Buying Used Cars

Buying a Used Rental Car: Good Deal?

I would like to know what others think of purchasing a used car from a car rental agent. Also what should I be on the lookout for? Are there any questions you would ask before buying?

Buying a Used Rental Car: Speaking From Experience

I have purchased two of my cars from AVIS. I saved money because I would usually get a one-year-old or two-year-old vehicle, still in great shape with anywhere from 28-36,000 miles on it. These were well maintained, clean, and taken care of.

I do recommend paying a small fee to have a local shop go over the car. I also recommend paying a little extra, for an extended warranty. On one vehicle, the alternator and battery went out within two weeks of purchasing the car. These were not problems that could easily be foreseen, but they were covered and paid for by the warranty.

I obtained my vehicles through credit-union-sponsored shows, but if you're buying directly from the rental agent, ask for a copy of the maintenance and use record that they have for each vehicle. This would note problems, repairs, etc.

Buying a Used Rental Car: Ask a Mechanic

I bought a used van four years ago when my children went through teen-age growth spurts and outgrew my Escort. I got a good deal on it, still own it, still love it. Here is what I did:

I checked private party ads in the newspaper and on bulletin boards. A man who was going through a divorce owned the van I bought. If I were still interested after I looked at it and drove it, I would tell them I needed to have my mechanic look at it. I am a middle-aged lady and they believed me when I claimed to know nothing about cars. If they would not let a mechanic look at it, I wouldn't consider buying it.

As you can see, this all depends on having a good mechanic. I found mine through a referral from one of the men at my church. One thing I've noticed about good mechanics - they don't advertise at all, but they are always busy. Mine charges $60 to check over a vehicle for a customer.

After he had checked out this van, he told me everything about it. I was amazed some of the things he could tell about the van's history. For example, the seller advertised he'd put a new water pump on the engine. I guess it had been running hot and he thought that would fix it. My mechanic said the scary thing about the van was the radiator - someone had boiled it dry and then put in plain tap water, and the bottom was full of sediment.

Armed with all this information from the mechanic, I chewed the seller down $1000 on the asking price of the van. My mechanic did a pressure steam backflush of the radiator to clean it out and I was lucky - no leaks. He said it would have cost $400 to replace it so I would still have been ahead on the deal. Best $60 I ever spent!

Buying a Used Rental Car: Do the Research First

On the whole, rental cars are abused by the people who rent them. Since they don't own the cars, they drive them and behave in them differently than people who own their own vehicles. Rental cars usually have high mileage as well, compared to their age.

We found three online services very helpful to narrow down our decision. The first place we went was the insurance institute site ( These are the people who do offset-front collisions and set the standard for the safest vehicles. We chose the type of vehicle we wanted, and they provided data on vehicles back to 1992. There is no cost for their information. We were surprised to find that several popular mini-vans crumple like accordions on impact.

Once we decided on the make and model we wanted, we then went to the Kelley Blue Book ( We were able to find both the retail and trade-in values for our vehicles. This helped us immensely with negotiation.

Finally, once we found several of the vehicles we wanted, we went to carfax ( and had title searches run. There is a cost for this service, but it is well worth it. One dealer told us a vehicle was a one-owner van, when in fact it had been used as both a fleet and rental vehicle. We avoided a costly mistake, for the price of $20. When we went to our bank for a loan, they gave us the Black Book info, which we did not have access to. This helped us with final negotiations.

We were more satisfied with this purchase than any other we have made, because we felt prepared and informed. And we didn't back down in negotiations. We got our vehicle for $3000 under list and $400 over wholesale.

Buying a Used Rental Car: A Couple of Thoughts

My first thought is to bring any prospective car purchase to a reputable mechanic for a complete diagnostic and then compare price they're asking with Consumer Report listing.

The second thought is something I've done successfully and economically. I've purchased a demo model from a dealer, was able to get a new car loan and warranty with it. I felt I saved quite a bit in this manner.

Buying a Used Rental Car: Concerned About Mistreatment

Is buying a used car from a car rental agent was a good idea? I've read that it's not, and the reasoning makes sense to me. Rental cars are turned over for brief periods of time to various and sundry people who will not think twice about the car after the rental period is over. Hence, they'll do things with a rental car that they'd never consider doing with their own, i.e., taking less care or treating it badly in general, driving over terrain they wouldn't take their own car into, etc.

I personally prefer to buy from a reputable brand-name car dealer because of the warrantee and because they tend to be more mindful of their reputation and wanting repeat customers. But first and most importantly, I do a lot of homework as far as dependable models that'll meet my needs, types of problems typical for a given model, what the fair market value is, etc. So I know pretty much what I want and how much I want to pay for it before I ever talk to a salesperson. I'm very assertive about dickering for a price I think is fair (having worked briefly at a car dealer and having a good idea what the markup on used cars is.)

Buying a Used Rental Car: Does Anyone Really Know For Sure

I used rental cars from Enterprise when I worked at a job where I traveled for several days a month. Out of curiosity, and lack of concern for something I didn't own, I was rougher on rental cars than I would be on my own. Don't take that as me being reckless - it's just human nature to want to know how much pickup a car has when the light turns green.

During another trip, the rental car started smoking from under the hood. I was able to temporarily exchange it for another rental car at a branch of the chain company so I could get to my remaining appointments. When I returned to pick up the original car, the agent told me the oil had needed changing so badly that many of the other systems went kaput, too.

As a basic premise of car maintenance, we all know how important it is to change the oil at least every 3,000 miles. How often do rental companies, who only need to worry about the car for two years or so before they sell it off, break that rule? Maybe a rental car can be a good purchase, but I would be very careful. Even an agent who says a car has been treated royally hasn't seen it go through every mile.

Buying a Used Rental Car: General Tips for Car Buying

A few tips when buying a used car anywhere. Always check the oil. If it is black and thick, that's bad. Check the radiator. Look for rust in the fluid. Get down low behind the car. If it looks crooked then it probably has been in an accident. Ask if it has. If they say no then point out your findings and ask for a printout from one of the online car tracking sites. The printout should contain any regular maintenance that has been done, where it was serviced and an accident record if the car was in an accident.

Always ask to see the safety inspection report. Have they checked the brakes, tires, transmission fluids etc. Usually cars from a rental place are kept in good condition, but it never hurts to be thorough.
Mrs. C

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