In the past few years during my extensive business travels, I had rented from Hertz (I have been conferred the honor of a President's Circle gold member by Hertz). I remember seeing fliers for their Rent2Buy program and decided to search on their website. During the couple of weeks I spent looking for a car, I began to seriously consider a car from Hertz's Rent2Buy program. My view on the car buying experience follows.
Attempt 1 (Unsuccessful)
I decided to block a White Nissan Altima for a test-drive at a nearby Hertz location. After signing up online, I got a call from the national customer center saying my request was being processed and I should expect a call from the local rental location to confirm my booking. On Friday, a day before I was scheduled to pick the car up, I got a call from the customer center saying they were unable to confirm the availability of the car with the location and I should postpone my trip.
The following Monday, I got a call from a manager at the location asking if I would be willing to come and pick up the car. I asked him if it was the same car I had booked and he said yes. The system at his end wasn't working and he hadn't confirmed availability to the 'head office.' He then tried to pressure me to come as soon as possible since he was losing "rental days" on the car.
I was slightly frustrated by the attitude. I had booked the car for a weekend as I wouldn't have to take time off work to test drive and take the car for inspection and this manager was expecting me to come the next day. I hung up, went online and canceled my test-drive booking.
Nissan Altima was not my first choice anyways and now I had learnt how the communication within the Rent2Buy system and individual franchisees/location worked.
Attempt 2 (Successful in buying my Jetta)
A few days after I cancelled my booking, I expanded my search for VW Jetta on the website. I realized, most of the listings were in Atlanta, Georgia or California area. I also called the 1-800 number to talk with a customer-service agent who confirmed my search. She said most of the cars in the inventory for sale were listed on the website and she could not predict availability of new listings.
Atlanta is about 5 hours drive from where I live and I decided that it may be worth the drive if I could find the car at a price I wanted. I found a silver 2011 VW Jetta (SE) with about 21000 miles on it listed for $15,900. This was in January 2012 when VW dealers in my area were listing similar cars for $18 K. I went ahead and booked a test-drive. I also booked a one-way flight to Atlanta. A few days before my scheduled pickup, I called Mariatta location and confirmed that the car was indeed available and was in fairly good condition. The person informed me that the car did have a few minor scratches but was good overall. I am glad I didn't wait for Hertz central group to call since they did so only on the day of pickup, which wouldn't have worked for me as I had to plan my trip out of town.
At the pickup-location
Hertz location generally recognizes frequent renters. However, my guess is that the Rent2Buy rental agreement is different from the regular rental. They didn't pull up my hertz-frequent-renter id or even ask if I was a Hertz #1 Club/status member.
The lady at the reception went over to the car, unlocked the doors and asked me to look around before I agreed to "rent" it. I asked about extra key fobs and other things (e.g cigarette lighter cover) missing and before she could answer, the "boss" came over and curtly said the car was available "as is." Even used car salesmen are generally more polite but I guess selling cars is not a hertz location's core business. I ignored that attitude since I liked the car.
I took the jetta to the VW dealership a couple of miles down the road and got a pre-buyer's inspection done for about $170. The mechanic at the dealership said the car was in fairly good condition and though it was a rental car, most miles were probably highway miles. This was reassuring and I drove the car back to Greensboro. After I went online and confirmed my purchase, the process of making payment and other paperwork kicked in.
A few weeks after purchase, I had to drive down to hertz location in Charlotte where they did the closing paperwork and gave me temporary tags for the vehicle. They keep the original license plate at that point.
Interestingly, during my trip to Charlotte, I had to go to the Airport location to get the car inspected for emissions. While waiting, I met a guy who was relocating from Germany. He saw the Jetta and exclaimed how he had been trying hard to unsuccessfully find a similar car for the past few weeks and I shared my tips on searching online. I guess, this was also an affirmation of my decision to buy an ex-rental vehicle. It has been a few weeks since the purchase and overall I am happy with the experience.
Lessons Learnt and Best practices
- Define what you are looking for and be willing to expand your search (distance/duration). For example, I realized that hardly any Volkswagens came up for sale in North Carolina but Georgia (Atlanta) area had at least 1-2 per week.
- Are you willing to travel for a car you want? Hertz will not ship a Rent2Buy car to a location near you. I was willing to travel a few hundred miles to Mariatta to get the car I wanted because Hertz as clear they would not have it transported to my location. I flew down to Atlanta to test-drive my VW Jetta, which I drove back to Greensboro after having it inspected at the local VW dealership. I also had to drive up to Hertz's Charlotte location for inspection and closing documentation
- No haggle pricing. I am not sure of the process of setting the price but it seems to be "fair" though one could expect additional discount for an ex-rental car I guess
- Hertz Gold members get $150 discount. Remember to ask for it as it is probably not automatic. I was hoping President's Circle Members like me would get additional incentives.
Be aware of surprises with buying a Rental Car
- Like most dealers, hertz adds on a documentation fee (in my case it was $350) which is non negotiable
- Hertz Rent2Buy cars generally come with one key fob only. Getting an extra key made at a local VW dealer runs about $295 (the price for other cars may be a bit different)
Links of interest