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The Nitty Gritty

Are you considering buying a used rental car?

With fewer people traveling due to the global pandemic, rental car companies are looking to liquidate their vehicle inventory for quick cash. The deals may seem too good to pass up, but there are some things you should consider before buying a rental car.

Why a used rental car might not be your best option at any price

A rental car may have had one owner, but it has had many, many drivers with varying driving styles. Unfortunately, it’s safe to say that not all of those drivers treated the car with care.

“Think about the way you personally handled the last car you had rented,” said Steven Roberts, AVP, Auto Lending at Ardent Credit Union. “Now, times that abuse by ten and again by 1,000 for the number of people that have sat in the same seat.” Since they don’t own the car, “many people will drive faster and break harder in rental cars.”

Before agreeing to purchase a rental car, you should pay very close attention to all facets of the car both inside and out. In particular, here a few things to keep in mind:

  • A traditional used car sniff test might not be helpful to identify issues. Rental companies often use scents to mask smells from things like spilled drinks or water leaks.

  • There is no guarantee that rental cars have had required timely maintenance. If the car is out on a longer-term rental it will not come in for maintenance until the customer returns it.

  • Unlike other used cars, you will not have a complete vehicle history available from CarFax for a rental car. Information in the CarFax is provided by service and body shops and insurance companies. The reports help potential buyers understand the vehicle’s history by providing information, such as prior ownership, repairs, mileage, recalls, accidents and inspection status. As rental agencies do not report their own service and repair work, the car’s CarFax is often incomplete, resulting in inflated resale values.

  • Be suspicious of rental cars with low mileage as there may be a negative reason why it is no longer in the fleet.

Even when you consider the cheaper purchase price, buying a car that was driven hard continuously without knowing its service history may end up costing you more.

“I would be very apprehensive,” said Peter Kuryluk, Auto Buying Concierge at Ardent Credit Union. “Yes, you’re saving money in the short-run, but are you really saving money in the long-run?”

If you still want to shop the rental cars for sale…

Learn as much as you can about the car you are looking to purchase. Follow these steps to make an informed decision:

  • Before settling on a specific car, consider all the related costs to owning a car. For example, check on the frequency to fill up at www.fueleconomy.com. Your mechanic can provide an idea of how expensive servicing it will be. And don’t forget to call your insurance carrier to find out how much the car will be to insure.

  • Trade-ins are accepted when making a rental car purchase. Calculate the trade-in value of your current car, if that applies. Trade-in values can be determined at www.kbb.com (Kelly Blue Book) or www.nada.com

  • Test drive the rental car, so you can see if you like the way it drives. If you know which make and model you are looking to test, some companies, such as Hertz, will deliver the car to you if you live within a certain distance from the rental location.

  • Have a trusted mechanic check out the car before making the final purchase. The most successful purchase is one made by an informed purchaser.

  • Review Ardent’s pre-owned car checklist for other tips about what to look for before you buy.

Unlike a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle, your rental purchase will not come with a warranty. So, whatever problems you miss prior to purchase will become yours. At the end of the day, knowing what you are getting into is your best defense against a deal that’s “too good to be true” and an expensive case of buyer’s remorse.

Learn About Our Auto Buying Concierge