Auto Focus

In Defense of Rental Cars

Getting people to consider buying a used rental car requires dispelling the “beater” myth. And that ain’t easy.

August 17, 2011

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I had a conversation while driving with a friend the other day that really got my dander up. I found myself supporting the sanctity of a rental car. We never know what paths our lives take, do we?

Him: I need to buy a car. I'm going used.

Me: So you're finally going to sell this thing. Have you thought about a used rental car?

Him: Are you kidding me? I would never buy a used rental car. Do you know what they do to those things? Haven't you seen Jackass, or Planes, Trains and Automobiles?

Me: Those are movies.

Him: You get these 19-year-old kids out on a Saturday night doing burnouts and brake torqueing to impress their friends. No way, Jose.

Me: A smoke show in a rented Toyota Camry-that's impressive.

Him: I've seen the YouTube videos.

Me: The major companies don't even rent to 19-year olds for insurance reasons. Most cars are rented by people 25 to 65. They're better educated and make more money than the overall population. They're business travelers, air travel vacationers and people that need a replacement when their car is in the shop.

Him: But if you can get rental insurance for $10 a day, you can run the car off a cliff!

Me: Get real. Renters that take the collision damage waiver are protecting themselves, not abusing the car. They also want to be able to rent again. The ones that abuse rental cars aren't welcome back-ever.

Him: If it's not your car, you're not going to take care of it.

Me: You're right, maintenance is the rental company's job, and they're pretty strict on that. Cars are rented on average seven times a month. When cars are returned, they wash and vacuum them, check tires for wear and proper inflation and check the fluid levels. They know those cars inside and out. They'll spot any service issues, like if the alignment is off. Like maybe in this car.

Him: I've dealt with those guys at the car rental places. They're like hawks. Trying to pin some dent or squeaky brakes on me!

Me: The last thing a car rental agency wants is the next customer coming back complaining about a problem with the car, or worse yet, ending up stranded on the side of a dark road. It's bad for business.

Him: Too many random people in rental cars. I want one owner-someone who pampers the car, like a corporate executive who just got out of a lease.

Me: If that corporate executive is giving the car back in 36 months, what's motivating him to change the oil regularly?

Him: Okay, but what's motivating the rental company to do any of that stuff?  

Me: Actually, major rental companies track and schedule maintenance automatically. That's because a lot of the time, the rental company will need to return the car back to the manufacturer when they're done with it. Those are called "program cars," and the manufacturers want pristine units for their dealers to sell. The manufacturers will reject a program car for even minor slipups in scheduled maintenance. Ask any car rental company-a rejected program car is an expensive proposition.

Him: I'm not buying a rental.

Me: Hey, you're vice president. Doesn't that make you a "corporate executive?"

Him: So?

Me: Would you trust a car you sold to yourself?


Me: Listen, there are always risks when buying any used car. It's just that rental companies actually work pretty hard to keep their vehicles in tip-top condition.

Him [miffed]: Oh, and I don't?

Me [Pulling hand away from seat]: Do you have a handy wipe? I think I just felt peanut butter.

Him: That's probably ... eh, it could be peanut butter.


  1. 1. SANDRA HAHNER [ August 21, 2011 @ 07:34AM ]


    Excellent point of view on your part - couldn't agree more. Rental cars are washed and serviced every few days, sometimes daily. My personal vehicle gets washed when it rains. Thanks.

  2. 2. chris [ October 20, 2011 @ 12:35PM ]

    Great Article. It's almsot funny how uneducated people are with the rental myth. They need to look at it from a business side. Take Enterprise for instance. If they sold beat up cars, why would they offer 7 days to try the car out after the sale? Will Bob's chevrolet do that for you? nah dont think so

  3. 3. Tom [ October 20, 2011 @ 03:02PM ]

    I couldn't agree more. Bought my car from enterprise and will continue to go back. Not only was the car certified and clean, but the sales person was non commission. I never felt like someone "sold" me the car, I felt like someone helped me find the vehicle I wanted that was in my budget.

  4. 4. Kevin [ October 20, 2011 @ 04:26PM ]

    I purchased my car from an Enterprise Car Sales (the rental company) in Milwaukee and I couldn't agree more about the quality of their vehicles. I didn't feel any pressure during my purchase, I hadn't had one problem with my car, and if I ever decide to purchase another car I'd go back again! If people were smart they'd realize that dealerships don't manufacture late model used cars with 1ow where do they get those used cars from? Yep...Rental Car companies.


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Author Bio

Chris Brown

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Executive Editor

Chris is the executive editor of Business Fleet Magazine and Auto Rental News. He covers all aspects of the fleet world.


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