The Hidden Risks of Buying a Former Rental Car

Eventually, we all need a new car. When that day arrives, most people only consider buying new, buying used or leasing. Another option that has grown increasingly popular, however, is purchasing former rental cars. With this option, several concerns immediately come to mind. The cars usually have more miles on them than others of the same age, and rental cars are known for taking extra abuse. But there are some other downsides that may not be as obvious.

Resale Value

The mileage on a car clearly impacts its market value. This is why rental cars are often sold at a discount. Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily translate to overall savings. Cars that have higher-than-average mileage tend to depreciate faster than their peers. When it comes time to trade in or resell your former rental, you might find that it’s valued lower than you anticipated.

This is exacerbated by the hard life rental cars typically live. While the maintenance on these vehicles is usually above average, there’s a limit to how much abuse maintenance can erase. Stains, fabric damage, dings and scratches will all hurt your bottom line. You might be paying less for your car today, but in many cases, you’ll get less out of it too. Getting your money’s worth out of a rental can be tricky.

Unexpected Maintenance

Once again, accruing miles faster than normal comes with unexpected consequences. Even if your car is only two years old, putting 30,000 or more miles on it will probably put you in line for some replacement parts. Every vehicle has a long-term maintenance schedule, and your former rental is going to hit those benchmarks much sooner than the typical used car. Timing belts, water pumps, and similar repairs are inevitable, and they can cost a pretty penny.

More importantly, break-down events will eventually threaten every car. There’s no way around it. Accelerating the mileage on a car can lead to these events before the five-year mark. If you are seriously considering purchasing a rental, inspect it as thoroughly as you can.

Short Warranties

When you buy a new car, it comes with a warranty. When you buy a used car, you may still get whatever warranty is remaining on that original deal. But with rental cars, things can be a little murkier.

Usually, any remaining manufacturer’s warranty will be honored if it’s transferrable, but there are exceptions. Misuse is a common caveat in warranty agreements, and the chance that a rental was misused is much higher than your average vehicle. All of that aside, the high mileage of the rental is going to push the vehicle out of warranty faster than normal.

Some rental companies will add their own warranty when they sell off their retired vehicles, but these are usually much less inclusive than original manufacturer guarantees.

Limited Features

When you look for a car, there are specific things you probably want. We all have our own list, and for most people, there are a few features that matter more than others. When you shop former rentals, you make it hard to find exactly what you want. Rental companies are in the business of buying and selling in bulk. High-end luxury features are often more of a liability than they are worth, so finding something with the extra safety package or advanced entertainment system can prove tricky. If you know exactly what you want, finding it among rentals might be more of a headache than it’s worth.

For all of these risks, there are times when buying a rental might prove the best option. Sometimes, what we need right now outweighs long-term considerations. That’s why rentals continue to sell. What matters most when buying a car is balancing your needs and wants. As long as you maintain that focus, you have a good chance of finding the right car.

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