Reader Question: Buying a Low-Miles Rental Car?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Jim asks: My friend (90 yrs old) and retired automotive teacher swears that the best way to purchase a car is a low-mileage (30 to 40K) from a car rental business. He has done this all his life. I think it’s a great way and have done so myself. I am interested in your opinion. What do you think of this strategy? Thank you.

My reply: There are two big advantages to buying a fleet vehicle: Regular service per the factory recommendations and records of that service (usually). The big downside is that you might have the bad luck to get a vehicle that was deliberately abused by one of the people who rented it in the past. However, I think the odds of this are not very high – unless the car is a high-performance car, in which case I’d assume it. But if it’s a family sedan, crossover SUV – etc. – it would not be a big concern.

I’d be even less concerned if the particular car is a make that still has some of its (usually transferable) new car warranty still intact, which it may if it has less than 40,000 miles on it. As a general thing, if a vehicle is hiding something, you’ll know about it pretty soon. If you have no problems during the first six months of ownership, odds are good you got a good car.

As always, due diligence applies. Never assume a car is “ok.” Do everything in your power to make sure it is before you buy it!

. . .

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  1. The dilemma with all rental cars is not knowing what you don’t know about the use and history of vehicle and who and how it was operated. The longer it has been a rental and the higher the miles, the more likely it has been abused by at least one or more drivers, with power slides, jackrabbit starts, burnouts,etc, you get the idea. Plus, who knows where these have been and what has been done inside of these vehicles? Buying low mileage, late model vehicles from one owner is best way to maximize your return on your expense for a reliable ride that meets your needs. I recently did this myself and acquired, in 2019, a 2019 Yukon XL with 7K miles for $53K. This vehicle retailed for $76K normally. Basically, we saved $23K for 7K in miles, so it cost GMC about $3.30 per mile before we bought it. It was used as a GMC corporate fleet demo vehicle, and driven by one GM representative for the seven or eight months or so GM used it, which made us the first titled owner. There were multiple other similar vehicles we considered, but this had the 6.2L motor and 10 speed transmission, a $5/6K option, not the 5.3L and 6 speed transmission. Most importantly to me, it only had one driver, 7K miles, not 25 or 35K miles. The closest vehicle I could find was about $5K less, but it had 22K miles, and the smaller motor/tranny combination. All the other Yukon XL or Suburbans all had more miles/wear and tear on them, and were in the $45 to 49K price range. All the other vehicles we considered were prior owned and operated by rental agencies such as National, Enterprise, or Avis, and were being sold at conventional dealerships that had relationships with the franchise owners at these rental car agencies. The sales rep we dealt with assured us that vehicles like ours came in from time to time, but were the exception to the rule for what they usually obtained and sold to the public. I wouldn’t have bought but the wife was really passionate about getting a newer, low mile vehicle that was big, sturdy and would be paid off by retirement, in the not too distant future (hopefully!!). The deals are out there, but you will have to dig, I found this deal with only about a month of looking hard and fast. YMMV, good luck, there will be better deals in the future, if this virus business keeps up!!


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