Rent before you buy: Dealerships encourage extended testing

Posted July 28
Updated August 4

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People have been renting vehicles for nearly as long as they have been around. In fact, according to "Automotive Fleet," the first reference to a car rental appeared in a 1904 newspaper advertisement.

"One of the first references to the rental of a car is found in the Minneapolis Journal of July 22, 1904, when a bicycle shop devoted a line of an advertisement to announcing that it offered cars for rent," the article reports.

Car rentals are a vital service that people take advantage of in many different scenarios.

Sometimes people are traveling and do not have a vehicle they can rely on to get them to their vacation destination. Other times, people are flying to another area and need a rental vehicle to get them around once they land.

And for some, a car rental is needed when their vehicle may be out of commission for one reason or another.

Renting to Buy

Another reason people may rent a vehicle is when they are considering buying that particular model.

While not yet a widely known strategy, it is an approach many car buying experts recommend.

For example, if one were considering purchasing a Nissan Maxima or Nissan Altima, a period of renting the vehicle could give them a good sense of whether they wish to further pursue the deal.

"Nissans are high-performance cars. It's not always immediately clear to customers all of the subtle benefits this brings, but the more they drive one, the more they fall in love," pointed out Leith Nissan Rental Manager Kim Alexander. "This is why we are really recommending more customers rent to buy. We're that confident that the more time they spend with their Nissan, the better the chance they'll realize it's the right car for them."

Leith : Spotlight : Renting

Extended Test Drive

When someone is interested in buying a car, they will go to a dealership and ask to take a test drive.

However, this does not always give the full experience of living with the vehicle day-to-day. A 20-minute drive around town will not give the full sense of how you fit in the vehicle, how it handles, how you like driving it, and so much else.

You can get a good sense of all these things, but to really understand how you would enjoy owning the vehicle, renting that model for a few days is a smart strategy.


A vacation is a good time to take advantage of the need to rent a car anyway and do a bit more research on a vehicle you were interested in purchasing.

Another time to consider is when a vehicle is in the shop. While the mechanic is holding an old vehicle, one can get some time to consider another one. If the shop calls and gives bad news about the existing one, it can help to already have some research done on how to proceed.

Dealerships Happy to Help

Many dealerships have a car rental division and will be happy to work with customers on a rent-to-buy strategy.

In the long run, this is likely to be a much less expensive way to buy cars because many of the worst pitfalls of car buying can be avoided.

"We have a lot of prospective buyers come in who may want a bit more time to make their decision," Alexander said. "This is often when we tell them how they can rent a Nissan for as little as $24.99 per day. If they take one home for a couple days, it really can answer a lot of questions."

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1 Comment

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  • Andrew Stephenson Aug 9, 1:33 p.m.
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    The fact that this is a sponsored article should make everyone extremely suspicious.

    What this sounds like, is dealers are trying to find a way to charge people to test drive vehicles.

    Do people even buy new cars these days without researching them first? Who actually needs more than 20 minutes to test drive something?

    If someone decides to not purchase a car, or even if they do, does the car then get marked down because it was a rental vehicle prior to the sale? I bet I know the answer to that.