Shoppers of used cars tend to buy from private sellers or car dealers, but there is another option that might be worth considering: a fleet vehicle. Fleet vehicles are those that were purchased or leased by a business or government agency and used on a regular basis.
Would you ever consider buying a fleet vehicle? Here’s the lowdown on if their advantages outweigh the negatives.
Types of Fleet Vehicles
When considering purchasing a fleet vehicle, it’s helpful to know the different types of fleet vehicles available.
Rental Car Companies
You may find fleet vehicles from rental car companies such as Hertz, Avis, or Enterprise. These companies often sell their used vehicles as part of their fleet management strategy.
Rental car fleets typically consist of low-to-midrange trim vehicles, and often, these vehicles are well-maintained and have documented service histories.
Keep in mind that rental cars may have higher mileage than privately-owned vehicles and the term “drive it like you stole it” is commonly associated with rental cars.
Another source of fleet vehicles is government agencies. These vehicles, usually sedans or SUVs, may have been previously used by law enforcement, public utilities, or other government departments.
Government vehicles usually have regular maintenance schedules and may be more reliable. However, some vehicles, especially those used for emergency services, can have higher wear and tear due to their demanding usage.
Fleet vehicles from various companies are another option. These typically include sedans, trucks, or vans that have been used by businesses for different purposes.
Company fleet vehicles may have been driven by employees, used for transportation or delivery, or even as service vehicles for technicians. Since these vehicles are used for business, they often come with documented maintenance records.
Advantages of Buying a Fleet Vehicle
1. Strong Inventory
Fleet vehicles are widely available and are usually sold to auction houses before consumers can get their hands on them. Consumers can sometimes buy one directly, skipping the middle man and his price markups.
The U.S. General Services Administration operates a GSA Fleet Vehicles Sales website that sells approximately 40,000 vehicles annually at approximately 40 sites across the nation.
A variety of makes and models are offered including some electric vehicles. Some states, counties and cities also sell fleet vehicles directly to the public. A web search of “government fleet vehicles” should reveal local results.
2. The Price is Right
When no middle man is standing in the way, fleet vehicles can be competitively priced. Pricing typically reflects age, wear and tear, mileage and the equipment package.
Don’t expect much room to negotiate, however, as prices are typically set and inflexible. For instance, when available to the public, such vehicles usually have the price prominently featured on the windshield. That’s the price you’ll pay and, yes, cash is king.
3. Regular Maintenance
Companies that manage fleet vehicles are typically vigilant about sticking to service schedules. This means that when you buy a fleet vehicle, you can expect it to have been regularly maintained and serviced.
4. Vehicle History
Fleet vehicles often come with detailed maintenance records, giving you a clear picture of the vehicle’s history and any potential issues.
Disadvantages of Buying a Fleet Vehicle
1. Hard Driving Takes it Toll
There is no way to escape the fact that fleet vehicles are used and often abused. Taxi and police fleets punish these vehicles which sometimes hit the market with more than 200,000 miles on the odometer.
Carefully following a maintenance plan can help, but you still have a vehicle that has seen much wear and tear and looks the part. If maintenance records have been kept, then examine them. If not, then inspect the vehicle carefully and don’t expect a warranty for well-worn models.
Expect to repair all dings, dents and the paint over stain the taxi decal left when it was removed from the vehicle before heading to fleet sale.
2. Hit or Miss
Vehicle fleets may reflect a variety of makes and models, but if you are looking for a well-optioned model, your choices are limited.
Typically, the rental vehicle companies — Hertz, Budget and Enterprise, to name a few — stock higher trim level models. Most government and public utility fleets feature vehicles that do not come fully equipped. Nevertheless, the variety of trims and package offerings will vary depending on the department and vehicle use.
3. Financing May Not be Available
Most fleet vehicles are sold “as is” with a cash payment or certified check required. One exception is the rental car companies, as some provide financing or they may accept a loan you arranged with your bank.
Bargain prices are synonymous with fleet vehicles, but a good deal on price may turn out to be a bad deal on reliability. If you are handy with cars, then repair concerns are something that you can handle yourself.
4. Resale Value
Fleet vehicles, due to their higher mileage and potential for more wear and tear, may have a lower resale value than privately-owned cars.
5. Higher Mileage
Fleet vehicles are often used daily by multiple drivers, resulting in higher mileage compared to privately-owned cars. This can be a concern for potential buyers who are worried about wear and tear on the engine, transmission, and brakes.
6. Multiple Drivers
With many different drivers using the vehicle, there’s a higher likelihood of inconsistent driving habits. This can lead to increased wear and tear on the car’s components.
Where to Buy Fleet Vehicles
If you’re still looking at the option to purchase a fleet vehicle, you have various sources at your disposal for finding one. Here are the most common.
Attending auctions can be a great way to find fleet vehicles at potentially lower prices. Many car rental companies and other organizations often sell their used vehicles through auctions. This means you can have access to a wide variety of previously owned vehicles that could be suitable for your needs.
To make the most of auctions, be sure to research the vehicles you’re interested in and set a budget beforehand. Keep in mind that many auctions may require a deposit or registration fee to participate. And remember, vehicles purchased at auctions are typically sold “as-is,” so inspect them closely before bidding.
Rental Car Company Sales
Rental car companies like Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise often sell their used fleet vehicles after they’ve reached a certain age or mileage. These sales can happen either directly through the company or at auctions.
Despite higher mileages, the prices can be competitive, and many rental companies offer no-haggle pricing for a hassle-free purchase experience.
Government agencies, such as the General Services Administration (GSA), also sell used fleet vehicles to the public. These sales can happen through online or live auctions and sometimes even on designated government sales websites.
See Also – Buying a Car at an Auto Auction
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