What to consider before buying a used car from a rental company

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- If you're thinking of buying a used car directly from a rental car company, you could be getting a steal. But before you dive in, make sure you look into the life of these cars.

In a partnership with Consumer Reports, 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney explains.

You have probably seen the promotions on used rental cars with low prices and big savings. "I think it's a deal if that's what you're looking for," said one consumer.

"I find they are good cars and they're cheaper," shares another individual.

"That low price can be attractive, and most rental companies do maintain their vehicles. But you still have to be a savvy consumer," said Jon Linkov, Consumer Reports Auto Editor. Rental cars can rack up substantial miles. Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise show mileage running on their cars anywhere from about 10,000 to more than 50,000.

And while most of those cars are no more than 18 months old, they have had many drivers. Avis says on average, cars are rented between 55 and 65 times annually. "With that much use and by drivers who don't have a personal stake in the rental car, these vehicles have likely taken a beating," said Linkov.

There are protections in place. Most rental companies do inspect their cars regularly.

In addition to the manufacturer's warranty, many rental companies offer them for a year or up to 12,000 miles -- whichever comes first -- and include roadside assistance. And it pays to look for cars which have five year or 60,000-mile warranties from the manufacturer, like Hyundai or Kia.

But Consumer Reports says nothing beats knowing the history of the car and recommends Car Fax or Auto Check to see if it has ever been in an accident, and recommends getting an independent mechanic to inspect it, too.

And it's a good idea to take a look at Consumer Reports' Used Car Reliability Scores, which tell you cars that are well-performing and cars that have demonstrated years of better-than-average reliability.

Click here for a look at more stories by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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