By on April 4, 2014
golfcarts
Hi Steve,

I really enjoy your articles.  Thank you.

I have a question about fleet cars.  I was driving to a meeting in one of the fleet cars my employer has.  Nothing special, a late model Ford Fusion .  And I was thinking is this a better deal to buy when they get rid of it than another used car?  Then I realized that people who use a car that doesn’t belong to them trash it. So I thought, “No way!”

Then I realized that the same people who don’t take care of it, aren’t the same people who maintain it.  So are fleet cars a better deal then non fleet on the market? After giving them a good cleaning does it not matter one way or the other all other things being the same?

There is an age old saying that applies here, “It’s not the horse. It’s the rider.”

If you have ever seen a horse trained, or experienced a long scenic horseback ride with someone who had never been a horse before, you’ll get the gist of this saying real quick. Folks who use natural horsemanship techniques to train their horses are usually able to give their horses a better life. As it relates to cars, just change two words and you’ll have the core of what differentiates a good life for a used car from a bad one.

It’s not the car. It’s the driver.

The daily driver is going to have a far greater impact on the long-term quality and longevity of a vehicle than the manufacturer. So let me cut to the chase and ask you the two salient questions that apply to your particular situation.

Do you know who drove this vehicle? Or how they drove it?

If you don’t know, then either try to find out or accept the fact that there is more risk to the long-term ownership equation. The deal may offset those possible expenses.

What has always shocked me over the years is that most consumers are willing to throw thousands of dollars into the wind without first taking a car to have it independently inspected. I look at everything before I buy, as did my grandfather who came from a long line of successful cattle traders. My advice is to get that vehicle looked at by someone who has wiser eyes when it comes to cars. A fleet vehicle may have a good maintenance regimen but that doesn’t mean it will be a sound purchase.

 

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74 Comments on “New Or Used : To Fleet? Or Not To Fleet?...”


  • avatar
    Upthewazzu

    Former Enterprise manager here. I will say that rental cars are some of the best maintained cars on the road. I can’t speak for how people drive them once they leave the lot, but I know they are under strict service intervals once they returned.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      My 09 Sedona was a former clean rental that I got cheap with 18k miles on it at 1 year old. I bought it from a car dealer.

      I believe it was well-maintained, and has given me no problems related to its former life over the 4 years I’ve had it.

      I used to cringe at the prospect of owning former rentals, but must admit that my experience has at least neutralized me on this issue.

      However, I bought a minivan. If it was a sports car, my story might be different.

      I also imagine that fleet buyers look for the most reliable vehicles they can get, so they can maximize rental time. A car in the shop isn’t making money on the road. Critics of fleet sales by mfrs often forget this reality, so when buying, it’s worth considering what types of cars are going to fleets as a measure of reliability.

      • 0 avatar
        C. Alan

        Between my parents and myself, we have owned four differnt ex rental minivans. We have never had a problem we could attribute to them being a rental. I would have no problem buying another one when the time comes. If you think about it, minivans are the best bet for getting an ex rental that has not been abused. 99% of the people who rent them are families, and they are a lot less likely to abuse them.

    • 0 avatar
      free2571

      The last Enterprize car I rented (in March) had the “maintenance due” light still burning at 10,500 miles.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Many rentals never see their first oil change and service until they are released from the agency for sale to the public, either through their retail outlets or through an auction.

        Servicing a rental car when the company could be renting it out and making money is counterintuitive.

        • 0 avatar
          Upthewazzu

          That’s not how it works at all. First off, a lot of rental cars are held for 20,000+ miles now. We absolutely serviced them (we called them LOFR’s which stood for Lube, Oil, Filter, Rotation) at the recommended service intervals. In fact, the longest we would allow a car to be rented to a single person was 30 days. At that point we would make them come in for a “re-write” so that we could check the mileage and do any service that might be needed (among other reasons). I can’t speak for other rental car agencies, or even other managers at ERAC, but I certainly didn’t want some sort of catastrophe happening on my watch. It may be hard to believe, but we do have ethics and such.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Actually, as far as real latent damage, it is much harder to do than it used to be. In the old days, the worst you could really do is multiple neutral drops. That damage might not rear its head for awhile. Today cars don’t allow for the trans to engage unless the RPMs are low enough so neutral drops on most cars are a thing of the past. Any other abuse is not going to kill the most expensive part – the transmission. Warped brakes, beat tires, etc. are not really big deals.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Well, I’m sure you have your reasons for stating what you wrote but I do not believe that you can speak for the entire Rental Car industry.

            I have seen first-hand what the cars looked like after a used car dealer took them in for sale as program cars, you know the ones for $7995, $8995, and $9995, with only 20K miles on them and the remainder of the factory warranty?

            They had never been serviced. The engine oil was pitch black with the consistency of tar. The Air Filter and Cabin Air Filter still the OEM. This the retailing dealer had to undo, sometimes at considerable expense, as in Check Engine lights that came on because the O2 sensor was fouled.

            Not to cause you grief or hurt your feelings, I have to tell you that in all my years of traveling and renting cars, Enterprise was without a doubt the worst car rental company I have had to endure.

            I know about the company’s history, the motivation and background of its owner and its relation to the USS Enterprise. All that’s commendable. I did not find that the same values had translated into the field.

            OTOH, Hertz quickly became MY favorite, then Avis, and in a pinch Dollar/Thrifty. Budget was always great if I needed a Towncar. Cheap, too!

            With Enterprise my experience was that they let me have whatever car that was left on their lot when I arrived at their office. One time all they had left was an F150 four-door. Because I was going to the inner city I had asked for a Compact or Subcompact. Their attitude was, take it or leave it.

            With an attitude like that out in the field, I find it difficult to accept that rental cars from Enterprise were actually having regular scheduled maintenance done.

            I already know about the lack of maintenance done by the other rental car companies since my relatives did sell those program cars on their used car lots.

    • 0 avatar
      Stovebolt

      Enterprise, eh? I’ve had a couple of cars from them, thanks to a dealer: missing gas cap, broken seat, so soiled I didn’t want to touch anything (had to wash the inside windshield myself). Couldn’t return them soon enough, to say nothing of buying one. That and “regular” maintenance (oil change every 10k) don’t impress me much!

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      I’ll have to beg to differ with you. My dealership buys tons of cars directly from Enterprise, and they usually come filthy – dirty carpets, stained seats, smelling like smoke despite the “no smoking” stickers, with assorted dents, dings etc. Naturally they only came with one key, no mats and missing the owners manuals too.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I don’t think fleet cars are any different than any other used car. They are all individuals. One may be crap, the next may be a gem. If you are risk averse, pay more and buy new.

    I can also say that I don’t treat rented cats any different than my own cars. Maybe I am unusual, but I doubt it. And I drive rented cars more than my own. Just turned in a very nice Regal Turbo at CLE. Sitting here at gate A8 waiting for my bird to arrive.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      You can rent a cat, krhodes1? That might be an ideal way to have one. ;)

      The times I’ve had loaners from the dealer I beat the crap out of them and pay the price when it’s time to refuel it at the end of the day. Although even being gentle in a 2.5 Jetta still resulted in a high fuel bill for one day of driving.

      I wouldn’t buy a rental unless maintenance records were available and it was a really good deal. Otherwise, I’d prefer to buy new.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        This seems odd to me, I’ve rented a lot of cars in my life, also had a couple of loaners, never once did it cross my mind to abuse any of these cars. What possesses people to want to abuse something that doesn’t belong to them? Have you ever rented an apartment? Did you trash the place? Was the only reason you didn’t trash the place to get your security deposit back? Does it bother you at all to wreck other people’s stuff?

        Anyway, I’ve owned two former fleet cars both were excellent deals that served me well as daily drivers. Since I can only speak from experience, I would have no problem buying another.

        • 0 avatar
          morbo

          You must be from the Midwest. Here on the East Coast, we drive rentals like we stole ‘em.

          Part of it is the reason why you have a rental. You have a rental because
          1. You just disembarked from a flying aluminum can that provided you with salty peanuts (Southwest only), recycled diseased air, and the initiation of deep leg thrombosis
          2. You have to travel somewhere so far afield that there AREN’T any planes or trains to get there.
          3. Your own car is in the shop for unexpectedly long maintenance or because some yahoo done wrecked it and the body shop needs a week to fix it

          In any case, you’re tired, angry, and/or unsettled. Unless it’s a corporate rental, you’ve endured a spiel about upgrading to the $30/day insurance plan. You just endured a college kid that just now understands the folly of that art history degree, walk you around the car arguing over the size of depth of pre-existing dings and scratches. You’re crammed into the base model plebian-mobile. Cloth seats, tinny stereo (or mono for me renting mid 2000′s Imapala’s), the smell of mold wafting in from the carpeting that was washed out and not allowed to dry. None of the controls are familiar, because your regular car has superior ergonomics to the Chrysler Sebring, Chevy Impala, Ford Taurus, Mitsubishi Galant, Chevy Malibu, or Buick LaCrosse. These cars are all terrible, but in their own rich, horrifying ways (What do you mean a car made in 2012 doesn’t have a CD player OR external input!?!).

          So you get into this suck-mobile. You’re looking for any reason to enjoy this ride. Maybe if I slam the throttle, it can be loud AND fast, instead of just loud. Or maybe it can outhandle the FedEx truck? I’m tired, I care not for the 5mph speed bumps in the hotel parking lot. I want my bed NOW!

          For these reasons and more, rentals get thrashed. I’m sure the maintenance guys are on top of oil changes, tire checks, brake pads, etc. I also wager that the transmission, suspension, handling, and other key systems have been stressed far greater than a comparable, non-rental / non-fleet. A rental Impala with 20,000 miles is worth a retail Imapala at 100,000 in my book, all options being equal.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I am always happy when I get a Taurus. I understand how the radio works, the seats are comfortable, the NVH is good, and the Duratec 3.5L is better than good for a rental. I would never buy one though, especially a former rental.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Bro is driving one now for police duty. His is in the mid 30s mileage wise now and its been back to the dealer three times in 12K or so, once for a cat from what I was told.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            28-

            A Taurus?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Yup. He doesn’t always have the details himself but when the cars drive weird or lights go off he’s supposed to report it to someone (his LT maybe?). When his assigned car is out he’s usually vocal to me about it because the “ex” cars are such rolling junkyards. He mentioned one of the times was emissions, I’m almost positive it was the cat.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            They should just put the damn 3.7 or 3.5 in the Fusion. It would be such an undertaxed engine. Since they put it in the MKZ, I know it fits.

            I saw plenty of Michigan State Police Tauruses, Chargers, and Explorers in action on my commute yesterday. Someone thought they could outrun the MSP armada with a stolen hoopty GMT800. It did not end well when the perp ran out of gas. Watching the siege of the vehicle was excellent though.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’m sure it was. From what I understand the police themselves like how the Volvo’d Fords handle and accelerate, not to mention real safety features vs W-Impala. Fuel economy is the penalty and durability has yet to be seen though.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            “They should just put the damn 3.7 or 3.5 in the Fusion. It would be such an undertaxed engine. Since they put it in the MKZ, I know it fits.”

            Well they have to give you *some* reason to want to upgrade to the MKZ…

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @kyree

            Its bigger, there’s your reason (same as the reason between CTS and ATS anymore). Maybe if it had a name you’d have two reasons.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Kyree-

            Bah I say! Bring back the Fusion Sport! Stuff the 3.7 in there and give the Accord V6 some competition.

            The MKZ *SHOULD* be different enough from the Fusion to stand on its own.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @ Morbo

            LOL – you are doing it wrong, or not enough. Join the frequent renter program with one of the majors. You get off the plane and there is an e-mail waiting to tell you where your car is – you don’t have to talk to anyone. If you don’t like it, you can spin the wheel to get something else right on your phone. Walk to the car, get in, show your license at the gate and be on your way. If you are a frequent renter, it will probably be something fairly nice. I get MB E350s fairly regularly from Hertz, though my current favorite is the Regal Turbo. Reminds me of my old Saab 9-3, just with a much nicer interior. I always get the damage waiver (company policy) and I still would never dream of abusing a car.

            Only the second-tier rental agencies do the whole walk-around-the-car BS. It’s well worth the extra few bucks a day to rent from Hertz, Avis or National.

            @brettc

            You can’t rent a cat, they will not suffer such indignity. Afterall, you work for THEM.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        …You can rent a cat, krhodes1? That might be an ideal way to have one. ;)…

        Why not? The OP asks if you have been a horse before…

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      There are fleet cars and there are fleet cars. A significant part of fleet is made up of “company cars”, either those given as perks to executives, or those driven by the sales/service staff. In my experience, these cars are well taken care of, because they represent the company to its customers. So, they should be safe bets as used cars.

      Rentals, I understand, are a different story. I’ve rented any number of cars over the years, including some real doozies (in this case, the word “doozie” is NOT a compliment). Can’t see myself ever taking that risk.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        In one of my Dad’s previous “lives” in medical sales, he used to have the option of purchasing his company cars after 50,000 miles, which he did, twice, for my Mom; a 1980 Cutlass, and even nicer, a 1983 Regal. (I would assume company cars nowadays stay in the fleet until the wheels fall off, as has happened after my brother has been upgraded to a new car.)

        I don’t rent cars often, but with the exception of one car over the years, EVERY other car I’ve ever had as a loaner or rental, without exception, has had a front wheel-balance problem! My most recent experience, a Dodge Avenger from Enterprise, was THE WORST in this regard, to the point where I felt the car was unsafe over 65mph! (I could deal with it OK, but woe be to a typical distracted driver the first time that shimmy hits! If only I had known that Enterprise is more than willing to swap a car in this situation! Lesson learned.)

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Thus section is starting to sound like “Click & Clack” from NPR.

    When in doubt slap a warranty on it. Today, I think you can warranty coverage a car until it rusts or mileage flips six-digts a few times.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Depends on the warranty. Ideally I want the mfg’s bumper to bumper which can be difficult to get depending on the make/model and where you buy the car from. I personally don’t trust Third party warranty cos.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        I always weigh in the cost to replace the part. Frame damage is not warrantable. The engine and trans are next most expensive and if it is a rental those would be in high supply for a couple of grand labor not included. Since we drive those “common daily drivers” and our young and abled bodied we could drive a rental queen on the cheap. :)

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Frame damage was the only thing you could automatically win in arbitration at Manheim. I’m not 100% sure but I’m don’t think its legal to sell a car with frame damage in this state, and typically cars with more severe repaired damage must have their titles re-branded as “Reconstructed”. I’m very wary of the new drivetrains in the long term but I think where you’re going to end up getting clobbered is in the associated systems. HVAC, computer, pw/pl, wheel sensors, trac control, and of course stringent emissions systems. You buy an MY12 in 2020 with X miles chances are you won’t pay as much and fixing errant secondary and tertiary systems may not bankrupt you, just part of the territory in owning a 9yo car. Try buying an MY12 with no warranty now with gremlins and make 400 payments on cars with Christmas tree dashboards or cars which don’t quite drive/shift correctly.

          I’ll give you an example, one of my friends has an 09 Fusion SEL I4 which she purchased in late 2011 with 45Kish miles from a used dealer. She’s got 70 and change on it now, and in the winter her SES light started to go off. Dealer pulled the code and said the air pump is bad or not responding, which is part of the stringent emissions system. Unfortunately emissions are enforced/set by the counties and our county is incredibly terrible at well everything and tightened exemptions rules (used to be if you presented a receipt of $250 to the emissions inspector, you got a 1yr exemption). I tried some emissions tricks I knew I couldn’t get the computer to a passing state, so here we have an MY09 with payments still being made which required a $700 dealer repair for a secondary system which in the grand scheme of things is essentially meaningless. In contrast my MY98 Saturn has never required an emissions repair at 16 years and 167K.

          • 0 avatar
            gasser

            What state are you on? In California emission control system has a ten year 100,000 mile warranty.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            PA. I’m glad you brought this up because it occurred to me after I posted she could raise hell with the *Ford dealer* who was demanding $700 about a factory emissions warranty (which I thought was supposed to be the life of the car). I’ll pass this on, thanks again.

          • 0 avatar

            Manheim ‘frame damage’ or ‘structural damage’ as they are now calling it is very, very often bullshit, IMO.

          • 0 avatar

            “Frame damage was the only thing you could automatically win in arbitration at Manheim. I’m not 100% sure but I’m don’t think its legal to sell a car with frame damage in this state, and typically cars with more severe repaired damage must have their titles re-branded as “Reconstructed”.”

            Auction-branded ‘frame damage’ (or ‘structural damage’ as they are calling it now) can be such BS.

            Can’t tell you how many times I get a car that passes PSI at one sale and then gets kicked for ‘structural damage’ at another less than a week and within 50 miles.

          • 0 avatar
            bikephil

            Thank God I live in SC, where there are no stupid emission checks!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @flybrian

            In the three years I worked the auction full time we only had one frame damage arb, and the [real] wholesaler was there that day and I just watched (good thing too as I was never technically licensed). You’re probably right though about auction to auction “standards”.

            Does the next auction give you specifics on why they failed it?

          • 0 avatar

            @28-

            Yes, they always do. Once we had a ’12 Escape arb’d that was clean and passed PSI out of Manheim Atlanta. Tampa called it for “SUBSTANDARD WELDS AT A, B, C, AND D PILLARS.” How do you miss THAT??

            Another gem was on a pre-sale condition report for an Edge we bought this week. ‘FRAME DAMAGE – LOCATION – UNKNOWN SEVERITY – UNKNOWN’ which roughly translates to “The front bumper cover has a tear and its cold outside so just assume frame” I suppose.

            Today at auctions, a welded trailer hitch receiver is ‘structural damage.’ So is a fifth wheel plate. So is a 12″ scratch on the bottom of the trunk pan. So is a bent tie-down. So is a bad PDR hole. I mean, no wonder why ‘arbitration’ and ‘arbitrary’ are so similar…

            That’s why when I buy, I look at the vehicle as a totality. Has it been in an accident on record? Is there any paintwork? Where is this alleged ‘structural damage’ anyhow? If it meets OUR criteria, we buy and we sell it because so much ‘structural damage’ is auction CYA.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Substandard welds at every corner of the Escape sound like mfg issue from Ford, not damage caused by a person. Also how the hell did it pass state inspection if it was so dangerous? Ridiculous. I also like how scratches and bad PDR on say a fender count as “frame damage”. I would love to see the magistrate in that arbitration.

            We usually didn’t run our cars through pre or post sale inspection due to the extra cost, only on occasion or if the car looked rough but was wanted/needed.

            “FRAME DAMAGE – LOCATION – UNKNOWN SEVERITY – UNKNOWN”

            How does that tech still work there?

            I applaud the standards you hold yourself to though man. We both know there are many unscrupulous wholesalers and dealers who don’t keep a standard if there is money to be made.

          • 0 avatar

            @28-

            Thanks. I mean, I’ve only been doing this for ~7-8 years now, but I just don’t want to be the ‘used car dealer’ everyone loathes. And after three ne’r-do-wells, I finally got with a dealer who a) has the money to make a car ‘right’ and b) has the DESIRE to do the same. Its a shame that its a rarity nowadays.

    • 0 avatar

      > Thus section is starting to sound like “Click & Clack” from NPR.

      Or CR.

      Wisdom often calibrates; I don’t mind it. Steve’s perspective is (relatively) dispassionate, and he’s auctioned, sold, financed, and rented lots of cars.

      > [Warranty] on it
      I’ve got to disagree there. I’ve never seen a used car warranty that wasn’t a scam, but that’s my (anecdotal) experience.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Wait is that Norm”I void my warranty with a Trifecta Tune”SV650 telling us to buy longer warranties for our cars?

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Fleet can be hit or miss IMO. Upthewazzu points out some rental agencies thoroughly maintain their product, others don’t, corporate leases the same and gov’t sales can be really rolling the dice. Todays cars and trucks are typically durable enough to handle abuse and unless something changed most fleets don’t hang onto their cars for much more than 30K. Outfits like Enterprise figured out they could retail their fleet product as opposed to running it at the rental lane at Manheim and taking an instant 10%+ loss as was done in the past. Would I buy fleet? I have bought fleet in the past, and my current main car I believe started life as a Hertz car in the Buffalo area. Just remember unless something changed fleet (esp rentals) does not command the same wholesale price as “regular” cars, so don’t be fooled into paying “fair retail” for a rental or fleet vehicle, ask for a discount.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      As you said, some rental outfits do a good job with maintenance. Others don’t. I’ve seen oil change stickers on rentals that indicate a 15k-20k oil change interval for cars that probably get a lot of stop-and-go use in a large city.

      The one data point I have – I did buy a 1999 Camry once that was an ex-rental. Great car, well-oiled machine with absolutely zero rattles (it came from Japan vs Kentucky), and always seemed to have more power than it should. I got bored with it after 2 years and sold it off. Plus, I believe there was something weird starting to happen with the alternator, so I didn’t stick around long enough to find out if it was a cheap repair or not.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Hertz at least is keeping their cars a LOT longer. I got an ’11 Taurus at ATL a couple weeks ago with 67K(!!) on it. And it was no different than one with 27K on it, so I certainly see why they are doing it.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Screwed up thing is if they are both same MY and they dump the 67K and 27K around the same time, they will probably get similar money even though one is twice as used. There are several variables in play inc overall condition (xclean/clean/avg/rough), model year, demand, and bank financing, but mileage is typically not one of them. Watch Hertz start keeping everything till 60K…

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      The Enterprise Avenger I discussed up-thread had 36K on it.

  • avatar

    My wife and I bought a Nissan Pathfinder that was a fleet vehicle. It provided 11 trouble free years of service, only requiring routine maintenance and three sets of tires.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I bought an old Chevy pickup that had belonged to the Forest Service. It had been used in central and eastern Oregon, and that was the reason I felt safe in buying it. First, that’s dry country, so there were no worries about rust bubbles etc. showing up after I bought it. Second, that’s quite desolate country, and no one wants to be stranded forty miles from pavement by a poorly-maintained vehicle, thus vehicles tend to be better cared for both by the driver and the owner. Sure enough the truck was trouble-free for me.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    The scheduled maintenance on cars is the minimum I would do, personally. I may be a lunatic, but 5k is my oil interval, I use full synthetic, change the Wix filter and clean my K&N at the same time. My last new car called for these routines at an interval I cannot allow. My transmissions are serviced at 25k, again full synthetic, and when buying used, I always install Amsoil in the third member. Given this anal retentive behavior, I find rentals lacking, especially when considering the nature of the drivers. There are plenty of well kept cars out there. You have to look hard and usually pay more when found, but it is money well spent. Pay now – or pay later.

  • avatar

    Cop out answer for me: It depends.

    I mean, a Pre-Purchase Inspection is table stakes for me, so certainly do that. After that, acknowledge your fleet special has probably been abused by at least one driver, but most cars seem to be designed to hold-up to at least some short-term abuse.

    For example, we strongly considered getting post-fleet W-body Buick about 10 years ago with the piston-slap special 3.1L V6. Not a sexy car or powertrain, but tolerant of hard use.

    Today, I wouldn’t consider anything with a Dual-Clutch Auto, CVT, or turbocharged engine coming out of a fleet. Conventional automatics, natural aspiration, and something from the Detroit 3 would be my choice.

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    My best friend gets to order a new company car every two years or 60k miles. He gets to choose the model, color and even add options (at his expense). I bought his last two Explorers (’03 XLT 4WD and ’07 Eddie Bauer 2WD) but skipped the troublesome ’05 XLT 2WD he had in between). I planned to buy the ’08 Fusion SEL V6 that he had next, but he got in an accident around 50k miles and the body shop did a crappy job…so I passed.

    I sold the ’03 Explorer XLT to my sister when I got the ’07 and she is still driving it with over 240,000 miles! A rear wheel ABS sensor and new radiator are the only repairs it has ever needed. Meanwhile, the ’07 Eddie Bauer (which he had to pay extra to upgrade from the XLT) was a nightmare from hell! He took care of both religiously and neither one of them gave him any trouble, but that didn’t guarantee that they would hold up long-term!

    I can’t imagine buying a rental car just because I don’t know who has driven it and any abuse it might have suffered. After that ’07 Explorer, I didn’t buy another fleet car from my best friend either…

  • avatar

    I have a recollection of having read that a study had shown that cars with more different drivers early on had engines that broke in better, lasted longer. If true, it’s an extension of the principal that you shouldn’t drive a new engine at the same speed for any extended period of time.

    In any case, my uncle Al bought a rental fleet Olds in the early ’90s. It was trouble free and even at 100k the engine did not use any oil. (Al, no longer with us, alas, would have maintained the car meticulously.)

    That, of course, is an anecdote, and as far as medical researchers are concerned, an anecdote and 50 cents will get you enough gas to go several maybe five miles down the interstate in a reasonably efficient modern car.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    It’s probably the same odds of any other used car.

    I would feel much better though about a company fleet car than say one from Budget or Enterprise. I tend to think company employees are going to have a little more incentive not to do something stupid to the car that belongs to the organization that signs their paycheck.

    The one thing that would bother me about a fleet car is people tend to make “jack-rabbit” starts when it’s a car they don’t own, basically flooring it after every stop. This can be hard on an automatic transmission, I would be willing to bet certain fleet cars have higher transmission failure rates than the same model not in a fleet duty.

  • avatar
    Ion

    A better question here is does your company have a fleet maintenance account, PHH, GE, LeasePlan, etc. If so than you can find out the vehicles schedule of what was done according to the providers time table.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Even if they don’t have a maintenance contract they still have records of what was done to the vehicle, they need those for tax purposes. Many years ago I bought a car from an insurance company that had been used by their adjusters. I went in and asked for the guy I had talked to on the phone. Went in and sat down at his desk and he presented me with a file on the vehicle and allowed me to look through it. It was all nicely arrange in chronological order with receipts for the oil changes, brakes, tune ups ect.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    The reality is that most fleet drivers of cars like this don’t drive them any differently than they do their own cars. So if you have access to the maintenance records you are better off buying the fleet car than a random used car from a random dealer that you will not have access to the maintenance records.

    Sure a fleet driver may not be as anal about not eating in the car as they may be with their own car. On the other hand a person might be more careful with the company car than their own since it would reflect bad on them if they put it back in the parking lot with scrapes and dents or full of trash since their boss or co-workers might find out that they were the one responsible.

    So size up your co-workers and if they seem to be reasonable people and you don’t get into the pool cars and find them filled with trash or having problems you will probably do better than purchasing that random used car from a random dealer or classified ad.

    Rental cars are much the same as a person will typically drive them as they do their own cars and may even be more careful about scrapes, dings or not spilling their coffee in them since their is the potential of getting hit with an excessive cleaning or damage charge in the immediate future rather than taking a hit in resale value in the distant future.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    If you’re looking for a late model used car, they usually come from one of two sources: fleet or lease return. If the car you’re wanting isn’t a popular lease car, then the vast majority of what’s out there will be from a fleet.

    Individual owners hold onto new car purchase for a long time now, if you want a car that’s less than six years old it will probably be from a fleet if it’s not a lease return.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Maintenance-wise, fleet will do what is legally required. Still it comes down to luck-of-the-draw, some will be better picks than others. Fleet has a tendency to utilize cheaper, rebuilt parts which may or may not meet your expectations for the longer term.

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    To me, it’s about a maintenance as much as it is about the care that was put in the car. A gently used one owner vehicle that was cared for would generally be in immaculate condition. A one year old rental car will usually have a lifetime of scratches, spilled fluids and couple pounds worth of old fries between seats. Not to mention if youre anywhere near Georgia, you’ll have fabric/carpet stained permanently by the red soil.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    Upthewazzu— As a former rental manager you probably have enough interesting information to give us a complete rundown of the business. Maybe the editor can talk you into it.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    One thing to remember on fleet and rental cars.

    Most are “self insured,” that means if there is an accident, the rental agency will pay for the repairs out of pocket, and chase down whatever insurance reimbursement they can find.

    That means in many cases, any prior accident won’t show up in a CarFax report.

    I’ve rented huge numbers of rental cars related to work and play. Not all rental agencies, and rental lots are created equally. I’ve had car keys taken away from me because a turn signal bulb is out. On the other hand Dollar Rent-A-Car in Denver gave me a Ford Fusion with a completely FUBAR driver’s seatbelt, the check airbag light on, and I was told too bad when I was seeking a car that didn’t have the potential to give me the GM Cobalt treatment. It vibrated beyond all belief while driving thanks to the hopelessly out of balance tires.

    YMMV – but I know how I generally treat rental cars — and we’ve read the antic from various TTAC editors — I have mixed feelings.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Yeah, they may be self-insured but if the renter gets into an accident, no matter who’s fault it is, the rental car company will try to collect from the renter’s insurance company for fixing the rented car.

      One time, a car rented in San Diego, CA, by a friend of mine was hit while parked in a parking garage in Escondido, CA, resulting in a really bad scrape and gash from the passenger side front door all the way back to the rear bumper.

      The rental company went after his insurance co (USAA) because he carried full coverage on his own cars in Huntsville, AL.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Unless it is a police car then if there was any significant damage a police report will usually be made and that will usually show up in CarFax.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    This is an interesting question. My experience with rental cars is pretty mixed. A year ago I rented a Mustang in Seattle that had a tire with a slow leak. I drove off the lot and the TPMS lit up within 15 minutes. Unfortunately, I had to meet someone and didn’t have time to return it. Dealing with it was a fairly major pain, because I was on the Olympic Peninsula which is not exactly running over with tire filling stations. The rental company did cut me a break when I returned after 10 days. A question I don’t know the answer to is whether the car warranty is voided when the vehicle is put into fleet or rental service. For people counting on the remainder of the new car warranty to take care of them, that could be some real unpleasant news. I’ve noticed that some dealer CPO former rental vehicles, which should take care of that problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      Bruce: A question I don’t know the answer to is whether the car warranty is voided when the vehicle is put into fleet or rental service.

      I’m pretty sure the answer is NO. Or at least it was years ago when I returned a rented Town Car with an electronic trunk latch that had stopped working during my trip (it really looked great driving up and down the East Coast with a bungee cord holding the trunk lid down). I was afraid they were going to blame me and try to charge me but the manager just shrugged and said “Ford will be fixing that under warranty”.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Most rental companies will not rent to people under 25, so there goes the ‘joy rider’ or ‘trasher’ theory.

    • 0 avatar

      Rental cars are always a crapshoot.
      Best rental ever…a 320d in Germany with sport package and full nav system. (This was normal Avis, not a special setup-saw 225 kph legally)
      Best US rental…an FX30 in Montana (!!!!) (lot was full of Nissans that year) Saw triple digits.
      Worst rental…Chevy Aveo (roller skate), Dodge Durango (POS from heck)
      Surprisingly good rental cars…Ford Focus, and Kia Optima.

      I wring out my rentals, but I also wring out my cars…don’t beat on either one.

  • avatar
    Hemi

    Some of them offer deals if your mechanic checks off on th car. The problem is a lot of these rental agencies sell them at fixed prices with no haggling. I’ve also heard the factory warranty doesn’t transfer to you because it was prior fleet.

    Depends where the car was driven, here in NYC they are driven horribly and banged up a lot. Insurance will often get body damage repaired cheaply or crap respray on the bumper. The interior and the underbody hopefully is an indication of how it was treated. I’ve sat in some nice old rentals and some fucked up “new” rentals. Majority of people don’t treat their personal car well, so they sure as hell won’t be nice to a rental.


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