Here’s a quick question—where is the first place you look to buy pre-owned cars for sale? More than likely it is a local dealership or perhaps through an ad online. But we’re going to suggest that you look at an unconventional place for cars for sale—that would be a rental car business or a corporation with a fleet of cars ready for your review.
In the past, car shoppers steered clear of a rental car business because they didn’t want a pre-owned vehicle that hundreds of other people had already driven. Plus, there was always the stigma that rental cars were driven recklessly and had too many dents or dings.
But that’s all in the rear view mirror. Rental car giants, such as Hertz, Avis, and Budget are offering meticulously maintained current models off of their lots directly to consumers for less money than a dealership and with no haggle deals. Plus they let you take the vehicle home for a few days, test-drive it, and if you don’t like it, you can return it. Joining the big three is Enterprise Car Sales, which allows a potential owner to buy one of their vehicles from their fleet; but, if they are unhappy Enterprise will buy the car back within seven days.
What’s behind the growing trend? Car rental firms can sell a vehicle directly to dealers and consumers for more profit than selling those used vehicles at auction.
Three-Day Test Drive
The Hertz program is called Rent2Buy and the Avis/Budget program is called the Ultimate Test Drive. Both programs allow you to browse their fleets online, pick the model that you want, and take it from the lot for up to three days for an extended test-drive from one of the rental car locations. You’ll pay a modest fee for the three-day trial but it will be reimbursed if you purchase the vehicle. During the car’s tryout, you can even have a mechanic take a look under the hood for an appraisal.
And you’ll be pleased with the diversity of vehicles to look at. There are not only sedans, but a variety of luxury models, as well as more budget-minded vehicles, such as Mini Coopers and Fiats. Most of the retired rental cars have between 25,000 to 40,000 miles on them.
Maintained and Serviced
To counter the worries about poorly maintained and serviced vehicles, rental car firms offer reassurance and proof that you’re getting a great vehicle. First, they promote the fact that they frequently inspect and service their vehicles, rather than putting them right back on the road for the next rental car shopper. Some rental agencies have even added their own in-house service departments. The rental car firms also publicize that they sell the best vehicles from their lot to retail customers and send less desirable vehicles to auction. Third, they provide a maintenance and comprehensive history report from a reputable third party, such as Carfax. Experts also admit that today’s vehicles are better built and engineered than those in the past and, therefore, can handle all types of drivers, even those with a lead-foot.
Another key consideration to make about buying a used vehicle from a rental car business is what type of warranty or guarantee you can expect for its condition. These businesses want to give you confidence in your purchase. While Hertz and Enterprise bill their cars as “certified,” they have not been inspected by factory-trained personnel, nor do you receive an extension of the manufacturer’s warranty. If the warranty has expired on the vehicle, Enterprise will include a 12-month, 12,000-mile powertrain warranty, as well as a year of roadside assistance with the American Automobile Association (AAA). Every car offered by Hertz is backed by either a 90-day limited warranty or the balance of new car warranty. Plus it offers travel breakdown, reimbursement, towing coverage, and a provision for a replacement rental car if your car breaks down. Avis/Budget only sells cars that are a year or two old so a prospective buyer can expect to receive what’s left of the factory warranty.
Government Agencies or Corporations
In addition to seeking a used vehicle from a rental car business, there are other options. Government agencies and municipalities usually take great care of their vehicles and keep them for as long as possible to get the most use out of them. These surplus cars are available and can be a great find.
A better source of a well-maintained used vehicle is from a corporation. Corporate fleet vehicles are maintained and serviced often and kept in pristine condition. Look for vehicles that have been driven by sales representatives and executives. Those will tend to be replaced more often and driven more gently.
Before you jump to purchase a fleet vehicle from a rental car business or government agency or corporation, do your homework. Check out a reputable firm, such as the Kelley Blue Book’s Fair Purchase Price to see what you might expect to pay for this particular used vehicle, as opposed to what a local dealership or online ad is asking. In many cases you’ll find savings over the traditional route—sometimes a slim savings, sometimes a huge savings.
Many of the rental car businesses have sold tens of thousands of retired fleet vehicles and plan to increase that number in double digits. But, just like buying a pre-owned vehicle from a dealership or private sale, it’s best to have your own mechanic assess the vehicle and get a thorough inspection, as well as a vehicle history report for your own protection. Ask your mechanic to pay special attention to the quality of replacement parts used in the vehicle. Oftentimes, some businesses will try to get away with lower-grade replacement parts to save maintenance money.
Fleet vehicles are a perfect option for those seeking cars for sale in their local area. Remember to check out rental car businesses, vehicles owned by government agencies and municipalities, and corporations.