Should I buy a rental car?

Purchasing a rental car used to be considered a bad idea because of the wear and tear renters may put on them. But over the years, people have realized that the benefits can far outweigh the downsides. Strict maintenance, lower prices, "no haggle" sales, rent-to-buy options, extended warranties, and seven-day return policies can help make buying a car from a rental company a good idea.

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When are rental cars good to buy?

There are many advantages to buying a rental car, and some of them go right to the heart of the biggest concerns people have about buying cars in general.

  • Strict maintenance: With a rental car, you can be confident that the company followed maintenance guidelines carefully. A well-maintained fleet is an essential part of a rental company's business.
  • Lower prices: Because of the higher mileage and potential for wear and tear, rental cars sell for less than comparable vehicles driven by one previous owner.
  • No haggling: One of the most deeply dissatisfying things for car buyers is the price negotiation. When you're buying a rental car, the price they offer is the price you'll pay.
  • No hidden costs or upsells: With rental cars, the car you see is the car you get, with the price as marked and no hidden costs to decipher.
  • Extended warranties: Many rental car companies offer a limited car warranty on your car purchase — usually one year/12,000 miles – which can add to your peace of mind.
  • Try before you buy: Rather than taking a car for a test drive, rental car companies may let you rent the car for a few days to get a feel for it. If you decide to buy the car, they'll refund the rental fee.

Learn more about what to look for when buying a used car.

When is it bad to buy a rental car?

It's never necessarily bad to buy a rental car. It may only be a bad idea for your situation and needs. Here are a couple of things to consider.

Car mileage

Used rental cars are often 1-2 years old, but they come with mileage that's more often double what an average car that age would have. If you're hoping to buy a car you can keep driving for as long as possible, you'll have to determine whether the benefits outweigh a car's potentially shorter lifespan. Learn more about mileage on used cars.

Resale value

Alternatively, if you plan on selling the car at some point, you may find the resale value is less for a comparable car of the same age. This is not surprising, perhaps, since it was already less expensive when you bought it.

General wear and tear

Being subjected to different driving styles may increase the wear and tear on a car. It's also a common belief that people treat rental cars rougher than their own cars. That belief may or may not be accurate, but the potential for more significant wear and tear should factor into your decision.

Fewer options

Most rental cars are equipped with the basics and not many options. If you're looking for a used car with lots of bells and whistles, you'll have a more challenging time finding that in a rental car.

If you are buying a used rental car, make sure you have the right car policy in place. You can get an auto insurance quote online or by calling 1-866-749-7436.

Is it safe to buy a rental car?

Because they're newer, another benefit of buying rental cars is that they're usually more up to date with the latest safety features. That said, you should check the vehicle history report, ask about recalls and get an inspection to help ensure that buying a rental fleet car is perfectly safe for you and your family.

Rental car companies often provide these free of charge. If one doesn't, be sure to ask for it. They've probably handled any minor issues internally, but major repair work or salvage issues go through an insurance company. Those items will be noted in the motor vehicle history.

It's one thing to handle routine maintenance, but it's another to process every recall repair. Rental car companies should be handling these things as they come up, but it's a good idea to double-check that for yourself.

Because of the potential for more significant wear and tear on the car's parts, you can have the used car inspected by a mechanic, before you buy. Since rental car companies often have seven-day return policies, you can buy it right away and then have it inspected. If the inspection shows something wrong, you can return the car for a full refund.

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