The Pros and Cons of Buying a Rental Car

January 13, 2012

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a rental car?

Let’s see, words like “filthy” and “abused” might come to mind.

I’ve rented quite a few cars in the past and I can tell you that rental cars are not the cleanest cars out there.

It’s never fun when you have to sit in a car with a nasty food odor coming from the seats.

I once rented a car that smelled like somebody had just spilled ketchup all over the seats. While rental agencies do a good job of vacuuming the interior, it’s the stench that bothers me.

So it’s probably safe to say that rental cars do not have the best reputation for cleanliness. But how are they mechanically?

I believe most rental companies maintain their fleet quite well. I never came across a car with a check engine light on or smoke coming from the exhaust. Some may not agree but I believe rental companies perform regular maintenance on their cars.

Should you buy a car from a rental company? Here are some pros and cons to help you decide.

Pros

  • There’s no price haggling with a salesman. The price advertised is the price you pay. This could be good or bad depending if you’re a professional haggler.
  • Most of their cars come with a one year/12,000 mile warranty. This is always good.
  • Some major rental companies such as Enterprise allow you to buy a car and drive it for a week or one thousand miles. If you’re not completely satisfied with the car you can return it with no questions asked. The only expense is a $200 restocking fee. Hertz allows you to rent a car for three days at 49 dollars a day to try it out. If you decide to purchase the car then the rental fee is waived.

Cons

  • Customers tend to treat rental cars like they’re rental cars. Don’t expect these cars to get the love and respect they deserve.
  • The cars for sale are not exactly cheap. I looked on Enterprise’s website and the cheapest car for sale was seven grand. While the average price may be less than a regular dealer’s price, I wouldn’t consider it a bargain.
  • Rental companies usually do not accept trade-ins. This could be good because you’ll end up with more money if you sell your car yourself.
  • A Carfax report will show that the vehicle was registered under a rental company. This could reduce the value of the car and make it more difficult to sell. The Carfax alone will scare off most buyers.

I really like the part where you’re allowed to drive the car for a few days and then decide if you want to purchase it. It gives you a bit of peace of mind.

There are many people that have bought rental cars and have nothing but positive experiences.

But I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable buying from a rental company. If I’m going to shell out 10 grand I want to make sure it’s been treated well by one owner and not by a hundred drivers.

So what do you think? Have you ever bought a rental car and what was the outcome?

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