Dear Driving for Dollars,
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I'm shopping for a used car, and I noticed that some national car rental companies sell their cars. However, I'm worried I'll be buying a car that has been driven hard and is prone to problems later. Is it a good idea to buy a used rental car? -Ana
While we all know rental cars have somewhat of a bad reputation as cars that have suffered abuse by their renters, there's no guarantee any used car you buy hasn't been abused in the same way unless you personally know its history. In fact, if you buy a used car from a dealer, you may in fact be buying a former rental car. When rental cars are removed from the rental fleet, they are sold. If they aren't sold by the rental car company's sales arm, then typically they're sold at a car auction where they are often bought by car dealers to sell on their lots.
One advantage of buying a used car from a rental car company is that they often come with a warranty of about one year, even cars that no longer qualify for the original manufacturer's bumper-to-bumper warranty. Some rental car chains also offer a buy-back policy if you change your mind shortly after the sale. These features should provide some peace of mind.
Still, if you decide to buy a used rental car, make sure you get the best price possible by following these tips.
- Do your homework on an automotive pricing website such as KBB.com or Edmunds.com.
- Run a vehicle history report using the car's vehicle identification number, or VIN.
- Hire an independent mechanic you trust to thoroughly inspect the car.
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If you have a car question, email it to us at Driving for Dollars. Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.