“Please, drive it like you borrowed it, not like you rented it — OK?”
This request is often tendered when friends are loaned cars. The presumption of course is people tend to be less careful — well, actually downright abusive — to rented cars. And, yes, there are people out there who consider rental insurance a license to engage in automotive stupidity and do things they normally wouldn’t if they felt a sense of ownership and responsibility over the vehicle.
So, with that in mind, should you ever buy an ex-rental car?
Rental car companies know some people are going to be hard on their cars. They also know a great way to get sued is to put someone on the street in an unsafe car. After all, if a tragic accident occurs and the fault can be traced to poor maintenance, a rental company will be held liable. So, while they can’t control how people use them, they can control how well the cars are cared for in between rentals.
Newer Models with Warranties
Rental car companies get cars at fleet prices. This means they pay less to get them in the first place. Further, they’ve rented them for a couple of years to recoup their investments. All of this adds up to you getting a current looking model at a really good price. Yes, the mileage will be higher. However, you’ll also still usually have the balance of the factory warranty working in your favor.
What’s more, the larger rental companies offer 12-month/12,000-mile warranties as well. Even better, most rental companies will allow you to bring a car back within a certain number of days of you decide you don’t like it. Yes, you’ll pay a nominal fee to do so, but it’s better than being stuck for years with something you don’t like.
Typically priced below retail, you can be assured of getting a good deal when you purchase a former rental. Yes, you can get a lower monthly payment with a lease vs. a buy on a new car. However, ex-rental car pricing is very competitive. This frees you of the need to bargain back and forth. You’ll see ex-rentals are priced very well if you do your homework.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find high-end audio systems and other bells and whistles — unless you’re looking at models slanted more toward the luxury end of the spectrum. And, even then, they’ll be shy of options. Rental cars are typically the stripped-down versions. On the other hand, new cars today come with a lot more standard features than they did in the past, so that might not be as much of a concern.
However, as with any other used car purchase, you will be limited to the stock on hand. You might be able to search around within a given company’s local inventory to find a particular color you want, but by and large what they have is all you can get.
You’re Still Buying a Used Car
As great as all of the above is, you’re still buying a car others have driven before you. Yes, rental companies take care of the cars quite well, but you should still get the car inspected by an independent mechanic, knowledgeable about the make and model you’re considering.
Simply put, a pre-purchase inspection is always the smart thing to do.
So, should you buy an ex-rental car?
As long as you choose carefully, you’ll be just fine.