Mention that you are thinking of buying a former rental car and the response is predictable: Rental cars have been abused. Should buyers really steer clear of these vehicles? Or will a former rental car make solid, dependable transportation?
The oft-cited abuse of rental cars might be true in a few cases. But there are other factors that offset that argument.
Rental companies maintain their cars well and closely follow the service schedules. And, since the rental car agencies buy vehicles in volume, and pay less up front, their resale prices can be lower. However, if you are thinking of buying a former rental car, get a pre-purchase inspection first, just as you'd do with any other used car. This will reveal any hidden problems and let you make an informed choice about buying.
Before taking any used car to a mechanic, inspect the car yourself by test-driving it and listening for any unusual noises. Also, look for any signs of body damage and interior wear and tear. And, finally, ask for a vehicle history report from the seller, or run one yourself.
While the vehicle history report should also show whether there are any outstanding recalls, you should check yourself. Run the vehicle identification number (VIN) through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) SaferCar.gov. If there is an outstanding recall, you can ask the seller to have it addressed or choose another vehicle.
Another benefit to buying a rental car is the convenience of the shopping experience. The large rental companies, such as Avis, Enterprise and Hertz, have websites with fixed pricing, attractive financing and a wide inventory. Keep in mind, however, that most rental cars are lightly optioned. This means luxury features and advanced safety equipment will be hard to find.
When Edmunds editors went shopping for a used car a few years ago, they compared prices on a rental agency's used car lot and found them to be very competitive with dealer retail prices. That's still the case today. Furthermore, you'll find that the vehicles are often only one or two years old, so the balance of the warranty is still in effect. Extended warranties are also available.
While former rental cars aren't sold at rock-bottom prices, the wide selection and no-haggle pricing make these cars worth considering for a used car shopper.
To find a dealership that knows how to treat shoppers right, please visit Edmunds.com's Dealer Ratings and Reviews.