By on January 29, 2015

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You never know what car you’re going to get at the rental counter. Whether you’re at an airport in Anchorage, a Milwaukee suburb, or in Tahiti, you won’t know how you’ll get from Point A to Point B, or if you’ve ever vacationed in Tahiti, Point A to Point A. It could better than your usual car, a newer version of your usual car, worse than your usual car, or horribly worse than your usual car, the last category reserved for the Dodge Avenger and Chevy Spark.

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When I was at the counter, my reservation specified a full-size car, so that thankfully meant no Avenger or Spark. The Taurus and Impala, the perennial full-size rentals, have gotten pretty good, so I was really looking forward to one of those. Alas, there were no full-size or even mid-size cars at my Hertz Local Edition. So I was supposed to get a 2013 Corolla. I didn’t want the Corolla, as it looked tired and had Iowa plates, so it a) definitely had plenty of miles on it, and b) the plates were going to make me a target for California law enforcement.

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After asking the rep about all the available cars he had (“How about that Avenger that just came in?”), I ended up with a Tuxedo Black 2013 Ford Focus parked way back in the lot. That’s right. 2013. You might be thinking, “Oh, it probably didn’t have much mileage so Hertz decided to keep it in the fleet.” Well, I can safely write that wasn’t the case. It had 44,594 miles on the odometer. That is not a typo. Hertz seriously does keep cars in their fleet for that long.

On my drive home, many issues made themselves known. The car had obviously sat in the lot of my Hertz Local Edition for such a long time that the interior was stuffy, the air-conditioning blew musty air, the transmission’s clutches weren’t in the best condition, and there was so much static coming from the stereo. Additionally, the transmission never seemed to choose the right gear when climbing up the steep hill to get to my house.

I’m not going to discuss the interior that much since most of you have probably rented the Focus, sat in it at an auto show, bought it, read the brochure, seen the TV ads, made out in the back seat, etc. But I liked it. The gauge cluster and stereo interface were very intuitive. I didn’t notice any large panel gaps like I would’ve in a 2005 Ford Focus after 40,000 miles. The touch points still felt fine. The seats were surprisingly comfortable after that much rental car duty. The only qualm I had was with SYNC addressing me in Spanish since someone named Arturo had plugged in his iPhone at some point.

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I didn’t like the engine. The valve-timing system wasn’t the best, especially when climbing steep hills. 160 horsepower was not enough for this especially in the higher gears. However, if your goal is to travel at the speed limit on local roads and highways, the engine has more than enough strength to hold its own.

More important to discuss than the engine, however, is the transmission. Around town, even if you’re used to dual-clutch transmissions (which is what Ford’s PowerShift transmission is), this car is horrible. The clutches always feel like they’re going to go every time you accelerate from a stoplight. When I got the car, the rep had taken special care to inform me that how the throttle and transmission acted was normal.

I wish Ford would’ve made the gears selectable, instead of giving us the usual PRNDL, which makes most drivers treat the transmission like they would any automatic. As an owner of a 40,000-mile Jetta 2.0T with the DSG, my VW struck me as more refined (though I’m very careful with my footwork in traffic), and I found it interesting Ford doesn’t recommend transmission fluid changes at some of the service intervals.

The handling was something that brought a smile to my face. Ford got the suspension tuning spot-on. On a winding road, I didn’t feel compelled to brake in the bends, and the tires didn’t squeal either. Traction control is incredibly fair, and though the intervention is noticeable, it still lets you enjoy the car. After 40,000 miles worth of rental car abuse, I was amazed at the amount of feel I got through the steering.

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As for trunk space, the area is enough for two to three suitcases, but it probably wouldn’t be able to swallow as much cargo as a Jetta. Thankfully though, the spare tire, housed beneath the trunk, is full-size. Furthermore, rear legroom was fine, but I don’t think most people would be capable of sitting there for more than two hours, like in most compact cars.

Now, I wanted this review to be about what a Focus would be like after 44,000 miles. I wanted to ensure the car had been maintained, wasn’t involved in any accidents, and was loved unconditionally by its owner. Therefore, whoever would be considering a 2013 Focus, or any other 2013 Focus with 40,000 miles, would know what they were getting themselves into.

As a result, I went the extra mile (not that the Focus needed it) and ran the Autocheck on the car to have an idea of what it went through. It gave me no details, except for the car’s initial registration date. After more than 44,000 miles, there were dents all over the car, including a major one on one of the doors (seriously, the inspection form when I signed for the car is marked all over). Also, the car had to have been through a few services, none of which appear on the report. And according to the Hertz rep who signed out the car to me, the windows had been replaced after being smashed with the last renter. I only knew that bit after asking about the pieces on paper in the rear passenger windows. Even those details didn’t show up on the Autocheck report.

But I found even more worrying things when I simply entered the car’s VIN into Google. I managed to discover that Hertz actually had my very car for sale on eBay back in December at around 44,500 miles. I also managed to catch a Google-cached November listing of the car on the Hertz Auto Sales website. By the way, to the surprise of no one by this point, the Autocheck report didn’t catch this too. Meanwhile, Hertz has known for at least the last two months that it needs to get rid of this car!

So how on earth did I end up with a car that Hertz couldn’t sell? My guess is Hertz ended up pulling it from their sales lot once the holiday demand for rental cars happened, and automakers were too busy selling cars to individual customers that they perhaps didn’t have enough inventory to push into fleet sales. As a result, when I looked at the 2013 Ford Focuses on the website of the local Hertz Auto Sales, not one had below 50,000 miles, and some had well above 60,000, demonstrating that rental companies aren’t turning over their fleet as much as they used to.

In the end, should you buy a 2013 Ford Focus SE with over 40,000 miles on the clock?

I don’t think it would be a bad idea, as long as the transmission is inspected, you’ve ensured all recall work is done, and you have an idea of the service history.

But should you buy a high-mileage ex-rental car, particularly one that a rental company was incapable of selling to normal people and one with a questionable dual-clutch transmission?

As my car might’ve told me after hearing my voice commands in broken Spanish, “No way, Jose.

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90 Comments on “Rental Review: 2013 Ford Focus SE...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    I have not driven a Powershift Ford in a few years but I HATED the two examples I did drive.

    It was the worst transmission I ever experienced until I drove a DCT Dodge Dart.

    I don’t get why Ford builds a transmission that feels like such trash when it is working as designed. At least FCA had the good sense to drop the DCT from most of the Dart lineup.

    • 0 avatar
      JREwing

      There’s no way I’d touch a Focus or a Fiesta with a 10-foot pole if either had a PowerShift transmission. If the driving experience didn’t ruin it for me, the horrid reliability survey results from Consumer Reports would.

      I’m moderately surprised the PowerShift is still included on the 2015 Focus – the refresh would’ve been a logical time to swap it out for the 6-speed out of the Escape and Fusion.

      To be honest, I’m not sure ANYONE does a dual-clutch automatic properly. Car and Driver reported some scary moments in traffic with their TDI Jetta when their dual-clutch unit hesitated to engage a clutch. It’s not awesome from a stoplight. It’s even worse when you’re sitting in oncoming traffic trying to make a left turn.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        I had no issues with the ’15 Focus I recently rented, except for some low speed jerkyness, I responded quickly and w/o any hesitation.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        Acura apparently does:
        http://articles.sae.org/13432/

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The DCT will be in the Focus and Fiesta until the 9F transmission or the new CVT comes out. I like the 6F much better than the Ford/Getrag DCT, but I’ve never driven the 6F in a car with 160 HP. I don’t know what it would act like.

        I had a Job 1 2012 Focus. The transmission would get used to one person’s driving style and anyone else that drove it would think that the transmission was messed up. I think that transmission is a terrible choice for a rental car.

        I’d buy a Focus again, but only a 5-speed SE Sport, ST, or future RS.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Considering how slow and balky the conventional Ford 6-spd autos I’ve tried have been, it’s not like you are missing out on a great torque-converter auto either.

    • 0 avatar
      Clueless Economist

      I own a 2012 Focus with 50k miles. The last DCT software upgrade really smoothed out the shifts. Maybe that rental hasn’t had the latest software refresh.

  • avatar
    badreligion702

    I have had a rental car from Hertz for the past 3 weeks, a 2013 Mercedes E350 Convertible with 38k+ miles, while my car undergoes repairs. It seems that Hertz tends to keep 2+ year old cars in its fleet, as the first car I had while I was waiting for them to get me a better vehicle was a 2013 Passat with over 50k miles and a powerful stench of stale cigarette smoke.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      My record is a Taurus SEL ATL with almost 60K on it. To Ford’s credit, it was just like new. They are keeping their cars a LONG time, and I bet that the Local Edition cars are often hand-me-downs from the airport locations.

      Haven’t gotten a stinky one since Hertz went all non-smoking, but I refused a few back in the day.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Sixt is THE BEST rental agency by far, and I’ve tried to spread the gospel to the B&B.

        The only problem with Sixt is that they’re only located in major airport hub locations, for now.

        They treat me like a king, there’s NEVER an issue upgrading at no charge if specified class of vehicle isn’t immediately available, they have a young fleet consisting of many premium vehicles such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, etc. (as they’re a German company), and I’ve gotten rates as low as $23 per day for an Audi A4.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Agree 100%, Sixt really is awesome. Both for service and for what they rent, and you absolutely cannot beat their prices. Not ALL of their locations are at airports though, they do have some oddball downtown or other transit hub locations.

          SilverCar is actually even better for service (they will take you to the terminal or your hotel after a drop-off), but they are not anything like as cheap. All they rent are silver Audi A4s and Q5s (some locations), from even fewer locations. Still about the same price as a Camry from Hertz though.

          I rent from Sixt at ATL, and SilverCar at DFW, both places I go frequently. One or the other is at SFO too, but I have not been there in a while where I needed to rent a car.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          I actually witnessed a shift knob come off in my friend’s hand in a Sixt W203. That said, we took it as more of a reflection on the manufacturer than on the rental agency. Colleagues generally had good things to say about them. (This was during a period of time when my employer’s main European office was in Dusseldorf.)

          And flimsy shift knob or not, it was still fun for us Americans that a base engine/manual W203 was a standard rental offering.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          Define “major airport hub locations”. Sixt does not appear at the main car rental counter at SFO, ORD, PHL, JFK, or BOS. There is actually a Sixt in Millbrae near SFO, but I don’t think you are going to find it if you land and follow signs for the rental car area; you would have to already know about it. Maybe they have something similar near the other airports I mentioned. Obviously this is only a small sampling of airports, but it looks like Sixt can be pretty had to find.

          Good tip though, I will keep an eye out for them.

  • avatar
    dwford

    It’s interesting that AutoCheck didn’t have any info on the car. An interesting story would be a comparison between AutoCheck, CarFax, etc to see which one contains the better information.

    • 0 avatar
      Satish Kondapavulur

      I wanted to! Unfortunately I couldn’t find anybody who could get me a free Carfax.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Autocheck or carfax only list the information that is available. If Hertz doesn’t provide it any, they don’t have anything to list.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I would be surprised if anything showed up on autocheck. The rental car companies don’t report doing service on their vehicles. The only things that would have shown up are an accident or theft that was reported to the police and maybe if a recall was performed at the dealer. Otherwise it woud never see a place that sells info to autocheck.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Rental companies rarely service their rental vehicles. All that is done during take-in at a dealership getting these rentals ready for sale as program cars. I have seen cars that had in excess of 15K miles on their OEM oil, with “Service Engine” lights glowing in the instrument cluster.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          I would NEVER buy an ex-rental, but having said that, know at least 2 people who did and had very few to no problems.

          As far as maintenance is concerned, most rental agencies take their vehicles, per recommended manufacturer service schedule, to a larger garage or large commercial dealership that has “fleet service” contract status/certification. This assures they will receive much higher resale values given proper maintenance shown on the paper trail,when the vehicles are sold at retail, or much more likely, wholesale auction (for retail resale).

          I’m sure Steve or Brian can add some info.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            They do try to generate that paper trail for the cars that they want to qualify for the buy back programs. For those that they keep long term and let them rack up a lot of miles they often defer or completely ignore scheduled maintenance. I’ve had a few rentals that had their “change oil now” light on. When I’ve mentioned it on turn in I’ve had them say “Oh they probably forgot to reset it” Which to me says that the guy knows they don’t change the oil at the recommended interval.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Service Engine does not mean that it needs an oil change, that is one of the acceptable things to indicate an emissions failure. The oil change indicators I’ve seen say things like Oil Change Required or something else with oil in the message.

  • avatar
    ItsMeMartin

    I’m really surprised that the Focus has the PRNDL shift pattern. I haven’t seen many automatic cars up close lately so I have to ask: is it common for newer models to have the L setting instead of the +/- sequential option? I find it strange; if I was looking for a new car with AT it would definitely be a dealbreaker.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Those transmissions are a real shame. A well calibrated planetary auto works fine and is probably cheaper too.

    • 0 avatar
      ItsMeMartin

      Definitely. There’s a reason why every “features-to-avoid” list that I read contains automatically-operated manual transmissions as the main topic, eclipsed only by pneumatic suspension. And while putting such efficient but complex and finicky transmissions in gas guzzlers and flagship models is understandable, there is really no need to do that in cheap compacts and city cars. I can understand that there’s more money to be made in servicing those DSGs and Powershifts but as you said, there is also money to be saved by installing simpler components – they are cheaper to produce and are already paid off.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m not *too* concerned about the DSG in my VW, but a conventional automatic would probably last longer…

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          The maintenance costs on the VW DSGs are a little off-putting. Never could understand why the TDI didn’t just get a traditional automatic since VW’s is good. The DSG is more of a performance transmission that likes to be driven hard and keep the revs up. Odd choice for an efficiency-minded diesel.

          • 0 avatar
            Satish Kondapavulur

            Usually I shop around prices for the DSG service on my 2.0T whenever the 4yr/40K comes up or the 8yr/80K comes up. If either of those full services are above $500-$600, I get the car serviced somewhere else.

          • 0 avatar
            ItsMeMartin

            I would guess it’s because the TDIs that you get in North America are not considered “economy” choices in Europe where the majority of them would be sold. Here, the value-oriented choices are the 1.4 and 1.6 TDIs and the 2.0 and bigger diesels are treated as “premium” engines chosen by more demanding clients which necessitates using the latest and greatest technology.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Don’t knock the dual clutch in the Fiesta or Focus; Jack & Derek think those vehicles are “game changers.”

      I wouldn’t drive any Ford with a PowerShift DC transmission even if it was free.

      Can I get an amen, Tres?

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        As someone that defends Ford around here I’ll give you an amen. Well, I’d drive a free Focus or Fiesta. Raj Nair will give you an amen as well. I’d love to see the look on his face when he drove the DCT 1.0T combo.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    “made out in the back seat”

    That’s anatomically impossible in the current gen Focus. Frankly the Fit has a larger back seat.

  • avatar
    AthensSlim

    Given the sweetheart deals on new Foci, I was giving serious thought to buying one. Then I started the research. No flippin’ way I’m getting a PowerShift/DCT in a car I expect to get 200k miles out of. Unfortunately, my wife is adamantly against adding another stick shift to the fleet, so no sale.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Wow! 35 yrs ago, Hertz rented me another Ford, A Fairmont in Cali too, with over 40k miles on the odometer and that one was really awful, needless to say I have never used them again and never will.I see things never change. I have never rented any other car with nearly that many miles.

  • avatar

    I prefer the Cruze to the Focus, just because I feel like it’s more familiar and better-put-together—although the latter is probably false. But the Focus makes an excellent used car, since it depreciates rather quickly. The Titanium Hatch with those gunmetal five-spoke wheels is probably the one I’d go for. But after we had a bad experience with an ex-fleet 2007 Dodge Caliber SXT (not that it wasn’t a festering pile of crap by design), I’ll never consider a used rental car. I’ve seen just how badly they’re abused…

  • avatar
    SC5door

    Had a Focus from Enterprise for a few weeks while out of town on work….and hated every minute of downtown traffic with it. Unfortunately they didn’t have an Escape that time around.

    Today I rode in 2013 Fusion with 65K on it (Co-workers “road car”), Check engine light on, and it slammed into gears. Car is not holding up well at all. He was pleased when the sunglasses holder fell out of the headliner.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    We have a 2013 Focus SE that we bought new. After 31,000 miles we have had zero problems with it. Of course, ours has been well taken care of, not beaten almost to death. I don’t think it’s fair to draw conclusions about a car based on one badly abused example.

    There is one other difference between our Focus and the rental which I believe to be important. Ours has the 5-speed manual transmission rather than the dual clutch “automatic”. The latter has been roundly criticized many places. I think most of the problem is that Ford programmed it to behave more or less like a conventional automatic transmission to avoid scaring off buyers who are used to that. In doing so, they threw away the advantages of a DCT. Given their goal, I agree that a conventional automatic transmission would have been a wiser choice.

    Unlike Satish, I am pleased with the SE’s engine. It likes to rev and rewards being wound out to redline. Due to the car’s level of refinement, it’s faster than it feels. Much of Satish’s bad driving experience is due, I believe, to the rental’s inferior transmission.

  • avatar
    Carl Kolchak

    I have a 2013 Focus. The trans was a lot better once they reflashed the software. Most of the time the trans is fine and in “Sport” mode is can be fun on the freeway. The car is a complete pain on hills and in stop and go traffic. If it wasn’t for the trans, the car would be great even with MFT (again reflashed)

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    That’s a lot of abuse. We bought a 2-yo ex-rental with 42K on it and it had nowhere near this level of damage. One door ding. A few light stains on the black fabric backseat. One missing rear floormat. And my favorite: a few dots on the center console where some mouth-breather used a pen or such as an auger. Otherwise it looks and drives just about new.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Initially I was put off of by these by their weird grilles and taillights, but after looking at the competition I wouldn’t mind a Focus so long as it were a dark blue hatch, the full size spare is a nice touch.

    I’m just concerned with dent resistance and transmission stuff, do these let you service the transmission or is it that “lifetime” stuff?

    • 0 avatar
      Satish Kondapavulur

      I read on some forum the transmission is supposed to last around 150,000 miles without service. As the owner of the DSG-equipped Jetta, I don’t believe it one bit.

      • 0 avatar
        Onus

        The Focus has a dry clutch. The VW has a wet clutch. The VW clutch will dump tons of junk into the general transmission fluid. Other than that its is a regular manual. So the high service interval makes sense.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I’d recommend changing the fluid at 75K miles. It’s WAAAAAAY cheaper than the VW fluid change. There isn’t much fluid in there, so that cuts down the cost. I paid under $100 for my Ford dealer to do it.

  • avatar
    Eyeflyistheeye

    I drove a Powershift-equipped ’13 Focus sedan shortly after I bought my ’14 Focus 5MT hatchback on request of a friend.

    For what it’s worth, the engine in the Powershift-equipped car felt “watered-down” to my 5MT’s. My only complaint about the engine is it’s a little lacking in torque off the line, but in 5th gear on the highway, it pulls ridiculously hard for its size and feels a little sportier than Honda’s base (blacktop) K20.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    When I bought our used 2009 Sedona in 2010, I discovered after bringing it home that it had been a Hertz rental car, but I purchased it at a Kia dealer.

    It had 18k miles on it, and it has given us another 60k mostly trouble-free miles. Having paid only $17k for it, it’s been a great deal.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      There is a relationship between the rental companies and local dealerships.

      In my area, program cars from rental or lease companies are wholesaled to local dealerships, as in Ford vehicles with Ford dealerships, Toyota products through Toyota dealerships, etc, for resale to the public.

      It used to be that rental companies like Hertz or Budget had their own lots where you could buy a retired rental. I bought an ’86 Towncar from Budget in Tucson, AZ. But it was typical rental-grade. IOW, it needed more fixin’ than most people were willing to give it, as!de from dents, nicks and scratches.

      We kept it for a couple of years but then bought a brand new 1992 Towncar. Rentals often are beat to death or trashed by non-caring renters.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        Our Ex Rental was originally from Georgia, sent to Auction and picked up by a the dealer and sold as a CPO car.

        One Owner They Said.
        Low Miles They Said.

        They forgot to mention that it was “one owner” with hundreds of drivers over some tough miles.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Hertz still has their local sales lots in major cities, see them all over the place. Not surprised they use dealers in smaller areas though.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The way it works is that the when the rental car companies make a purchase agreement with a manufacturer it includes a buy back agreement. The mfg sets the mix of cars that they will sell and what percentage of them they will buy back. For example no more than x% can be strippo models, a minimum of y% must be top of the line models. They will also dictate the mix of colors. They will also specify that none of the vehicles that they buy back can have been involved in a reported accident and will set the % of the various trim levels they will buy back. They also set the max mileage and age of the vehicles they will buy back.

        The mfg then buys back those vehicles and auctions them off in private auctions open only to their franchised dealers. Many of those cars are then sold as CPO.

        Meanwhile the rental car company sells the beat up and high mile cars either on their own lots or sells them at auctions open to any dealer.

        • 0 avatar

          How interesting. That explains part of how trims and colors get picked. I’ve rented a lot of Cruzes, for example. I usually get a 2LT, but there’s always the odd 2LT with the RS package, or even an LTZ, sometimes with the full MyLink-integrated navigation system.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Yeah that is the mfg picking their “program” or CPO cars that causes those vehicles with higher equipment. The rental companies don’t have to accept those terms but then they don’t qualify for the best discounts.

            The mfg benefits by getting the higher trim models in the hands of renters, hopefully to put the vehicle in a better light and in theory will want those fancy features if they purchase one later. They also benefit by making a little money on selling them to the dealers. Some people who are planning on purchasing a new car use rentals as an extended test drive. So the idea is that if they get say the navigation on the rental, they will want it on the car they purchase.

  • avatar
    anti121hero

    I drive a fiesta for work every now and then with the same radio setup and i absolutely hate it. I cannot understand anything about it, and i don’t have the time to sit with the manual and figure it all out so it makes listening to music a complete hassle.

  • avatar
    Brumus

    I’d buy an ’04 Cavalier over a new Focus with the PowerShift (and spend the savings on a new fishing boat).

    I’d buy a new Focus with the stick over pretty much anything in its segment (and yes, that includes the Mazda 3).

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    And to think this car was rented from “Hertz”, the big name company that you pay more in order to rent a better car. How long are the no-name rental companies holding onto their cars now? No wonder O.J. isn’t jumping over barriers to get to the Hertz lot these days. (Oh, I forgot, he’s “busy”.)

  • avatar
    BobWellington

    As if you needed any more reason to get the manual…

  • avatar
    Boff

    We rented a ’13 Impala from Thrifty in Tampa with 45K miles on it. Cosmetically, the car was unbelievably bad on the outside (an uncountable number of dings and scratches and scuffs) but fine on the inside (except the interior of the trunk which seemed to have been taken apart and put back together again by kindergarteners). I asked the attendant what the deal was (I hadn’t received an inspection form) and he waved his hand and said they only look for collision damage. No kidding. The car drove great, except that it seemed just a touch slow to fire up.

    Bottom line: I’d be very reluctant to buy a higher-mile ex-rental, although I wouldn’t rule out a cherry example with 15K miles.

  • avatar
    SV

    “In the end, should you buy a 2013 Ford Focus SE with over 40,000 miles on the clock?

    I don’t think it would be a bad idea, as long as the transmission is inspected, you’ve ensured all recall work is done, and you have an idea of the service history.”

    I would avoid a used Powershift Ford at all costs. Seriously, I’m a big fan of this gen Focus – I drive an ST and it’s been great for ~23k miles so far – but the auto trans is a disaster. With a manual and without the similarly bad MyFordTouch, there’s not much to go wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      Satish Kondapavulur

      I was thinking that as a rental car, my transmission would be a lot more abused. I’m surprised to see in the comments that even individual owners have complaints!

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I had a similar rental a little while ago, albeit the hatchback. I sat in the backseat for about 4 hours and it was fine. Not great, not bad, but very decent for the class.

    I thought it was quieter than a Cruze I had.

    To me, buying a compact car Used is not a good value. For a small price jump, one can get a midsize with the same options.

  • avatar
    mechaman

    You had me at ‘full size spare’. With all these damn junk trucks wandering around Chicago and dropping god-knows what all of nails, screws and such on the street, I do NOT like those donuts as spares. If Emperor Rahm wants to help us out, how about regulating those scrap spreaders?

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    We have PowerShift Focuses (Foci!) and conventional automatic Fusions as pool cars at my work. Both are outstanding cars to drive, despite their hilariously de-contented fleet trim (seat backs that don’t recline? check!). But the transmissions in both leave much to be desired. The PowerShift behaves much like a regular automatic, just jerkier. The Fusion’s conventional automatic hates downshifting and ruins the fun of driving a big car with shockingly good handling. (Well, the Fusion’s idiotic electronic turn signal stalk also annoys endlessly.)

    So imagine my surprise when I got a rental Fiesta, from a crappy cut-rate rental company, with the PowerShift–and found it a thoroughly pleasant car to drive in all conditions, with much snappier shifts, and willingness to shift, than the Focus. The Fiesta’s DSG is programmed to behave like a DSG, and I enjoyed it.

    It is pretty funny to hear the Focus characterized as lacking power, though. Lacking cruise control, our fleet Foci always seem to want to go 90 on the freeway. The Fiesta truly does lack power, but it makes a nice muted braaap with the pedal mashed–the old “fun to drive a slow car fast” thing.

  • avatar
    Brumus

    Had a ’13 5-door Focus Titanium rental.

    Very much liked the car, save for the PowerShift. What tweaks has Ford made to said transmission since the ’13 model year, or was I in fact driving the upgraded tranny?

  • avatar
    turf3

    I never rent from Hertz, because their prices are about double everyone else’s. My rentals from places like Alamo, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise are usually in better condition than what is described above.

    I guess if you’re traveling on business and your employer specifies Hertz; I fail to see why anyone with Internet access would ever rent from Hertz for personal business unless you have some kind of frequent-renter discount; and even then, why not switch to one of the others and make use of their frequent-renter discount?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      If you are a frequent renter, you generally won’t get a crap car from them. My most common rental lately has been a MB C250. At major airport locations, there is not much in it on price, and the cheaper places tend to be really annoying in other ways, like not having nearly as many shuttle buses. When I started my current job, I tried using Dollar to save a buck, and it was really irritating watching 10 Hertz shuttles go by while I waited forever for the Dollar bus. And then even with the damage waiver, they would go over the car with a fine-toothed comb upon return. National would be my second choice, but Hertz has a much better reward program overall, and too often the “choose your car” thing at National ends up being “what color Impala would you like today”. Though my teammates who use National say they have gotten much better about that. I’m too invested in Hertz to switch, having a ton of non-expiring points with them for free rentals.

      Ultimately, it is just like flying – if you only do it twice a year, then just go with whoever is cheapest. But when you do it twice a week – and I am doing THREE separate trips/rentals next week, you pick ONE, and you stick with them, and you pick the one that gives you the best perks. Because that the perks are what make travelling 150+ days a year tolerable. That goes for hotels too. I fly one airline, stay at one hotel chain, and rent from Hertz with rare exceptions. And because of this, I am able to spend a month in Europe this summer with it costing me just about nothing. $100 for the first class plane ticket, and nothing at all for the hotels.

      My employer does get a substantial discount with Hertz though.

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    I have been a frequent renter for over 20 years and have seen the cars age go up over time, but only once was I let down by a mechanical failure – an ’06 Pontiac Grand Prix with only a couple thousand miles on it. Transmission let go mid drive. It could have been neutral dropped repeatedly by the previous renter or a defect. I rented almost 50 Grand Prix that year alone, for whatever reason the Pittsburgh airport National had GP’s almost exclusively as the full-size car that year – or I always got there late and the other cars were taken, but I don’t think that was the case. Anyway, I have had a few Volvo, Jaguar and Mercedes that have had in excess of 50K on them that were in mostly good condition and drove fine.

    Much more frequently I would get cars that had less than 1,000 miles. Quite a few times I got cars with less than 10 miles on them.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Oddly enough, a Grand Prix was one of the few cars I have had break on me too. Turn signals stopped working, then progressively most of the rest of the electrical system. I also had an eAssist Buick Regal that had a serious transmission issue a year or two ago. That one had to be towed – it would randomly just disengage the drive and not go. FUN in Dallas traffic. I made them bring a new car to my hotel and take away the old one.

      I’ve seen the same over the past 20 years. The average age/mileage has certainly gone up, but it has not been an issue. Today’s rental with 30K on it is just as nice as yesterday’s with 10K. And I too get a lot more cars with <10K on them than cars with a lot of miles. And plenty of "first rental" virgin cars too, most recently a loaded Kia Sedona.

      I will say that the few times I have rented from the "Local Edition" locations, the cars are very noticeably more beat. Those cars are mostly in the replacement rental market as opposed to the business traveler market at the airport so I assume the get a lot more abuse and/or are hand-me-downs from the airport.

      For sure, 20 years ago was the bad old days for rentals. I rented from Avis then. They were owned by GM and they were a dumping ground for dreck. You have not lived until you spent a week in a poverty spec Olds Achieva 4cyl with crank windows. Or a base Buick Rendezvous. Oh, baby, some good times back then. And it was a post-paid corporate account, so no perks, no free rentals, and no upgrades for poor krhodes1.

  • avatar
    derekson

    I can’t believe you said the seats were comfortable. The non-Platinum trim Focus has the worst seats I’ve seen/felt in a car in decades. A friend has a 2012 SE (I believe, it might be an ’11 or ’13) and the first thing when I got in the passenger seat was, “dear god how did you buy this over a Cruze or a Jetta with these awful seats?” In September I was in the market for a 2-3 year old car in the class, and test drove a Focus and the seats were even WORSE than I remembered in my friend’s Focus. I also thought the engine felt underpowered, as the reviewer said. I did test drive a 2012 Focus Titanium which had decent seats (but it was overpriced and I didn’t really want to bet on MFT lasting another 5-6 years without blowing up).

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      This comment and others in this thread illustrate why reviews are mainly for amusement and an excuse to talk about cars, and not as a reasonable basis for picking your next car. You absolutely must spend time in any potential purchase. Never give a car 15 minutes and think it will be OK because some publication said the seats are comfortable.

      I think every recent Ford I’ve sat in has fantastic seats, Focus included. Conversely, I was miserable in a Cruze within five minutes, the seats ruining a car I otherwise thought was great. Also in contrast to some opinions stated here:
      * anyone who finds the backseat of a Focus acceptable must be < 5'8"
      * I thought the Cruze had the NVH of a Lexus compared to the Focus
      * Focus steering feels like a video game wheel to me

      It's all very subjective, especially the seats. Most of the time I read reviews/opinions and wonder if I drove the same car.

      • 0 avatar
        This Is Dawg

        I can’t attest to the seats in the focus, because the two times I’ve ever been in one, I was way too distracted by my knees pressing against the glove box. I have really long legs, but that thing makes a corolla feel like limo.

  • avatar
    tw6speed

    I can’t speak for any one else’s rental experience with the MK3 Focus, but as a owner of a 2012 Focus SEL (DCT) with 94K on the odometer; I can assure you that my dual clutch doesn’t exibit the issues that I keep reading about. Fords Power Shift transmissions has to learn your driving patterns. I personally think it takes 500 to 1000 miles to adjust to a driver; so as a rental unit, that transmission would seem confused. My Focus handles like a go cart and it accelerates off the line like its possessed. Its been super reliable and I just can’t wait to drive it past 300K. I say this because I just sold my mechanic my 2003 Focus SE with 308K miles on it. It has the original engine and trans. So again a renters experience may very but as a owner, I assure you that the Ford Focus has few equals in its class, outside of the Mazda 3 and the VW Jetta.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    I think is Hertz is not only keeping cars longer, they are also selling some to other fleets. When I rented a car from Dollar in DC in November I got a 2013 Mazda2 with 45K on the clock, Florida plates, and a Hertz contract from September in the glove compartment.
    By way of a micro-capsule review, the Mazda did a very good job of hauling 4 people around the DC area for not much money or gas although fitting 4 carry on bags in the trunk required removing the parcel shelf. The automatic did the job without fuss, it got of its own way merging and handling was a sharp as you would expect from a Ford/Mazda platform. While it was a bit basic, it was still nicer than the 90s cars I usually drive.
    Ironically I spent almost as much per day parking the Mazda as I did renting it but I would use Dollar again and consider buying a Mazda2 if I needed a car in that class.

  • avatar
    Mr. Inglorious

    I can’t attest to the seats in the focus, because the two times I’ve ever been in one, I was way too distracted by my knees pressing against the glove box. I have really long legs, but that thing makes a corolla feel like limo.

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