Used Cars From Shrinking Rental Fleets May Not Be the Steal You Expect

George Chamoun, chief executive of ACV Auctions, which conducts online used-car appraisals and auctions, attributed the rebound in vehicle values to more demand for used cars as people avoided public transportation and ride-hailing services out of concern about the virus. Used-car values in some states are nearly back to where they were before the pandemic, he said, and in some — like Florida — are higher.

But even as some people are buying cars to commute to work, others may be continuing to work at home, which may reduce demand for cars. Auto manufacturers cut production in response to the pandemic, and that may push more buyers to used models, buoying demand — and prices.

All of that doesn’t mean there won’t be deals to be had, Mr. Rahim said, but consumers shouldn’t count on fire-sale prices.

Still, Julie Blackley, a spokeswoman for the car research firm iSeeCars, recommended checking rental agencies’ sales websites. The company analyzed thousands of cars available in May on, where Hertz sells directly to consumers, and found many models were available at prices considerably lower than expected. On average, vehicles could be found for about $1,400 below market value, up from an average discount of less than $1,000 in April.

But rental cars, especially smaller models, which are typically less expensive to rent, may have more miles on them than other used cars, iSeeCars reported. The average mileage on Hertz cars sold in May was 31 percent higher than on used cars from typical dealerships. But luxury cars, which are less popular rental options because of their expense, often have “significantly” lower mileage than average.

Here are some questions and answers about buying a used rental car:

What are the pros and cons of buying a car from a rental agency?

Rental cars have many drivers, some of whom may not have treated the vehicle as gently as they would their own car. For that reason, buying directly from a major rental company may be preferable to buying from smaller outlets, which tend to buy used cars from the big companies and hold on to them for another cycle of rentals, said Jon Linkov, deputy auto editor at Consumer Reports.

“It’s had a life already,” he said. “Best to stay away from the third life.”

Most big rental companies replace their cars when they are one to two years old, but most warranties expire after a certain number of miles, Mr. Linkov said. So even if the model is relatively new, the time left on the manufacturer’s warranty may be limited.

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