The Risks of Buying Fleet Cars

Buying a used car that's been part of a fleet can have hidden risks.

Buying a used car that's been part of a fleet can have hidden risks.

Many people like to save money on cars by buying used instead of new. Buying a used car often allows you to get options you want at a much lower price. To save even more money, you might look at a fleet car, which can sell at a discount to a similar used car. But fleet cars come with some distinct risks.

Definition of Fleet Vehicles

Companies and government agencies that need large fleets of cars and trucks buy or lease them in bulk to get lower prices. Common uses of fleet vehicles include rental cars, police cars, taxis, delivery vans and trucks, and cars for corporate salespeople.

High Miles

One of the risks of fleet vehicles is high mileage. Because they are driven for business purposes, vehicles that come from a fleet may have much higher mileage than other used cars from the same model year. Douglas Love, a spokesman for the Automobile Club of New York, said corporate vehicles can often have very high mileage. He told that those businesses wait to sell off their cars until they have anywhere from 80,000 to 110,000 miles on them. Cars used in government fleets, such as former police cars, can also have higher than average mileage.

Wear and Tear

Buying a used fleet vehicle usually means you get a car that's been well-maintained and kept up to date on scheduled maintenance. However, while fleet owners take care of their cars, the drivers often don't. Automobile website says that people driving rentals may feel the need to test the car's limits by seeing how fast it accelerates, while people who drive corporate cars may intentionally mistreat or damage them if they are disgruntled. In addition, though private drivers may break in their cars gradually, fleet cars, especially rentals, usually don't get a break-in period.

Concealed Vehicle History

Though corporations and rental car companies keep detailed vehicle histories, those records may not always transfer to vehicle auction companies or dealers. In addition, dishonest dealers may roll back odometer readings to make the car's mileage appear lower than it really is. There may also be no record of fleet cars that have been in an accident. John Nielsen, director of approved auto repair and auto buying networks for AAA, told website MSN Autos that rental car companies are often self-insured and may have in-house repair shops that fix accident damage, so a record of a wreck may not be available. If you are considering buying a fleet vehicle, have an independent mechanic inspect the car to look for signs of damage or other problems that might not have been disclosed.


About the Author

Matt Olberding has been a professional journalist for nearly 20 years. His career has included stints as a copy editor, page designer, reporter, line editor and managing editor at newspapers ranging from community newspapers to major metros. Olberding has been a business writer and editor for a decade.

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