The life of a rental vehicle is a tough one: It's driven by many people and for more miles than average. After about a year of service, the rental company will typically pull the vehicle out of the fleet and sell it as a used car. But in this "second life," a former rental vehicle can make for a compelling used car value -- if you're willing to accept a few trade-offs.
Edmunds has researched the pros and cons of buying a rental vehicle. We've also gathered a small list of vehicles to keep an eye out for that might prove to be a particularly good value. The choices are based on Edmunds' data and comparisons to traditional dealership pricing.
- A way to save: Rental companies purchase their vehicles in volume and at a discounted rate. In turn, they are able to sell them at lower prices than a traditional dealership would. As seen in the examples below, discounts could be 10% or more.
- A newer vehicle for less money: It is not uncommon to find 1- to 2-year-old vehicles, which could potentially get you the latest body style or safety features. These vehicles would cost thousands more at a franchise dealership's used car lot.
- Convenient sale process: Avis, Enterprise and Hertz offer no-haggle pricing. Avis and Hertz also offer free two-hour test drives or a three-day "rent to buy" program, which gives you more time to decide if you want the car. To alleviate buyer's remorse, Enterprise and Hertz also have seven-day return policies.
- Well-maintained vehicles: Rental agencies are diligent about maintaining their vehicles. All the scheduled maintenance is performed at the manufacturer-recommended intervals.
- Limited warranty: Most major rental companies will give buyers a 12-month or 12,000-mile limited powertrain warranty. This coverage is more than you'd get at an independent used car lot, where most of the vehicles are sold as-is. At either place, you will inherit any remaining balance on the vehicle's factory warranty.
- Uncertain history: It's difficult to determine how hard a rental car was driven. While some might be careful with a rental, others may drive the vehicle more aggressively since it isn't theirs.
- Higher-mileage inventory: The average miles driven per year in the U.S. is about 14,000. But you'll easily find vehicles in a rental fleet with double or triple that number of miles.
- Potential to be out of warranty: Because of the higher mileage, you might find that the vehicle is past its factory warranty coverage. Any repairs required will likely have to be paid out of pocket.
- Lightly optioned cars: Don't expect to see top-of-the-line vehicles with a ton of upscale options. Rental companies usually buy base models due to the lower price and simplicity of ordering.
VEHICLES TO CONSIDER
2019 Volkswagen Jetta
Average sales price for rental models with 10,000-20,000 miles: $14,993 (17.2% discount from a dealership)
What our editors say: "The new Jetta offers a roomy cabin and an impressively smooth ride quality. Quick acceleration from a stop is another highlight."
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2017 Hyundai Accent SE
Average sales price for rental models with 40,000-50,000 miles: $10,401 (12.2% discount from a dealership)
What our editors say: "The Accent is a top choice for a small sedan thanks to a satisfying combination of performance, utility, comfort and style."
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2019 Kia Optima LX
Average sales price for rental models with 20,000-30,000 miles: $15,052 (12.1% discount from a dealership)
What our editors say: "The Kia Optima continues to offer some of the most feature-packed models you can buy in the midsize sedan segment."
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2018 Nissan Rogue S
Average sales price for rental models with 40,000-50,000 miles: $15,766 (12% discount from a dealership)
What our editors say: "The Rogue has an expansive cargo space and roomy seating. It's one of the more versatile small SUVs around."
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2018 Toyota Avalon
Average sales price for rental models with 30,000-40,000 miles: $19,061 (9.9% discount from a dealership)
What our editors say: "A cushioned ride and hushed cabin make the Avalon well-suited for commutes and road trips, and its roomy interior offers plenty of room to spread out."
EDMUNDS SAYS: Consider shopping at a rental car lot the next time you're in need of a good used car. The streamlined sales process and lower prices may be enough to offset the added miles and history of many drivers.
This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds. Ronald Montoya is a senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.