Mention that you are thinking of buying a former rental car and the response is predictable: Rental cars have been abused and you'd be crazy to buy one. But should you really steer clear of these vehicles? Or could a former rental car be 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 because the rental car agencies buy vehicles in volume and pay less up front, their resale prices can be lower.

Another benefit to buying a rental car is the convenience of the shopping experience. The large rental companies — Avis, Enterprise and Hertz — have websites with fixed pricing, attractive financing and thousands of vehicles. The cars are often only 1 or 2 years old, so the balance of the warranty is still in effect. Extended warranties are also available.

Prices are competitive with dealer retail prices. Hertz and Avis offer free two-hour test drives and a three-day "rent to buy" program, where you pay a daily rental fee (at a reduced rate, in the case of Hertz). The companies refund the rental fee if you buy. Enterprise has a seven-day buyback offer, which does entail a $200 restocking fee.

As you shop, remember that most rental cars don't come with a lot of options, so luxury features and advanced safety equipment might be hard to find.

Here's a list of key things to do before purchasing a rental car:

  • Inspect the car by test-driving it and listening for any unusual noises. Look for any signs of body damage and interior wear and tear.


  • Ask for a vehicle history report from the rental car company, or buy one yourself.


  • Check on recalls. Since June 1, 2016, rental car companies have been required to fix any recalled cars in their fleets. The vehicle history report should show whether there are any outstanding recalls, but it doesn't hurt to check yourself by running the vehicle identification number (VIN) through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's free recall site. If there turns out to be an outstanding recall, you can ask the seller to get the car fixed or move on to another vehicle.


  • Get a prepurchase inspection. An inspection will reveal any hidden problems and let you make an informed choice about buying.

While rental car companies don't sell their vehicles at rock-bottom prices, the wide selection and no-haggle pricing make them worth your consideration when you're used-car shopping.