There are several routes you can take to find a bargain on a used car. You can go with an older model, buy from a private seller, or scour car shopping websites and Craigslist for the best price. Another alternative that car shoppers often overlook is buying a used rental car. The first thought that comes to mind is "but haven't all rental cars been abused?" While it's a valid concern, it helps to know that most rental car companies offer a thorough inspection and warranty in addition to a lower average price for their fleet vehicles. Learn the pros and cons of buying a rental car, and what you should know about buying a used car from the three major rental car companies.
Pros and Cons of Buying a Rental Car
Before we weigh the pros vs. cons of buying a rental car, it's important to understand how buying a rental car works. The major rental companies like Enterprise, Avis, and Hertz sell their vehicles at franchised dealerships around the country. According to Edmunds, rental companies will typically pull the vehicle out of the fleet after about one year and sell it as a used car. Despite the fact that the vehicle is still fairly new, you need to consider that rental cars have accumulated significantly more miles than the average used car. A vehicle history report, warranty, and extended test drive or rent-to-own option are some of the ways rental companies alleviate these concerns.
Buying a rental car offers savings for shoppers on a tight budget, as well as the added peace of mind of a warranty. It's also a good way to take a longer test drive than the 15 minutes offered at the dealership.
Lower Price: The most obvious benefit of buying a used car from a rental company is the discounted price. Most for-sale rental cars are only 1-2 years old, and on average, the discounts can be 10% or more depending on the vehicle model. Enterprise Car Sales claims 75% of their for-sale vehicles are priced under Kelley Blue Book's value while Avis car sales says you'll save an average of $2,500 compared to the KBB price. With COVID-19 halting non-essential travel, rental car companies like Hertz offered even more competitive prices through their car sales program.
Peace of Mind: Buying a rental car can be risky, but the good news is rental companies rigorously maintain vehicles while they are in the fleet, ensuring that the regular maintenance is taken care of. Rental companies will usually offer a certified inspection, free vehicle history report, and a powertrain warranty.
Extended Test Drive: A typical dealership may only let you take the car around the block for a test drive, while most rental car sales dealerships will allow an extended test drive of 3 hours or more. A rent-to-own program also allows you to spend more quality time with the vehicle while you rent and then choose if you want to return or buy it.
Extra Perks: Some car rental companies entice buyers with additional benefits beyond the price advantage. These include complimentary roadside assistance, towing coverage, rental car coverage, and a buyback program that allows you to return the vehicle within a short time frame if you're not satisfied.
Extra Wear and Tear: According to Car and Driver, the average number of miles driven per year is 13,500, but due to the nature of rental cars, you'll find most vehicles have double or triple that mileage on the odometer. Most vehicles we found on the Enterprise Car Sales website exceeded 35,000 miles, and some have been driven over 50,000 miles. It's also likely that the vehicle was driven aggressively while in the fleet.
Limited Selection: If the exact make, model, trim, and color aren't as important to you as getting the best price, buying a rental car can be a smart move. However, if you're set on a specific vehicle, you may not be able to find it at the rental car sales dealership near you. You'll also want to consider that you're not going to find many top-of-the-line vehicles since rental companies tend to buy mostly base models.
Special Offers May Exclude Shoppers with Bad Credit: Although financing is available through the major car rental companies, shoppers with compromised credit should be aware that the deals advertised could exclude them. For example, Enterprise has a promotion for cars with payments under $300/month, but includes this fine print: "For qualified buyers only. APR, credit extended and approval based upon the applicant’s credit history, payment history and ability to repay the credit extended. Not all applicants will qualify".
Buying a Used Car From Enterprise
Enterprise is the largest car rental company in the U.S. that also owns brands like National and Alamo. This means you'll be able to find the best selection of recent-model vehicles for sale with over 7,000 cars and 250 makes and models available. Enterprise Car Sales has 140 dealerships around the country and allows you to browse vehicles online by price and vehicle segment, then schedule a test drive at an Enterprise Car Sales dealership. The used cars are inspected and certified to offer shoppers peace of mind.
In addition to the potential savings, (75% of vehicles are priced below Kelley Blue Book typical listing price) Enterprise offers a 12-month 12,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, a free CARFAX Vehicle History report, and a 7-day buyback program which means you can return the vehicle within 7 days or 1,000 miles. 12 months of roadside assistance, without a mileage limit, comes complementary.
Buying a Used Car from Hertz
Hertz works with 75 used car dealerships around the U.S. and Canada to sell their former fleet vehicles. Like Enterprise, Hertz offers a certification process for their used car sales that includes a multipoint inspection. For additional assurance, every Hertz vehicle comes backed by a 12-month/12,000-mile limited powertrain warranty. A unique Rent2Buy Program allows shoppers to test drive the vehicle for 3 days as a rental before they buy it.
Added perks of buying from Hertz Car Sales include financing that fits nearly any budget and no-haggle pricing. Shoppers who purchase a Hertz vehicle also get 1 Year of Roadside Assistance with unlimited miles, Travel Breakdown Assistance, Towing Coverage, and Rental Car Coverage.
Buying a Used Car from Avis
If saving a few thousand bucks on a used car purchase appeals to you, going with a pre-owned vehicle from Avis Car Sales could be the answer. The rental company's website states the average savings for vehicles is $2,500 compared to KBB pricing. All of Avis' pre-owned vehicles must pass a multi-point inspection by a certified technician, and Avis won't sell a vehicle that's been in an accident or has an open recall. With a purchase from Avis, the buyer receives an AutoCheck verification report which is backed by Experian, and a 12 month / 12,000-mile powertrain warranty.
For indecisive shoppers, Avis offers an "Ultimate Test Drive" which allows them to take a vehicle for a 2-hour test drive for free or rent one for 3 days at a reduced rate. This benefit lets you test out the vehicle on your own turf or take it to your mechanic for an additional inspection. If you choose to buy, the rental fees are reimbursed.