With rental car companies selling chunks of their fleets curing the coronavirus pandemic, many used car lots now contain vehicles that may have had a previous life as a rental car. These cars can often be a great deal, but you need to do your due diligence. Here's how to find out if a used car was ever a rental car.
Check the Vehicle's History
The first way to check whether a used vehicle had a past life as a rental is to check its history online.
First, find the unique vehicle identification number (VIN) of the car you're looking to buy. This 17-character code serves as the key to unlocking the car's history. The seller should be able to give you this number, or you can look for it on the car's windshield or interior.
Next, choose which website you'd like to use to look up the rental's history. Some popular options are Carfax, AutoCheck, VehicleHistory and VinCheck. Some of these websites charge a fee for the report, while others are free. Paying more typically provides a more comprehensive picture of the car's history and an assessment of whether it is worth buying.
Should You Buy a Rental Car?
Whether you should buy a used car that previously served as a rental depends on several factors, including but not limited to:
Price: Is the price of the rental significantly cheaper than other rental cars on the lot? With rental companies downsizing their fleets, the market is full of options for affordable cars. While this can be great news, check the vehicle report either way to make sure the car is priced fairly based on its history.
Age of the vehicle, mileage and warranty: A rental car may be only a few years old, but in some cases it could have racked up significant miles from previous renters over its short lifetime. In other cases, you could find a great deal on a lightly-used rental due to the current economic situation. Again, look at the vehicle report to assess whether the deal is as good as it seems. Also, consider the type of warranty offered with the used vehicle.
Maintenance history: Has the car needed significant repairs or does it have any other known issues? Non-rental cars can also have issues, such as having been in a fire or flood.
Type of car and features: Rental cars tend to be basic, and the model of the car and features may not be ideal for all buyers. Don't expect to see top-of-the-line vehicles with a ton of upscale options. Rentals might not be the best option if you've got your heart set on special features like leather seats or a sunroof.
Where to Buy a Rental Car?
Before you buy a former rental from a used car lot, it's best to compare prices, warranties and car selections with the rental car companies themselves. The rental car companies often offer attractive financing options, low, "no-haggle" prices, comprehensive warranties and the option to test drive the vehicle for several days.
Avis Car Sales: The Avis website allows you to search the make, models, styles and prices of cars available near your home.
Hertz Car Sales: Hertz also allows potential car buyers to browse vehicles near their homes by make, model and style. Update as of 10/22: In the wake of Hertz's bankruptcy, Hertz Car Sales locations have temporarily closed. Plans to reopen these locations remains uncertain.
Enterprise Car Sales: Enterprise is another good place to buy a rental car, especially considering that it has a section of its website dedicated to 2020 models.
Sixt Car Sales: Finally, Sixt sells a range of brands, including higher-end names like Cadillac and Jaguar.