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Should I buy a used rental car?
September 14, 2007 12:18 PM   Subscribe

UsedCarFilter: Is buying used from a rental car company, specifically Enterprise, a good idea? First hand experiences appreciated.

I just don't trust my '89 Volvo on long journeys anymore, and since I hardly drive except to go on roadtrips, it's becoming increasingly useless to me.

When I go on roadtrips I've been renting cars from Enterprise. I've been quite happy with their service and the cars seem very well maintained. I've noticed that they sell their used cars after a couple years, so I thought maybe this would be a good way to avoid the "new car" price hit, but still be sure that the car was well maintained.

I'd like to hear general thoughts as well as people's specific experiences buying from rental companies. If this question's been asked before, I couldn't find it.
posted by Cogito to Shopping (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I seem to remember a Hertz employee telling me that Enterprise bought Hertz's used cars... but I'm not sure if thats true.
posted by R. Mutt at 12:26 PM on September 14, 2007


The stereotype is that rental cars are abused much more than driver-owned or driver-leased cars are -- driven harder and treated more carelessly. Thus you should expect a discount if you're buying one. (I can't say if this is actually true or not, but that's the conventional wisdom.)
posted by xil at 12:26 PM on September 14, 2007


http://www.edmunds.com/advice/buying/articles/46537/article.html

Rental Used Car Lots

Both Lovejoy and Shebesta see nothing wrong with buying used vehicles that have been used as rental cars.

The oft-cited criticism of former rental cars is that the drivers who rent them abuse them. That might be true in a few cases, Lovejoy said. But there are other benefits to offset that argument.

"Those (rental) companies take good care of the cars," Lovejoy said. "And the rental car agencies buy them right to begin with — at net, net, net numbers (invoice price minus the hold back, minus the advertising costs and the like). But for peace of mind, you would probably like to have a third-party inspection because not all rental cars are alike — there are some plums and some peaches."

In an Edmunds.com story, two editors went used car shopping. One of their stops was a rental agency used car lot. They found the prices to be competitive. Furthermore, the vehicles are only one year old, so the balance of the warranty is still in effect.
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:26 PM on September 14, 2007


I did it…twice and would recommend. If you are in the used car market Enterprise does a great inspection (I’d still add 2-3 years warranty) and we have thankfully have not had any problems. Both cars we got great deals - very low miles and under blue book! Next car will be new but I would go back again if need be.
posted by doorsfan at 12:27 PM on September 14, 2007


No way, absolutely not, don't do it. You are getting a car that, even if well-maintained, has been treated poorly by many renters. The reason the rental car companies only have new cars is that older ones will break down a lot because they have been treated so badly. Think about the worst thing that you would ever do in your own car, then double and redouble that many times. That's how a normal person treats a rental car. Then consider what groups of frat boys do to them. That is why the transmission and seals are failing at 50k miles.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 12:28 PM on September 14, 2007


The general thought on purchasing ex-rental cars is that it is more likely that the cars were abused, or, in other words "had the shit driven out of them".

People do all sorts of silly things in rental cars that could potentially shorten the life of the drivetrain, no matter how well the vehicle is maintained.

Privately owned vehicles might tend to have more visible wear (i.e. damaged upholstery or body damage) but it is less likely that the vehicle was abused, esp. if you are aware of who the primary driver of the vehicle is.

At the end of the day, buying a used car is a bit of a crapshoot no matter what. If you are happy with the price that you're able to get, go for it.
posted by davey_darling at 12:30 PM on September 14, 2007


Enterprise also does a lot of corporate fleet leasing. When I was looking for a car a few years back, it seemed that all of the vehicles I looked at on the Enterprise lot were ex-corporate. They seemed to be in good condition, and prices were competitive. I ended up buying privately, so I can't offer any help beyond that.
posted by indyz at 12:39 PM on September 14, 2007


My parents bought a one-year-old low mileage K-car in 1986. It had been used as a rental car, albeit in a smaller city/town where it would have less wear and tear. They drove it for at least 10 years. No problems. YMMV. Literally.
posted by acoutu at 12:44 PM on September 14, 2007


I should add that their three teenage children also went on to drive that car and there still weren't any problems.
posted by acoutu at 12:44 PM on September 14, 2007


Acoutu: If your family had a K-car for 10 years with no problems, than you're certainly luckier than most, no matter what the thing was used for before you bought it!
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 12:47 PM on September 14, 2007


My parents and I have bought rental cars and they generally seem to be a good value, but there may be a slight increaased risk of problems; out of I think 5 cars we have had two transmissions go bad, but it is hard to know whether or not that would have happened anyway. On one of them the car was pretty old.

Any concerns about abuse are tempered a little by the knowledge that rental cars have had the scheduled maintenance done. Also, any brand-new car bugs have also been worked out of them. Here is what Click and Clack have to say on the subject.
posted by TedW at 12:52 PM on September 14, 2007


I worked for a major rental car company one summer while in college. I'd never buy a used rental car. We did absolutely no preventative maintenance at all. Didn't even look at the oil unless the oil light was on. Maybe it was just our location, but if you bought our cars after 12,000 miles it probably had never had an oil change. And the stories about had people drove them certainly were true in my personal experience.

This was in the late 80s - things could be different today. Personally, I've had great luck buying lease turn ins from dealerships.
posted by COD at 12:55 PM on September 14, 2007


I bought a nissan maxima that had been used as a rental car for a year ( not sure of the circumstances of its service), and I got a really good deal on it. So far I have replaced the transmission, and had a few other problems with it. But the tranny went out before the factory warranty was done, and I purchased a extended.

But, despite the issues, I have been happy with the car, and would do it again.
posted by brent_h at 12:58 PM on September 14, 2007


My parents bought a 2001 Mitsubishi Montero with about 25k on it. It ran to 180k miles before developing any major issues, other than a common ABS problem those vehicles have.

It was a pretty good deal.
posted by polyhedron at 1:08 PM on September 14, 2007


My current car (Mazda Millenia, if it matters) originally came from Hertz. It's had absolutely no problems other than a broken belt in one tire.
Though, I've had it for only year, and my mother owned it for two or three years before that. I don't believe it had any significant problems when she owned it either.

YMMV, of course.
posted by Silly Ashles at 1:09 PM on September 14, 2007


Think about the worst thing that you would ever do in your own car, then double and redouble that many times. That's how a normal person treats a rental car. Then consider what groups of frat boys do to them. That is why the transmission and seals are failing at 50k miles.

I don't get this. Assuming we're talking an automatic transmission, what, short of involving them in fender benders, can people be doing to these cars that's so terrible? It seems like a big part of being hard on a car is not doing things like oil changes that aren't the responsibility of the renters anyway.

Whether the rental company does those things is probably variable based on the company, mind you, but otherwise it doesn't seem like rental usage is going to be all that much harder on a car than normal usage.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:10 PM on September 14, 2007


I don't get this. Assuming we're talking an automatic transmission, what, short of involving them in fender benders, can people be doing to these cars that's so terrible? It seems like a big part of being hard on a car is not doing things like oil changes that aren't the responsibility of the renters anyway.

There are all kinds of things. Shifting while the car is still moving. Pushing things around. Brake-torquing to do drag racing-style starts. Over-revving the engine. Ignoring warning lights. Towing stuff that you shouldn't. Overloading the car and using the wrong gear on large hills. Etc, etc, etc. There are many more ways to abuse or be hard on a car than just not changing the oil.

Cars are complex mechanical machines. If you baby them, all other things equal, they will on average last longer and break less often and in less dramatic ways. If you abuse them, they might not fail right away, but their components will fail earlier on average.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 1:22 PM on September 14, 2007


The reason the rental car companies only have new cars is that older ones will break down a lot because they have been treated so badly.

No, rental car companies buy new cars every year because customers demand late-model cosmetically perfect cars.

I worked for a major rental car company one summer while in college. I'd never buy a used rental car. We did absolutely no preventative maintenance at all. Didn't even look at the oil unless the oil light was on.... This was in the late 80s.

I believe things have changed. My understanding is that rental car companies do all maintenance by the book, and that when you buy a used car from them they give you complete maintenance records. That's a lot better than you can say for most used cars.

The big down side of buying a used rental car, though, is model selection. You're not going to find many Priuses or minis. But then, if they have what you want, you're in good shape.
posted by alms at 1:22 PM on September 14, 2007


I don't know why people have this idea that renters abuse rental cars. I rent a lot and I treat it like I would my own, and I'm pretty comfortable saying that most people share those values. What exactly are y'all imagining goes on -- doughnuts? jumping barrels?
posted by loiseau at 2:00 PM on September 14, 2007


I would never buy a rental car that I have previously rented, unless it came with (at least) a new transmission.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:01 PM on September 14, 2007


My family has had great luck with Hertz rental cars. Between me, my mom, and my aunt and uncle have purchased about 8 different vehicles from since the 90's. So far, not a lemon in the bunch. They have 3 year, 36k mile warranties, and nothing more than minor servicing has been required.

My mom has done most of the buying, and always looks them over to find the ones with the least dings and scratches. Then she takes her top choice into her own mechanic to check things out. Once she found out that a car had been repainted which probably indicated it had been wrecked, but other than that most of the cars have gotten a thumbs up.

I had my old Ford Tempo for about 8 years and never had much trouble until it crossed 100k miles. My mom drives her cars for about 3-4 years, and then gets a "new" one.
posted by kimdog at 2:03 PM on September 14, 2007


Just another voice. . .I purchased my last two cars from Enterprise and would do so again - no major problems to report.
posted by sherlockt at 2:03 PM on September 14, 2007


There are many more ways to abuse or be hard on a car than just not changing the oil.

Interesting, thanks.

I guess it would never occur to me that people actually do those sorts of things in rental cars at all, never mind often. I'd be far more terrified of getting a used car driven by a 19 year old who did that stuff all the time than a rental car that was largely driven by relatively boring sales executives and occasionally rented by someone with stupider things in mind.

Maybe it matters who you buy the car from? I would think some place expensive like Hertz, with their very white collar clientele and tons of corporate accounts probably has different treatment of their cars than Budget or Dollar and other low-cost, tourist oriented places.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:07 PM on September 14, 2007


While apparently some people are doing neutral drops in their rental cars, it's really in the best interest of the rental car agency to keep the car in good shape. After all, nothing would be worse for them than having one of their cars (pre-resale) sitting on the side of the road broken down.
posted by drezdn at 2:10 PM on September 14, 2007


I bought a Buick with 60,000 miles on it from Enterprise some years back, and it lasted and lasted and lasted, finally dying around 275K miles. I'd do it again.
posted by anadem at 2:19 PM on September 14, 2007


I bought a Mazda Protege with 10k miles on it for much less than a comparable car from a dealership, closer to a private sale price. It was from Enterprise - whether it was a rental or a fleet car I don't know. It came with 2 years of warranty, I drove it well over 100k miles and sold it after I had it for about 5 years (at which point it was 6 years old). It still ran fine and it's still in service with the kid I sold it to (2 years later)

I've rented a car maybe 100 times and I've never done anything in it that I would not do in my own card. Likewise I've driven with other people in rental cars as many times, ditto. Guess maybe it depends on who you are but it kind of sounds like people above are scaremongering with no particular basis.

The Car Talk guys have spoken favorably about buying almost-new cars from rental agencies, btw.
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:02 PM on September 14, 2007


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