Former daily rental cars: Great deal or avoid at all costs?
Photo: Tom Merton, OJO Images, Getty Images
There's a common notion that rental firms price their ex-rental vehicles aggressively because sales are not their core business. But the reality today is that rental companies have identified fleet disposal as a "profit centre," which is MBA-speak for another way to extract money from consumers. Don't assume rental cars are cheaper than any other used vehicle. Comparison shop carefully. And more bad news: advertised prices are usually "no-haggle" specials, meaning you pay the sticker price, take it or leave it.
Model selection is somewhat limited and rental companies tend to feature two or three brands (in the old days it was often just a single manufacturer represented). While many firms favour domestic vehicles for their heavily discounted fleet pricing, it's not hard to find some import brands for sale today. Most rental vehicles offer basic trim packages (sometimes unique to rental fleets), so if you're looking for cars and trucks loaded down with lots of options, you probably won't find them here.
Buyers have to put up with a fair amount of aesthetic blemishes, such as unsightly paint scratches, door dings and interior scuffs and scratches on plastic panels. Upholstery and carpets may have stubborn stains that may or may not come out during detailing or shampooing. It's really no different than any other used vehicle, though an agency car may not get the same degree of reconditioning that a new-car dealer's used inventory might get. Then again, buying a pre-dented car means no tears when you suffer your first parking lot ding.
Finally, you have to deal with the disquieting reality that while a rental vehicle has had a single owner — the rental agency — it's been driven by a hundred motorists of all abilities and temperaments. Rental-car horror stories abound, though they're vastly outnumbered by the accounts of people who have bought ex-rental cars and have had a great experience with them. Keep in mind new technologies such as GPS tracking and black-box data recorders have mitigated bad behaviours, so abusive renters are increasingly being made to pay for their idiocy.
Treat a rental car like any other used-vehicle purchase by doing your homework, shopping for the best price and getting a mechanical inspection done, and you may very well end up with a great ownership experience. Just resist the temptation to enter any demolition derbies.
A 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake sold for $1.3 million. Do you think classic cars were made better than modern rides?
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- Yes, the quality of cars from the 1960s and '70s is the best
- No, modern technology makes cars better today
- Maybe, it's hard to say since most Canadians get a new car every 10 years