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Jeruba's avatar

Some advice on car buying? (Question 5: rental returns)

Asked by Jeruba (41912 points ) September 4th, 2012

What do you think of buying a recent-model used car that’s been a rental car?

Good deal or not? Better care, too much wear and tear, or what?

Please mention whether your answer comes from personal experience, professional knowledge, anecdote and folklore, or some other source.

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14 Answers

WestRiverrat's avatar

If you get a good warranty to go with it, it is not a bad thing. But you will want to take it to an independant mechanic to check out on your test drive, or hire a mechanic for a couple hours to test drive it for you. At the very least check the VIN number with Carfax.com

There are some very good deals and some that you should run from without looking back. Without a decent knowledge base, telling one from the other can be tricky.

Bellatrix's avatar

If the price was right, yes. In Australia, they usually turn them over at fairly low Ks (40,000K) and they are regularly serviced.

The downside, they could have been flogged by drivers because they are hire cars but again, they have been serviced and maintained.

I asked my husband who does have second hand experience of this. A relative bought a hire car, and a car with a small engine at that, and didn’t have any problems. He suggested, not sure if you can do this there, looking at ex government cars. They tend not to have been worked too hard here :-). You would usually access ex-gov cars through the auction system but you would need to check on whether you can have the cars checked by a mechanic etc.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I agree with @WestRiverrat- if the rental return qualified to be a factory certified used car (comes with good extended factory warranty) then I’d consider it but only for a few brands. In our families, we’ve bought several rental returns but they were Nissan and Toyota models. Didn’t you say you’re looking at Fords? If yes then buy a very good warranty and discounted service plan if one’s available.

My experience and knowledge comes from working in car dealerships for the past 13 years and buying mostly pre owned cars.

marinelife's avatar

My current car is an ex-rental car. I have had virtually no maintenance needed on it except a new water pump when the mileage dictated.

Jeruba's avatar

I zeroed in on the 2012 Focus I wanted. It’s not one of the common colors, so the lots aren’t full of them. The dealership I visited yesterday located it at another store in the area and was supposed to call me back on it today. It turns out that the other dealer sold it yesterday.

But the dealer I was talking to has one in stock, a 2012 rental return with 30k miles on it.

I’m really disappointed about the one that got away but don’t want to jump at the wrong offer now on the rebound.

So I’m having a tough time deciding what to do. I’m grateful for all flutherite wisdom and advice.

janbb's avatar

My son bought a 2010 Altima from Enterprise, drove it across country and has had no problems with it. I have bought late model used cars from dealers (not rentals) and been very happy with them.

Jeruba's avatar

@janbb, did you mean “no problems”—or he has problems now?

janbb's avatar

@Jeruba “Now” edited.

wundayatta's avatar

A car that has been driven 30k miles in a year has got to have seen harder use than a car that gets driven 30K in 3 years. Make sure you pay for the mileage, not the age.

hearkat's avatar

@jeruba: Since you don’t expect to do a lot of heavy driving with it, and it’s being sold through the dealer, I say go for it as long as they include a comprehensive extended warranty.

geeky_mama's avatar

@Jeruba – most big brand rental agencies (Hertz, Avis, etc.) have recently changed policies where they are keeping their fleet up to and past 50K miles (this has been communicated to me by numerous managers at over a dozen rental agencies—so after hearing it several times I’m inclined to believe it).
So, a rental with only 30K miles on it was likely to have been a rental used at the dealership. This could mean it’s the car they let their sales manager drive (or the manager’s spouse)—as that’s a frequent “perk” of working for a dealership. Or, it could be the loaner car they used for their Service Dept.

As for me, personally, I’d never buy a retired fleet (Avis, Hertz, etc.) rental car because although they are maintained for safe operation they aren’t maintained the way my husband and I would maintain our cars (we take very good care of our cars, use synthetic oil, etc.etc.).. and they are driven HARD ..and as someone who travels a great deal for work I’ve actually experienced quite a few rental cars in very poor shape and even had a few break down on me. (Which, frankly, is surprising in a car under 25K miles..but yet, I’ve had it happen.)

I would however consider a loaner/dealer rental return. In fact, we bought one (with only 7K miles on it) for a substantial discount a few years back..I think it was a Toyota Corolla and it was wonderful. Perfect condition, even had the “new car smell” still…but it saved us thousands of dollars (and still came with the factory warranty).

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@geeky_mama has an excellent suggestion there- big difference between a car offered by a dealership’s service dept. as a loaner versus a retail rental car. How to find out though?

geeky_mama's avatar

@Neizvestnaya – I think dealers would tell you if you asked.
When we bought one that was a dealership-used loaner the dealership told us it had been their sales manager’s car and he even came by and told us it was his wife who drove it…so it would probably be something they’d willingly disclose.
We also bought a Mazda once that had been a “trade” between dealerships…where a customer had wanted a particular set of features/car color so two dealers traded vehicles. The dealership we bought from explained why the car had mileage on it—it was the distance driven from the dealership they traded with (and they had paper work that detailed it) in a neighboring state. That car had also had some minor storm/hail damage that had been repaired so we got a really good deal on it because it had some miles & repaired hail damage. (Still looked, smelled and drove brand-spanking new to me!)

Jeruba's avatar

What great information! I’m so impressed with you guys. I appreciate all of it.

And I’m going to use it tomorrow.

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