According to Cars.com, roughly 1 in 5 vehicles purchased in 2019 was purchased to be a fleet vehicle. That means that as we get further into 2022, and even into 2023, we’re going to be seeing a lot more fleet vehicles being sold on the used market. So, a lot more car owners are going to be seeing fleet vehicles as an option, often being sold more cheaply than similar models
But does that lower price tag mean that there’s a problem with the vehicle?
Let’s look at what fleet vehicles are, why you need to think about fleet use meaning heavy use, why they’re often full of features and low on price, and when fleet vehicles are good options and bad options.
What Is A Fleet Vehicle?
The first thing you need to know about fleet vehicles is that the definition of a fleet vehicle is just that it was part of a professional ‘fleet’. Typically fleet vehicles are rental vehicles that have been retired from the rental fleet, though some other kinds of fleet vehicles, like taxi fleets or limousine fleets, can also be sold on the used market.
Fleet use meaning was used by a fleet has a lot of different implications for the vehicle in question, and it’s important to think about fleet use meaning in terms of what that vehicle has been through and how it’s likely to perform now.
All fleet vehicles have been driven professionally, and most have also been cleaned and maintained professionally. However, once those vehicles hit certain mileage milestones, have been in an accident, or have been through certain kinds of bad weather events, they are typically retired and sold so that a new vehicle can be purchased instead.
Because fleet vehicles are typically ex-rental vehicles they also tend to have most or all of the optional features available for that vehicle, which can mean that they’re a higher trim level or that they have more optional add-ons than other vehicles.
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Advantages Of Buying A Fleet Vehicle
There are a lot of potential advantages to buying a fleet vehicle, but we’ll also discuss the disadvantages in the next section so you know what to expect if you decide to buy one.
For one thing, fleet vehicles will typically have all of the available safety features and tech features available for that model of vehicle. Since fleet vehicles don’t always have the same drivers it’s helpful for the company to give them all the safety protections they can so that there are fewer accidents.
Tech features are typically available because the company wants to get a good review on their rentals, and vehicles that are hard to be entertained in won’t get the same high ratings as other vehicles.
Fleet vehicles also tend to have careful maintenance records, and won’t have missed any maintenance milestones because the companies are careful to make sure there aren’t any problems they could be liable for before renting the vehicle or assigning a professional driver.
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Detailed records are a huge advantage for buyers because they can give you a lot of insight into the condition the vehicle is in, what kinds of maintenance it’s likely to need soon, and what major milestones are still upcoming.
Lastly, most fleet vehicles will have been professionally cleaned and detailed regularly since they were purchased. Many look, feel, and even smell, like brand-new cars, not cars that have been used. Certainly, they won’t have picked up the scent of someone else’s laundry detergent, favorite car fresheners, kids, or pets.
Of course, they will probably smell like new car air fresheners, leather cleaning supplies, and any other cleaners used to maintain the interior.
As a final note, though not truly an advantage that’s unique to fleet vehicles, you can typically count on fleet vehicles to have no cosmetic damage or only very minor cosmetic damage.
Disadvantages Of Buying A Fleet Vehicle
For all the advantages that come with buying a fleet vehicle, not least the lower prices they tend to have, there are some serious disadvantages worth considering.
Fleet use meaning hard use is one of the first and most important disadvantages. Fleet vehicles aren’t making anyone money except when they are on the road being driven. They get a lot of miles, and they get them incredibly quickly.
That can put a lot more pressure on important systems, including the engine, transmission, and brakes, which can mean that those parts wear out faster than normal.
Of course, those parts also see some of the most detailed and careful maintenance to help keep them going longer, but some wear and tear is still inevitable.
Another disadvantage is that you won’t have a complete history of how the vehicle was used, whether there were pets in the vehicle, and whether anyone has smoked on the inside. Most fleets have rules against smoking and charge extra or have specific vehicles that they use for people with pets, but that doesn’t mean the rules haven’t been broken.
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If you have a smoke or pet allergy, fleet vehicles may cause a reaction, at least until you can get them cleaned again and the irritants are dispersed.
Fleet vehicles also tend to be at high mileage when they come up for sale and may be past the main maintenance milestones, meaning that different parts of your vehicle could need repairs on a much less predictable schedule.
You should expect higher maintenance costs if you’re buying a fleet vehicle, which is only partially offset by the lower price they often sell for.
When Are Fleet Vehicles A Good Idea?
There’s no one clear answer when a fleet vehicle is a good idea and when it isn’t. But, in general, if you’re looking for a deal on a vehicle with lots of extras, a fleet vehicle is likely a good choice. If you’re willing to pay more in maintenance in exchange for a lower car payment or being able to buy a car without a car loan, fleet vehicles can be a good option.
Lastly, if you’re only looking for a vehicle you can drive for a few years before you upgrade, and want good resale value when you’re ready to sell, fleet vehicles are often a good option.
When Should You Avoid A Fleet Vehicle
The main reason to avoid fleet vehicles is if you want to own a vehicle for 5 years or longer. While some fleet vehicles are still in good condition 5 years after they leave their fleet, they’re usually more likely to last 3-5 years before maintenance bills make them more expensive than they’re worth.
If you need to know that your vehicle hasn’t been smoked in, hasn’t had pets, or has been cleaned and treated only with specific chemicals, a fleet vehicle probably isn’t a good option. While most fleet vehicles are cleaned and detailed regularly, you don’t have the same kind of chemical control you can get from a new vehicle.
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