If you opt to buy a used rental car from a rental agency, you have the potential for big savings. The price of buying a rental car is almost always lower than Kelley Blue Book value, according to information on the Hertz website. The same make and model of a vehicle with comparable mileage could easily cost thousands of dollars more at a dealership. However, the price alone shouldn't be what makes you sign on the dotted line. To make an informed purchase, find out everything you can about the rental before committing to ownership.
Get as Much Warranty as Possible
Rental car agencies only use cars in their fleet for a limited time period. According to information from Hertz, many rental companies use the cars for one to two years and retire them when the odometer hits about 25,000 miles. In an article on the MSN auto website, an Enterprise Rent-A-Car senior vice president of sales states that Enterprise rental cars move from the rental fleet to the sales lot after they've been in use for one to two years and have approximately 15,000 to 30,000 miles. One of the benefits of this practice is that the balance of the manufacturer's warranty is usually transferred with the car when you buy it. So, shop around for the car you want that has the lowest miles, so you can get the most out of the manufacturer's warranty.
Look for a Trial Period
Look for a rental car agency that offers a trial period to anyone who buys one of its used cars. According to Hertz, some rental companies will offer a trial period up to one week. If during the week's time, you decide you don't want the car, you can return it to the rental agency. Some agencies may charge you a minimal cleaning or restocking fee if you opt to return the vehicle.
Ask for Maintenance Records
Many rental agencies buy new cars to put in their rental fleets and they are responsible for the maintenance and inspections on each car. Once you find a car you are interested in owning, ask the salesperson to give you copies of the car's maintenance and inspection records. If the agency refuses to do this, be suspicious. If the agency has nothing to hide, it should gladly provide you with copies of the records. Look over the records to determine how well the car was cared for and note any issues of concern such as serious mechanical problems.
Take it to a Mechanic
During the trial period, contact a certified mechanic who you trust. Ask him to put the car up on a lift and look it over for you. This is your chance to find out if the car is a keeper. If the mechanic finds any costly problems or wreck damage that would make the car unsafe, you can drive it right back to the rental agency and get your money back. Be aware that rental agencies are self-insured and the repairs may take place in their own facilities, so a wreck may not show up on a car's history report. However, a seasoned mechanic can detect signs of repaired damage and give you the heads-up.
Based in Texas, Cynthia Measom has been writing various parenting, business and finance and education articles since 2011. Her articles have appeared on websites such as The Bump and Motley Fool. Measom received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.