Advice, tips or experiences purchasing a rental vehicle?
August 25, 2017 6:32 AM   Subscribe

I am considering buying a Hyundai Sonata that was previously part of the Hertz rental fleet. Does anyone in MeFi-land have experience buying a car that was previously a rental?

I have bought numerous used cars (and only used cars) as an adult. I have bought each of my prior cars off of Craigslist or online classifieds from private sellers. This past Spring we bought our first car from a "dealer" - a 2015 Nissan Leaf from CarMax (get a Leaf! They're awesome!).

Now we are looking to replace our 2005 Mini Cooper base model with a Hyundai Sonata to make long trips easier. We are wanting to make more of a habit of road trips, especially in the Summer, now that our daughter is getting to an age where she travels better. We have two medium-size adults and one child who is on track to be tall. We also have a dachshund who may go on some trips, but can fit in a medium-to-small kennel. The Sonata is a 2016 and has 40,000 miles. The Sonata is advertised to get 38 mpg on the highway, with Hyundai offering a 10-year, 100k mile basic powertrain warranty, which should apply no matter how I got the car. I drive very, very conservatively, so I will actually likely beat the fuel economy estimates. My Mini is a 5 speed base model, so despite its small size, it only gets 31 mpg on the highway due to low gearing (70 mph is over 3000 rpm).

We are looking at one at Hertz as the price is $1000 less than any Sonata CarMax has available. The Hertz car has 10,000 more miles than the CarMax Sonatas tend to have, but my daily commute is transitioning to a partial light rail commute, so I calculate that it will take me around a decade to add 100,000 miles to the car, and that includes 5,000+ miles a year in road trips to see family or go on mini-vacations.

If I stick with CarMax, I would need to go to a Kia Forte or Hyundai Elantra to have a car at the same price ($12k) as the Hertz Hyundai. Both of those cars are probably suitable, but slightly smaller with basically the same fuel efficiency.

My reasoning for considering the Hertz car is that while a rental car probably has a few more cosmetic dings than the average car of comparable mileage, mechanically it should be reasonably well taken care of. A rental chain should have changed the oil on time when compared to any other unknown ownership history, and that is probably the major maintenance consideration with a modern car at this mileage.

Does anyone have any other thoughts I should consider about this potential transaction?
posted by Slothrop to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
We have put about 50,000 basically maintenance free miles on our former rental Toyota Matrix. No complaints!
posted by rockindata at 6:45 AM on August 25, 2017

My father owned a car that was previously a rental, and had no issues with it.
posted by Lucinda at 6:52 AM on August 25, 2017

I bought a 1998 Mazda Protege from a rental fleet as my first car. It came with 25,000 miles on it, but it was only a year old. I commuted via subway back then, so the mileage evened out during the time that I owned it. I drove the car for 12 years, and I can't recall a single major mechanical failure. I did get an accident report to make sure that it didn't have major physical repairs from wrecks.
posted by gladly at 6:54 AM on August 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

We bought a ram truck from Enterprise. One cool thing (since yours is 2016 this might apply) you usually get 12 months from in-service date to buy a new car warranty. So we bought the official dodge bumper to bumper lifetime warranty for like $2000. This took away any and all worries about it. We've now out 20k miles in it with zero issues. Totally turned around my preconceived notion of buying off rental cars.

As a side note check used car listings and for other price sources. Carfax because, hey free Carfax on every listing, and carvana because then you are shopping the whole country and they bring car to you.
posted by chasles at 6:55 AM on August 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Here's my only suggestion: I have never bought a previous rental, and I never would even though people have good luck with them, because I rent A LOT of cars and was once given a Nissan Maxima with that continuous variable transmission thing and had never seen it before and wasn't told what it was. I put the car in what I thought was Drive and drove on the PA/OH turnpike for a good couple hours, feeling like I was on the verge of having a heart attack the whole way, because the car was going like 70mph but at something like 7000 RPMs (it was in the redline area). I contemplated pulling over and calling Hertz, demanding a new car, and I might have cried at some point. I had to stop for gas really soon, like after 100/150 miles because the tank was emptying quickly, and looked in the manual only to realize I'd been driving it in first or low gear or whatever the hell it was the whole time. So if this car has anything that someone could reasonably completely mess up if no one at the rental place told them about it, assume that's happened. (Sorry to whoever bought that red Maxima from Hertz, I'm sure you regret it.)
posted by jabes at 7:05 AM on August 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

I bought my 1990 Toyota from Hertz. It was only 6 months old when I bought it. I drove it for 20 years until I sold it. I assume it's still on the road...
posted by vespabelle at 7:22 AM on August 25, 2017

We bought our old 2008 Toyota Yaris as a former rental vehicle. Absolutely no problems with it. We really liked it. Nothing bad happened to it; we just moved to a city where we didn't need to own a car and sold it to a nice family who did need one.
posted by Kitteh at 7:30 AM on August 25, 2017

WE bought a 2009Kia Rondo in 2009 with 25,000 miles on it. We're still driving it.
posted by songs_about_rainbows at 7:34 AM on August 25, 2017

In October of 2014, I purchased a 2012 Kia Optima EX (GDI) from Enterprise Car Sales, using the insurance check from totalling my 2007 Chevy Impala as down payment. At purchase, they touted the '109 point' inspection the car goes through after being pulled from the rental fleet for subsequent sale. Someone must have missed inspecting the brakes though, because one week to the day after purchase, the fronts were making a horrible grinding noise. I took the car in to my mechanic (10+ years of scrupulously honest service), and he incredulously informed me that Enterprise had sold me a car with brakes that were metal-on-metal. After raising holy hell with Enterprise, they agreed to cover replacement of front AND rear brakes, plus rotors. There were myriad issues and repairs from that point (with receipts to prove it), but that was the most egregious by far.


In June of this year, the engine was subject to a safety recall , with other models/years included. You do NOT want to know how or why I found this out, because it certainly was not directly from Kia. The company covered the repair and a rental car, but it took three solid weeks to get the Optima back.

Suffice to say, when I am ready to buy a new(er) vehicle, it will not be a former fleet vehicle. Or a Kia.
posted by Amor Bellator at 7:35 AM on August 25, 2017

I purchased my 2005 Pontiac Sunfire from a Pontiac-GMC dealership. Turns out it was a former Alamo rental. It was one year old with 32,000 miles on it, and they had maintenance performed on it religiously. It was my best used car ever. Fought the good fight for ten more years and lived longer than the Sunfires/Cavaliers of my friends and family. (The dealership I traded it into then had it repaired and sold it, and I frequently saw it driving around town the next three years until I moved.)
posted by BlueBear at 7:42 AM on August 25, 2017

At a certain period of my life, I didn't own a car, and would rent from a local agency when I needed one. There was a particular old (100K+ miles) Chevy that I liked and would always request it. One day, the rental agent told me they were going to sell that car and offered me first refusal, since I liked it so much. I paid them $900 and drove the car for three more years. No car I've had since then has given anything like that value for money.
posted by Weftage at 8:06 AM on August 25, 2017

My girlfriend is on Hertz Mazda 3 sedan #2, and very happy. #1 was totaled when someone rear-ended her in traffic through no fault of its own, and she liked it so much that she went right back to Hertz for another. I've driven it and it seems mechanically sound. It's not like her car, or the one you're looking at, is a sport coupe that people would have intentionally thrashed around. Sure, rentals, but also religious maintenance as described above.
posted by Alterscape at 8:07 AM on August 25, 2017

Oh, this question is my bat signal! I bought a Mazda5 from Hertz about 6 years ago, and the whole experience has been so delightful I may never buy a car another way again and I've talked three mefites into it!

"My reasoning for considering the Hertz car is that while a rental car probably has a few more cosmetic dings than the average car of comparable mileage, mechanically it should be reasonably well taken care of."

This was exactly my experience. I did the Hertz Rent2Buy program, where you "rent" a car listed for sale by them for three days under the same terms as a regular Hertz rental. If you like it, you just keep it and click a big red button on the website to proceed with the purchase (and the cost of the rental goes towards the cost of purchase); if you don't, you return it and just pay for it like a regular rental. This gave me a chance to try it out with my kids and their car seats, drive it on the highway, drive it in the city, and take it to my trusted family mechanic of 30ish years, who gave it a thumbs up on the mechanicals. It does have a few more scratches and dings than a single-owner used car, but I have three kids constantly banging into it and grinding cheerio dust into the upholstery, that is the lowest thing on my priority list! And I got around 20% off the Blue Book price because it was a used rental. (This varies based on type of car, inventory of used cars, etc., but you do typically get some discount for the used rental "stigma.")

Anyway it's been six years and I've only had routine maintenance, and I remain delighted with it and with the process of buying a used rental (easy! low stress! no haggle! three-day test drive! no pressure to use their financing! paperwork by mail!). It was a very good experience and I recommend it to everyone looking at used cars.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:07 AM on August 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Rental cars make great used cars. They do not skimp on maintenance, and they get rid of the car far before it's "used up". If the price looks good, and you like the car, jump on it. There are a number of small dealerships in my area that routinely buy used rentals at auction, detail them, and resell them. We've bought our last two Toyotas that way, and couldn't be happier.
posted by cosmicbandito at 8:57 AM on August 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I bought a used rental car. Was still under the Mazda warranty when purchased, did need some work done just before the warranty was done, but I don't think it had anything to do with being a rental. Overall, great car, no problems, would do again.
posted by freezer cake at 8:59 AM on August 25, 2017

I bought a Mazda 3 from Hertz last month in fact! One thing they told me that holds true is the people renting a mid or full-size rental aren't the type to be riding any car particularly hard in the first place. That held true when my mechanic gave the car double thumbs up from a mechanical perspective.
posted by Carillon at 9:28 AM on August 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I haven't bought a rental car myself, but another potential benefit might be that the miles on it are more likely to be highway miles, which are much less wear and tear.
posted by veery at 10:03 AM on August 25, 2017

I worked for Budget Rental Car for one summer in 1987, and based on that experience I swore off ever even thinking about buying a used rental car.

I might be wrong.
posted by COD at 10:23 AM on August 25, 2017

I'm currently driving a Ford focus ex rental from hertz. When I need to replace it, I will likely buy another ex-rental.

The purchase process was painless, with a one week low price rental trial that was subsequently discounted from the purchase price. Documents and keys were supplied a few days later. The price was good because of the mileage. The only caveat I would mention is cosmetics. If that is important to you, you may find it hard to get a car that not scuffed, especially on the boot sill and bumpers. Outside of that, I would (and will) have no hesitation in going this way again.
posted by Jakey at 3:35 PM on August 25, 2017

tl;dr but we bought a 2013 Hyundai Sonata from Hertz rental a couple years ago and it's working out fine (despite my reluctance, similar to the OP).
posted by Rash at 9:31 PM on August 25, 2017

The lady who taught me how to drive drove a former rental car (I forget the model, Forester?). It lasted for years and she seemed quite happy with it and it was very driveable. I'd consider doing it myself if I ever have to.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:32 PM on August 25, 2017

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