Is It a Good or Bad Idea To Buy a Rental Car?

What are your thoughts on rental car purchases? Have you ever purchased one? Tell us about your experience!

I bought a 2007 Hyundai Sonata in 2009 that was originally a leased car. It’s still going, but we sold it just at the beginning of 2023.

You might enjoy this Seinfeld clip about rental cars. Most of it involves taking and holding a reservation, but then, the care of the vehicle by the renter :slight_smile:

Seinfeld Clip about rental cars

I know that during COVID many rental cars out here were sold off and then may have been a better deal as they were not being driven (but then again no maintenance).

If a rentral car is damaged, I wonder if that data is sent to CarFax and others or just retained by the rental company.

If there is a car evaluation company near you, you might ask them their opinion if the rental cars generally are in good shape compared to private parties.

I have rented cars before and found the radiator not full si I know that they may not be checking everything often.

Family members have purchased from Hertz. They have their rent to buy program where you rent the vehicle you plan to purchase. You have a couple of days to rent it and decide if you want to go ahead and buy it. That way you can check it out and take it to a mechanic to look it over.

It’s a myth that rental cars are abused. It’s mostly business people who rent a car, drive to meetings, hotel, dinner, etc. Even if an occasional driver does jackrabbit starts or hard braking a car can handle it. Never had a problem.


Yes. While it’s possible to abuse a rental car and get away with it, most people are worried enough about being charged for damage that they take as good care as they do their own cars.

I bought a year-old Saturn that the dealership used as a loaner (or possibly a rental) for people who were having their cars serviced. I finally sold it 15 years later because I wanted something new. It still ran great, and never gave me any serious trouble. I wish I’d kept it, because it was far better than some other used cars I’ve purchased since then.

Lease is usually one owner vs. the dozens and dozens of drivers during a rental car lifetime.

Two things I think you can expect when buying a rental car.

  1. A history of abusive treatment by drivers and passenger users.
  2. An above-average maintenance history, like oil changes, repairs and checkups.

Rental cars are like any other used car, there are good ones and there are bad ones. If serious about one, have it checked out by a mechanic before purchase like any other used car.

What are you basing that on?

Human observation, experience and information from someone in the business.

Unless the proclivity of people between the ages of 24 thru 55, while on business trips and conventions tend to whoop it up and thoroughly enjoy themselves while away from the restrictions of accompanying spouses have substantially changed since 1990, it’s a risk you take on when buying a rental car. It often results in spilled drinks, scuffs and stains in some unexpected places. :hushed:

I had a friend in AK who owned his own car rental company and he often had cars that were abused. In my experience, people don’t treat things they rent as well as they treat things they own.

Inexperience in driving a particular car model will often result in un-intended stuff, like driving with the parking brake on, just watch the Amazing Race episodes on TV and you’ll see it in action.

Spilled drinks, scuff, stains, and worn-out brakes are all easy to identify, and for the most part, easy to fix. My experience is that business people don’t want to get reamed by their bosses for damaging a rental car, and certainly don’t want to pay for the damage themselves. They take Uber if they want to get wild. I’m sure any rental car company would “often ha[ve] cars that were abused,” but without knowing what percentage fall into that category, and how that percentage compares to similar age and type cars in the general population, we know nothing.

The only conclusion that makes any sense at all is that a thorough inspection is in order for whatever used car you are considering buying.