Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Should you buy a rental car?

Buy a rental car?

Are rental cars abused?

Any time someones asks if they should buy a rental car, I see people advise against it because “rental cars are always abused.” It’s just not true. Think about it for a second; the vast majority of rental cars are rented by business people and families on vacation. The remainder of the rental customers are those whose cars are being repaired or whose cars have been totaled and the owners are renting while shopping for a new vehicle.

In all those cases, the renter is responsible for paying for any damage to the vehicle that may be incurred during the rental. So there’s NO incentive for the renter to abuse the vehicle. Business people don’t drag race the rented Ford Fusion and families don’t drag race the rented minivan. So where’s the abuse people talk about all the time?

1)      Fender benders — All the renters are out-of-towners who don’t know their way. That causes low-speed accidents. If you check the file on rental cars you’ll often see minor accidents like broken side view mirrors, broken tail lights and fender/bumper repairs.

2)      Puke — Families traveling with small kids have family-style accidents in the vehicle. So look for signs of upholstery stains from vomit, urine, feces and spilled drinks.

3)      Tire and wheel scuffs — Examine the tires for signs of curb kisses

4)      Most rentail car companies require the renter to be at least 21-years old, so that eliminates teenagers looking to rent a vehicle for a joy ride.

Are rental cars maintained?

Yes! The large rental car companies purchase directly from the carmaker on a special purchase program. Carmakers sell to the large rental companies at a very low price for two reasons: 1. It keeps their assembly lines running at full capacity and 2. It lets the public have the first-hand experience with their models. In return for the low prices, carmakers require the rental companies to do two things: 1. strictly follow the maintenance guidelines which include recommended oil and fluid changes and tire rotations, and 2. Sell the vehicle at auction to give the carmakers dealers first crack at buying the well-maintained car.

If you’re thinking about buying a rental car, ask to see the maintenance file and you’ll see that the oil and fluid changes and tire rotations are well documented, as well as all other repairs and maintenance.

Why the bad rap on buying a rental car?

Before rental companies tightened up their rental policies it was common for young drivers to rent cars for weekend parties and get-aways. They would drag race the vehicles, swap in used parts and generally abuse them. Those days are GONE. No rental car company would put up with accepting an abused rental car these days.

Quite the contrary, rental car companies actually make money by charging the renter for any and all damage incurred during the rental. Even if you get away with the company not noticing the damage when you return the car, they’ll catch it during their cleaning and inspection. The renter not only has to pay for any repairs, but they also have to pay the daily rental rate while the car is in the shop being repaired. So there’s NO incentive to abuse a rental car because the renter is going to have to pay for all the damage plus the rental fees while it’s being fixed.

How to buy a rental car

Do your used car research first

Some carmakers sell slow-selling models to rental car companies because sales are poor at the dealers. In other words, the vehicle is a dog. The rental car companies get a great deal on those dogs and it might appear to be a  good deal for you—until you realize you just bought a dog. So check out the reliability of the vehicle.

Next, go to Edmunds.com and check out the current selling price for the rental vehicle you want to buy to see if it’s really a good deal. Make sure you compare apples to apples, especially since rental cars tend to have higher mileage than lease returns or sales by private sellers.

Review the file to make sure you’re aware of all accidents and repairs made to the vehicle.

Finally, get a pre-purchase inspection by a qualified shop. Know what you’re buying before you finalize the deal.

©, 2020 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat



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