth says

    Ive bought two rental cars in my time. One was a 2004 Chevy Blazer with 7000 miles on it. I bought it in 04 and got over 100000 miles on it before trading it in just recently for a used 2012 traverse with 10000 miles on it. The traverse was a hertz rental car and has one small ding in one door and a small scratch on the rear bumper. The interior was spotless and it actually has several options in it. New, it prices at around 40k. I drove it off the lot for 29k after they agreed to throw in a drop down DVD and two other dealerships couldn’t come close to beating the deal. And I still get the factory warranty on it as well as getting the extended warranty in case something does go wrong.

    • aoklabk says

      I’m wondering whether I should get the extended warranty on a 2011 hyundai elantra with 30K miles. It still has 3 1/2 years or 30K more miles on its present warranty. Any suggestions anyone?

      • Wojciech Kulicki says

        I bought an extended warranty with my car and wish I didn’t. Usually, the warranties will be priced based on how reliable your car is expected to be. However, if you’re strapped for cash and a big repair would be devastating to you, a warranty could be a form of insurance for you.

  41. Lindsey Naumann says

    We are currently looking into buying a car, and I am seriously considering buying a rental car. It might take some talking my husband into it, but it seems worth it to me! The rental companies take great care of their cars, so I can deal with some aesthetic issues!

  42. Melx says

    I was looking into a local dealer inventory for recent Nissan Versa car, and came across with 2009 Nissan Versa hatchback with a price of $12,995 with 36 300 miles on it. I was a little currious to know how much the new 2012 costs, then discovered MSRP is about $14,000. I kept on reserching and and landed on Hertz rent2buy website, I was really amazed to see 2011 Nissan Versa hatchback for $12,200 @24,000miles only. The idea of buying a rental car makes me uncomfortable and start googling about other people experience and came across with this blog. I tell you I really got rental car purchase 101 crash course here. The deal I am getting is really very attractive, and am ready to put $4000 as a down payment. My question, if I put this much for downpayment, will I need extra money in cash for sales tax and title and other fees. The other issue is the warranty, nissan has 3 yrs 36k. warranty, will that be transferred, since the car I plan to have has 24k.

    • Wojo says

      Melx, Typically, all taxes and fees are bundled into the loan, so the only cash outlay is your down payment. Also, every car manufacturer makes its own rules on transferring warranties. For example, the Mazda we bought came with the manufacturer’s warranty intact, though we only got use of it for another 3,000 miles (the car had 33K when we bought it). Check with the Nissan website and/or Hertz.

      • Melx says

        Thanks Wojo.
        Update, I signed for rent2buy in El Paso, Texas to buy the 2011 Nissan Versa Hatchback @24k miles for $12100. I used a $200 coupon but I got only $100 discount. And immediately I received an email to apply for financing. Shortly, I got a call from the Oklahoma office and explained me all the steps I should follow. The next day I got a call from hertz financing dept. and told me I am approved for the loan. Yesterday, I got a message in my voicemail that
        the car is ready for pic up at El Paso, TX international airport Hertz location.I called the Hertz office in Oklahoma, and asked if they provide service history of the car, I was told they don’t, It is a company policy. I asked for CarFox report, the sent me auto check.com report. In the report, it says a theft was reported the same day the car was registered as rental car and title was issued. I hope this is not a problem. It also has loan/lien records, I have to call and ask for explanation. I scheduled to pick up the car @4pm Tuesday. I am excited , so far everything is going smoothly, I hope the remaining will be the same. I hope the car will be as I expected. Will update on Tuesday!!

        • Melx says

          Quick question I forget to put it in my previous post, the 2011 Nissan versa hatchback I am planning to buy auto check.com report gives an autocheck score of 26 to this car. And the auto check score for similar vehicle score range is 85 – 90. I am really concerened why the score is very low compared to other similar vehicles, is it because it is a rental car ? or is it because of the theft record? Should I avoid even trying this car? I need your suggestion before I try this car. Thank you

          • MaxT says

            Personally, i would be apprehensive about the car, unless I have a reasonable explanation about the theft situation because it is likely the main reason the autocheck score is so low. Something you may want to consider if you plan to sell the car down the line.
            So, if the explanation sounds reasonable and you plan to own the car for a long time..it may not be an issue. Good Luck!

            I am also piking up a car from Hertz on Tue. Thanks for the carfax report idea. Iwill be asking for one.

  43. Lia says

    My sister and I have driven fleet cars and proceeded to drive them into the ground. We LOVED our fleet cars and in fact, are looking at getting her another one. The prices are good and honestly, both of the cars we had were in great conditions upon purchase. We didn’t begin to have problems until well into their older years, just like any other car. So long as I can test drive the car and view carfax/auto history in some form or fashion, I’m very comfortable buying fleet. Yes, they have more miles on them, but I generally assume the fleets are downsizing when you can get a current year model. I’ve never bought through the actual fleet company before though, just dealerships.

  44. Malcolm says

    I purchased a 2012 Buick Lacrosse Premium 1 (40K miles) from a person that had bought it at auction for $17,500.00.. I had checked the carfax.. no problems, but indicated that it had been a rental.. no problem. I paid cash and the car runs GREAT AND LOOKS even better. I am going to sell it for roughly $24K (if I can get that much), and buy me a 2013 with maybe 10k, so I’ll have a better warranty. If you can find a great deal from a rental.. check carfax and go for it.. I did and I am happy!

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