Where are these cars coming from?

Not open for further replies.
Aug 30, 2004
I see many 2006 Chevy Malibus and Impalas, all with 5-7K miles, at the local Carmax lot. Where are these vehicles coming from?

Are they from rental fleets ?? It seems odd that rental fleets would retire a car so early.
I wouldn never buy a used car from a rental company. Those cars are beat up from the time they come off the truck with 5 miles on them.
In my area the Grand Am's have filled the lots right now, sold at about 25k miles with another year and 11k miles on the warranty there are many rentals that dealers are trying to sell. It makes sense that the resale value of these cars are low as people seem to buy one of these without knowing it was a rental car beforehand or not realizing the treatment rentals go through rather than buying either a new one at full price or one with higher mileage or older age at the same price. I saw a dealership selling six 2004 Grand Am rentals at the same prices that the 2002's with 20k more miles were selling for. When I sold mine it made it more difficult.

In my mind there are different categories that people have when buying a car:
1. Brand new for those who want that dealer fresh, nobody touched it but the factory and me feeling and the sense that no other owner was there to mess things up.

2. The used car with about a year's worth of warranty left on it(which is what most rental companies shoot for).

3. The car that is still the current generation but has been out of warranty for awhile and the owner plans to drive it for awhile and its about 5 years old and about 75k miles. So basically the buyer is getting a newish car but doesn't want to get anything that's been around for a long time.

4. The older car, generally a few generations behind, it's now selling for around 1/4 or less of it's original value and has mileage getting on the high side, the body and interior might not be as great as it was and/or it might have some problems but be in good enough shape to either fix those problems or just keep driving as it is.

5. The car that is generally perceived as a junker. Might be getting some rust holes, mileage is high, possibly about 150,000 miles and ten years or more, enough for some people to turn away because of the style of the vehicle. It could have a major problem that needs to be fixed but might not. Value has now reached low levels because people don't want to be driving a high mileage car or something that people will think looks bad.

My generalities - Your opinion probably will vary, *flame suit on*
1. The new car buyers are often people who want the best and won't settle for less or possibly have had problems in the past with a used car or two or just want their car to look the best for as long as possible, such as with people who buy a new car and drive it until it rusts out or is completely broken down.

2. The used car still within warranty type is generally from those who don't need brand new and want to save a great deal of money by buying something that has had a little use and a few minor imperfections to the paint or body are nothing for them to worry about. Value conscious customers who want something that is new generally choose one of these vehicles because it will save them a great deal of money and they are still protected with a warranty.

3. The newish out of warranty but still current or 'just was' current car model buyers are those who don't worry about the warranty and want a nice car that they can continue to drive for quite some time and not have to deal with major issues. These cars can be a very good deal for people who want something that doesn't start look old and won't look old for at least until another generation or two of cars passes by depending on the model.

4. The 1/4 or less resale value buyer is generally looking for a car that is cheap but not something that is about to fall apart or leave them stranded on the side of the road. Some of these cars can be fully loaded and be a very good deal or be very basic but still be an excellent car. Many people buy luxury cars in this category as they are still better than some group 3 vehicles and these keep their resale value as there is still going to be a higher demand for them as they are a nicer car in whatever way made them cost more than other cars when they originally were sold new. Many people buy these vehicles because they realize that the vehicle that they are buying has been reliable and they are confident that they can drive it for many more miles and possibly quite a few more years yet others perceive these differently.

5. The 'junker/beater' category of buyers is not always the bad cars and certain buyers know this well. For some people $1000 car is much better than paying more and even if there is a risk of the vehicle breaking down this wouldn't bother them or they would be able to deal with such an issue if it happened. People usually buy these cars with problems whether minor or major problems if they are great with fixing cars. It could be an engine replacement or collision damage and might just need a little bit of help to get going again. The problem could be rust where people won't buy the vehicle because they consider it an eyesore. Sometimes these vehicles don't have any problems but are being sold at a low price because the seller might think that 100k or 150k miles is the point where reliability dives horribly and they want the car off their hands before something bad happens. It could be possible that the mileage is up at 200k or more and the buyer has seen the vehicles get higher than that and wants to continue to drive it until it's dead and is getting a great deal because it's in good condition otherwise and is confident that either problems won't happen or that they can be fixed along the way.

I used to consider myself a group 2 buyer and my last car was in the warranty car category when I bought it but now I am in the group 4 or group 5 category. I will buy an old car as long as I am confident that I could get a few years out of it. My school of thought changed to this category as I was thinking that lower insurance rates would be very nice and if a very expensive repair came along with a cheap group 4 car or a group 5 car I could just pass it off to a junkyard. Not to mention that if a collision happened I could just get a different car. I've never really cared much about aesthetics and I have gained more knowledge and resources in finding reliable vehicles that come at a great value.

When I had sold my car at 56k miles/4 years it was hard to sell because it is an inbetween category because it lost the buyers who wanted a warranty and the buyers who want a newish car without a warranty generally want to pay much less than a car with a warranty. I had originally planned to keep it longer but then I changed my mind on a few things when it came to driving. I wanted better fuel economy, I realized from others including a family member that has the same vehicle that had thousands put into it for repair and the fact that I was noticing the intake gasket seeping a little externally. I also wanted a smaller car and more fuel efficient car which also had just became more important at the time as I was going to be commuting farther to work and my driving would become around 25k miles a year when it was about 12k miles a year before. I didn't want to drive a car that would be depreciating like a rock as I piled miles on it. That is why I am a group 4/5 car buyer.

A little more on topic:
My opinion is that if these rental companies allowed their warranties to expire that they would either have to wait for their cars to get deep into the group 3 or even step into the 4 category to maintain their profit level, but people wouldn't rent cars that old so that would be the catch unless it's a 'discount' rental place or discounted model at a nicer place. They shouldn't be selling them at 5-7k, at least in my opinion, as they lose so much value with this practice. I've seen dealer demos and dealer service loaners with that kind of mileage but I just don't see any reason that they would have more than a few with that kind of mileage for those reasons.

I'm sorry this became much longer than I had originally thought it would be.
I think the average rental car probably gets better maintenance than the average privately-owned car.

As far as the driver itself, I see plenty of people abusing cars I'm fairly certain are theirs (or the banks, anyway). Lease cars are probably the worst. I remember a statement from a PDF file published by 76 about API SL oil and how the oil was designed for longer drain intervals because "manufacturers want to protect their investment in leased vehicles".

Translation: Leased vehicles are neglected and the manufacturer wants a car that will still be running when the lease period is up.

I posted a link to that PDF file here a while ago.
I agree about rental cars getting care that's as good as many cars owned privately.

A lady at work and her husband buy new or like new cars every 3 years. While they own them they do *nothing* to them except add fuel and oil when required. No oil changes, no maintenance of any kind.

The cars look good when they trade them but I feel sorry for the next buyer.
In 1991 I bought a Ford Probe from a sales manager I knew at a Ford dealer. It only had 6k miles and the maintenance had been documented. It was a "program" car and I was told it had been driven by Ford employees. It looked new, not even a door ding and gave me excellent service. I don't know if Carmax would get these types of vehicles.
"My generalities - Your opinion probably will vary, *flame suit on*"

Sounds good to me!!!!!!!!!

Nice write-up
MN Driver,

Awesome post! I would have to agree with almost all of it.

I've found that as I've gotten older, the thought of buying a brand new car gets more and more ridiculous. (The temptation is always there, of course, but I somehow doubt I'll ever buy another *brand new* car.) The depreciation is just too much to bear.

Personally, I've gotten to the point where I'm probably a group 3 or 4 buyer on your list. I like the safety features and modern reliability of cars that are still fairly *fresh*, but I don't want to pay through the nose for a car note or insurance premiums. I have absolutely no problem buying a car that has 75,000 to 100,000 miles on it for about 1/4 the original sticker price (or less in some instances!), especially if it's obvious that the vehicle has been well maintained. I have the mechanical abilities and the requisiste tools to fix most any problems that I might encounter, so it's no big deal to me if little things pop up here and there.

Lately I've been waiting for an opportunity to buy a 2003 Ford Crown Victoria LX Sport (center column shifter, leather, air ride, etc.) from a friend of mine who works for a law firm in the Houston area. It's his company car and it's about to be retired in the next 3 to 6 months. He's been the sole driver since it was purchased new by his law firm. The car has just over 100,000 miles and ALL maintenance has been done at the recommended intervals at the local Ford dealership (with documentation kept, of course). I will probably be able to buy the car somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000. How can you beat that? The sticker on the thing was about $31,000 and it still looks brand new inside and out. Plus, the Crown Vics are dirt cheap to insure and extremely easy to maintain/repair.
Carmax, Sacramento AND regional areas:

06 Impala LT w/3.9L, 5K miles= $18.6K
06 Impala LT w/3.9L, 10K miles= $17.6K

06 Malibu LT w/3.5L, 7K miles= $15.6K
06 Malibu LT w/3.5L, 9K miles= $15.6K


My opinion is that if these rental companies allowed their warranties to expire that they would either have to wait for their cars to get deep into the group 3 or even step into the 4 category to maintain their profit level, but people wouldn't rent cars that old so that would be the catch unless it's a 'discount' rental place or discounted model at a nicer place. They shouldn't be selling them at 5-7k, at least in my opinion, as they lose so much value with this practice. I've seen dealer demos and dealer service loaners with that kind of mileage but I just don't see any reason that they would have more than a few with that kind of mileage for those reasons.

Hertz usually retires their vehicles after 25K and 1-yr. Enterprise, OTOH, is a different story.

My neighbor rented a Malibu 4-cyl this weekend from Enterprise. It was clearly a 04 or 05 model, and was already on its second set of tires. Yep, cheapest tires you could find..and they weren't even matched by brand.

Kind of odd...
Remember when it was a selling point for a used car when the dealer advertised, "One owner car (elderly lady) who only used it for weekly shopping trips". It took awhile, but that glowing description is now rightfully considered the kiss of death for further consideration by anyone but the brain dead on life support.
Speaking of company cars. I just bought my Company Van a 2002 Dodge Caravan. In the last 4 years I put 157,000 miles on it. I bought it in April for $1,640.00. The mileage was mostly Highway so it was worth the $1,640.00 that I paid. I figure that it has at least 100K left on it. I guess that would put me in catagory 4 or even 5 with a 4 year old car. The oil was changed, but not every 6,000 miles. One time I even went 15000 on a oil change (not synthetic), but everything still runs great and I expect to get another 100K out of it. I will put synthetic in it soon. My wife now drives it and doesn't put too many miles on it in a month like I did.
I've always bought used cars from people that I've known personally. Now on rental cars, my father would by Towncars from Hertz. I once asked him that buying a rental car is taking a lot of chances with maintenance, reliability, etc. etc. He then told me just who in the #ell do you think actually rents these things out? Young folks??? NO, to expensive. Older folks with money and do you think they are going to dog the car? NO. Had to admit, it made sense then.
I went against conventional wisdom on this one. I purchased an '03 Saturn L200 w/11K mi in spring of '04 from a small town dealer (as reputable as they come) that was a "program car" from Avis rental. I wanted something newer with low miles and warranty that fit my needs as a daily driver, grocery getter, kid taxi. The price I paid then is not too far from what most dealers are asking now... with more miles and little or now warranty!

I was leary, but ran a Carfax (always do), inspected the car from top to bottom, and did a little research as to the maintenance practices. I found no problems with the car and was told by employees at two different Avis locations and the manager at the dealership that they have to follow manufacturer service recommendations as part of the "program".

Was this a bad idea? Not as far as I'm concerned. I've had a couple minor issues that were covered by warranty, otherwise it's been great and now has 44K mi. I believe that you are taking at least as much risk buying a non-program used car with undocumented service. Let's be honest, many/most people don't baby their cars and how many cars actually have service records (other than most of us hopeless BITOGers)?

Flame on!!!
I think "drive it like you stole it" is = to


I'd NEVER buy an ex-rental car, other than a Hertz Shelby Mustang GT350...


p.s. Group 4 is really where it's at, if you are a knowledgeable buyer: REMEMBER, there is no cure for stupid!

Originally posted by Schmoe:
Young folks???

Many rental companies will not rent to anyone under 25.

Incidentally, 25 is when most insurance companies start to drop your rates.

I have no idea what is so magical about that age..
Not open for further replies.