Are Rental Cars a Better Buying Option?

By Tom Getty (Staff Writer) on Monday May 20th, 2019
By Tom Getty (Staff Writer)
on Monday May 20th, 2019
Are Rental Cars a Better Buying Option?

With so many options facing the new car buyer, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Should you buy new? Should you buy used? Each process comes with their pros and cons. Buying new means paying high prices-and potentially not picking the car that depreciates best. Buying used means dealing with questionable dealers, or worse, private sellers with something to hide.

However, there is a better, newer solution for the person who just wants an easy, clear-cut solution: buying a rental car. With Hertz's "Rent2Buy" program, the rental car company now offers the middle-of-the-road car buyer a way to get the best of both worlds. Relatively new cars at used car prices-and from a reputable corporation.

The best of all? The corporation isn't really even in the business of selling cars. That's the beauty of the program. The potential buyer can take great comfort in the knowledge that Hertz-and the other rental car companies offering similar programs-just want to get rid of the cars. The agencies only have so much lot space for their fleets, and renters are constantly demanding to rent the newest cars. So, each year, Hertz, and all the other car rental agencies, must unload thousands upon thousands of cars across the country.

Because of this, Hertz's program comes with a flat "no haggle price." What you see is what you pay. This is perfect for the person who is not looking forward to negotiating, and just hoping to get a straight, decent price-without literally having to "haggle" with an expert.

This includes everything with the exception of regional tax, registration, licensing costs, and a documentary fee. As an aside, I read of one user who was able to negotiate this 'no haggle' price by a few hundred dollars. But it was because he went through the trouble of finding out (from a local mechanic) how much a certain part would cost to change. The user said he was given a "friends and family" discount. You never know.

Because Hertz initially pays for the cars in bulk-and therefore pays far less than any individual buyer-they can offer the vehicles at some very nice prices. Take the 2017 Nissan Versa S, which has an Manufactured Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $12,825. As of this writing, the Hertz site has one with 43,120 miles available for a no-haggle price of $10,500. Hertz's prices are generally a thousand bucks less than Kelly Blue Book value (the Nissan Versa is $1,343 below).

Of course, with such a great deal comes some possible drawbacks. Rental cars ARE rental cars-and so have a previous driver list longer than you'd like to imagine. If you thought 2 or 3 previous owners was bad, just imagine how you'd feel knowing the car has had HUNDREDS of previous drivers.

And yet-is that the reality?

Maybe yes. Maybe no. The likely answer is 'no,' as most people who rent are going to treat it like their own car. Think about the last time you drove a rental. Were you banging it around? You most likely treated it like a baby because you didn't want to be charged for damages. Rental car abuse is, in most cases, a myth. Remember. Most people, when they rent, just want simple transportation. They're not entering the a demolition derby. They're trying to get from the airport to the hotel.

And don't forget-most people's credit cards are being held hostage by the rental car companies. That's a pretty strong incentive for the majority of renters to take care of the car.

If the "rental" stigma is something you're hung up on, don't worry. Rental cars are generally nothing but well maintained. The main rental car agencies impose clear-cut policies about regular oil changes, yearly services, and maintenance. Truthfully, no other car is cleaned more ritualistically than a rental. Which is not a history you would find with a private seller-or even a used dealer. Just make sure you get a vehicle history report, and check it twice.

Of course-you won't find a car with all the doodads and gadgets. But, are you someone that matters to? Say you're someone NOT particularly picky about the choice of a car. You just, as Steve Martin in Planes Trains and Automobiles, demand "An automobile. 4 wheels and a seat." (Except-he said it better in the movie!)

If you're that type of person, then this IS one of the best ways for you to buy a car.

Perhaps the best aspect about it is how low-pressure the whole arrangement is. Hertz allows you 2 options. 1) Rent the car for 3 days-and have the fee waved if you do purchase the car. Or, 2) take the car out for two whole hours-by yourself. No charge. No fee.

That means-either way-being able to focus completely on the car you're driving-and not making "small talk" with a salesperson. That means being able to put the car through its paces. Like you ought' to when test-driving a car.

The best approach for the non-picky buyer is to log onto HertzCarSales.com, type in your location, set the radius for a hundred miles or so, set it to "all makes," "all models," and "all body styles," click search, and see what's available. As I do this search, 400 fairly new vehicles show up, all listed from cheapest to most expensive. Take a look over all the cars, pick a few, then schedule a single afternoon to drive them all.

Out of 400 vehicles, you're likely to find something. Buicks, Chevrolets, Chryslers, coupes, hatchbacks, sedans, SUVs-everything. Just make sure you first cross-check the model with the car's depreciation curve here at UsedFirst.com. That will really maximize this car-buying strategy.

If you're in the market for a decent car, and you're intimidated by buying new, or, buying used from a dealer/private party, then buying a rental car is definitely for you. It's a wonderful option that many buyers are turning to-and will be even more so in the future.