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Guide to buying a rental car

Buying a rental car could be an excellent option for a used car buyer with a limited budget. The discounts attached to rental vehicles on the market can make owning your dream vehicle much more affordable. But as with any other pre-owned vehicle, you'll need to do your research to ensure you drive away with a good bargain.

Rental car companies that sell cars

Rental car companies often have a continuous supply of rental cars for sale. This is because they regularly upgrade their fleets by adding new vehicles. So, they need to sell off part of their existing fleet to make space for the new arrivals. This is how rental cars make their way to auctions and dealerships.

Most large-scale rental companies even have dedicated departments to sell their used cars since they have many vehicles to offer each year. And they may also have online sales platforms, so you can easily sift through their inventory based on your location and vehicle preferences.

Many of them also offer trade-in options to save you from the hassle of selling your car. Before you discuss your car's value with a rental company, though, assess the trade-in value of your vehicle with an independent party to ensure you are receiving a fair deal.

Is it a good idea to buy a rental car?

Buying a car from a rental company is not without risks. So, is it ok to buy a rental car? The answer depends on your specific needs. It's certainly possible to grab an excellent deal once you know how to assess the pros and cons. And if done right, you can drive off with a great deal.

Advantages of buying a rental car

Discounts

Rental companies sell their fleet to make way for their new vehicles. To them, keeping their old cars in the inventory is an additional cost, so they are more interested in quickly selling off their vehicles than making a hefty profit. Therefore, they offer discounts to tempt a quick sale. And these cars usually come with a fixed price, which can be a bonus if you dislike negotiations.

Unlike dealership salespeople, rental companies usually don't try to sell you any extras. You can shop peacefully without any fears of getting carried away by car dealers’ upselling offers.

Newer cars

These businesses upgrade their fleets regularly to offer their clients the latest vehicles to rent, so many of the cars that go on sale tend to be just a few years old. This could make rental cars an excellent option to grab a one- or two-year-old vehicle at a more affordable price.

Warranties

When buying a recently manufactured rental car, there’s a chance you could benefit from the manufacturer’s certified pre-owned (CPO) warranty. In addition, these vehicles usually come with a warranty issued by the rental company. All these could help reduce potential maintenance costs, making rental cars extra appealing to used car buyers.

Test drive

Unlike some car dealers, many rental car companies have various programs in place so you can try out the vehicle before purchasing. These can range from two-hour test drives and return policies to renting options for a few days, where the rental cost is refunded when you purchase.

What to keep in mind before buying a rental car

High mileage

One important way rental cars can differ from the typical used cars on the market is their above-average mileage. This means a two-year-old rental car could have much more wear and tear compared to a normal car that shares the same manufactured year. And unlike private car owners, rental clients may not be so careful about how they use the vehicle. This means you might expect more repairs despite a solid maintenance history.

Since warranties are often linked to mileage, a rental car might no longer have the manufacturer’s coverage. That's why you need to check the validity of any warranties before buying a rental vehicle with high mileage.

Limited selection

Compared to a dealership, car rental companies could have fewer car models to choose from. If you’re intent on taking advantage of their low prices, you should broaden your list of preferred models. You might also need to keep checking back from time to time and make your purchasing decision fast once you find a car you like.

No extras

Many rental car companies avoid upgrades to keep their purchasing costs low. This doesn’t come as a surprise either when you consider their discounts.

Final considerations for buying a rental car

Before you purchase a rental car, carry out a thorough visual inspection of the vehicle’s interior and exterior condition. Test drive and get it inspected by a licensed mechanic. Also, request information about the vehicle history and verify the details with an independent report.

Determining your budget by considering the purchasing and owning costs is equally important. Arrange financing options and calculate your loan payments to ensure you’re able to meet the repayment amounts. And finally, carefully assess the pros and cons of buying a rental car to double-check it's the right step for you.

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