The “redneck” comedian Jeff Foxworthy used to joke about how safe of a driver his grandmother was, but as soon as she got behind the wheel of a rental car, all bets were off. It’s a commonly held belief that motorists abuse borrowed vehicles, taking out pent-up aggression on hired Impalas from Hertz. When it comes to buying a used car are second-hand rentals a smart choice, or something to be avoided like a holiday in North Korea?
Abraham, an employee at Fawzi’s Westgate Auto Repair in Southeastern Michigan said “I advise anybody that’s going to buy a used car to get an inspection,” something that typically costs around $50. “It’s going to save them a lot of money,” he said.
Pete DeMiglio, Manager of Tri-Action Auto Repair, another Michigan-based garage agrees. He said “It’s always a good idea to get a used-car inspection from an independent dealer.”
“The main thing is if they’re maintained properly,” said DeMiglio, adding that 100,000 miles is midlife for modern vehicles. Most can roll the odometer many times if they’re properly cared for. Additionally, “It’s always good to see any history records,” he said.
Despite the negative stigma of buying a used rental car, Enterprise, Hertz and others sell vehicles directly to consumers. To counteract any preconceived notions about these second-hand autos they both offer generous perks including extended warranties. Part of the reason they can do this is that they’re very fastidious about maintenance. Manufacturer-recommended service schedules are followed and warranty issues are addressed promptly.
Before any used vehicles go on sale, “We bring them through a very stringent mechanical and cosmetic inspection,” said Chris Kossmeyer, Vice President of Car sales for Enterprise Car Sales. That includes a 109-point certification. “We also provide a Carfax,” he said.
Enterprise’s rental fleet covers more than 350 makes and models, from basic economy cars to luxury vehicles, not to mention trucks and vans. Kossmeyer said, “People may have thought that they are generic and not well equipped,” but that’s not the case.
The company sells used cars from 135 dedicated locations across the U.S. The vehicles they offer are typically one to three years old and have low miles. Usually Enterprise has around 6,000 cars and trucks up for sale at any given time, so customers have plenty to choose from. They can shop locally or access a national listing.
“We’re really proud of the selection of vehicles we offer our customers,” said Kossmeyer. “One of the unique value propositions we bring to the table is how we sell cars.”
Aside from the product Enterprise is also focused on the buying experience. Taking some of the stress out of the process, vehicles are offered at very competitive prices that are non-negotiable.
Further sweetening the deal, cars are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile powertrain warranty. “We also provide with each vehicle one year of roadside assistance,” Kossmeyer said. But if that isn’t enough, “We have a seven-day return policy.” As long as they haven’t driven more than 1,000 miles, customers can return or exchange their vehicle for any reason; all they have to do is pay a $200 documentation and cleanup fee.
Enterprise has been selling used vehicles like this for 50 years – basically the whole time they’ve been in business. “Since we’ve been retailing cars, we’ve actually sold in excess of a million vehicles” said Kossmeyer.
And employees can be counted among the ranks of those used-car buyers, including Kossmeyer himself. He’s been with the company for 26 years and purchased so many Enterprise vehicles he’s lost track.
Enterprise may be the largest rental brand in North America but they’re not the only game in town. Hertz is a major player in the business with some 625,000 vehicles in its fleet. Not surprisingly, they also sell used vehicles.
“Our cars are looked at every time they’re returned,” said Paula Rivera, Manager of Public Affairs at The Hertz Corporation. She also said they’re “well maintained” and that “It just makes sense to go to a company that’s always on top of their cars.”
“All of our equipment, especially the diagnostics equipment is state of the art,” Rivera said, noting that all Hertz mechanics are SAE certified. “There really are quite a few advantages in regards to the cars and their maintenance.”
Just like Enterprise, Hertz offers no-haggle pricing on all of its used vehicles. Rivera said “Oftentimes you’ll see when you look at Kelley Blue Book our prices tend to be lower.” This, she says, is a direct result of buying rental cars in bulk and then passing on the savings to the consumer.
One interesting program Hertz offers is called “Rent2Buy.” Potential customers can actually rent a used vehicle for up to three days. “You can really test out the car,” Rivera said.
This extended test drive gives buyers an opportunity to use the vehicle in their daily lives to see if it’s right for them. If they decide to purchase the car or truck any rental fees are deducted from the price.
Hertz has approximately 60 or 70 brick-and-mortar locations dedicated to selling used cars, but customers can purchase directly from local branch offices.
Daily rental companies offer some unique perks to customers, but when buying any used vehicle look for service records and try to get a third-party inspection. “If they follow the maintenance and they have documentation, yeah it’s a good car” Abraham said, “I would believe it’s a good way to go.”