One thing we like about used rental cars is that it’s pretty easy to get a deal on one. A used rental car is a commodity, and unless you’re looking for a specific color or feature, you can find them just about anywhere. (Read our article titled “Should You Buy a Used Rental Car?” if you’re not sure about buying a used program car.)
Before we give you our negotiation tips, we want to let you know how the used rental car system works. Once you understand the system, the negotiation tips will make a lot more sense.
Generally speaking, rental car companies go to big car manufacturers and lease thousands of cars from them each year. This lease only lasts six to twelve months, during which time the car is rented out at airports, vacation destinations, etc. The rental company then takes these cars back to the manufacturer, where they’re labeled “program vehicles” and sold at special dealer only auctions.
So, when you hear the words “program vehicle” or “program car,” that’s code for “used rental car.”
Our negotiation tips:
1) Tell the dealership that you know their “program car” is really a rental car. Telling the salesperson that you’re in on the secret lets you take control of the conversation.
2) Explain that you’re okay with buying a used rental car, but only if the price is really good. You’ve already exposed their secret, and now you’re taking advantage of the perceived lower value of a used rental to get a better price.
3) Let the salesperson know that if you don’t get the deal you want, you’ll go somewhere else. This threat is often times meaningless, but not when it comes to buying a used rental. The dealership knows that used rentals are commodities. By saying this, you’re telling them that if they’re going to sell you the car they need to do it on price.
4) Offer to wait for a different vehicle at a better price. Used rental cars are sold at auctions held once or twice a month. Tell the dealer that you’re willing to wait for them to buy a car at the next auction for a better price. Once the dealership manager knows that you’re not in a hurry, they’ll probably try harder to sell you the car they have than risk you leaving and buying somewhere else. Remember – one of the keys to getting a good deal is to be patient.
5) Make sure you walk away. Once the dealership has made their best offer, let them know that you’ll consider it, and then leave. By leaving, you make sure you’re getting the best price. Sometimes, you might be gone just five minutes before you get a phone call with a better price. In fact you might not even make it out the door before the manager runs out to tell you to he/she can take a couple of hundred dollars off. Physically leaving is the best way to make sure you’ve been given the dealer’s best price.