For most people, a rental car is an afterthought. On a vacation, a business trip, or after an accident, we often think about them as appliances to serve a purpose. They’re generally not even thought of as individual models, just in terms of categories: a compact, midsize, convertible, etc. But there’s a lot more to the story.
The rental car industry is a vital part of the automotive ecosystem. In 2015, as sales of compact and midsize sedans remained in steady decline, the rental industry picked up the slack. According to The Wall Street Journal, rental car companies — including Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise — scooped up 21% of all compact cars and 20% of midsize sedans sold in America in 2015. And once these models reach the end of their service, they’re sold on the used market at a steep discount.
The old idea of beating up a rental car might be enough to scare prospective buyers away. But as the industry has grown, customers expect safe, reliable, and clean cars every time they pick up the keys. These cars are washed, detailed, and mechanically maintained for the duration of their service, often leaving them in better shape than many comparable used cars.
Looking at the study on the most common fleet buys, we’ve come up with a list of 10 of the most common rentals you’ll probably land next time you reserve a car — and why you just might want to consider buying one in a year or two.
1. Chevrolet Cruze
The compact Cruze has been a boon for Chevy’s car lineup in recent years. The brand’s global best-selling car model is reliable, comfortable, and affordable. As a result, the Cruze is scooped up every year by rental fleets by the thousands. When their time in the fleets is up, these affordable runabouts are usually sold to the public at a steep discount. Next time you come across a well-appointed Cruze with a key ignition (Remember those?) and cloth upholstery, chances are it began life as a rental.
Next: This infamous flop has found its niche as a popular rental car.
2. Chrysler 200
Chrysler’s much maligned midsize sedan might go down in history as a sales flop, but its inoffensive styling, comfortable ride, and strong supply have made it the second most popular purchase for rental car companies. Despite the fact that production ended in December 2016, there are still plenty of new 200s available across the country. So you can expect 200s to be a mainstay in the rental lots for a few years to come. After that, expect a flood of well-maintained ex-rental models on the used market.
Next: This midsize sedan is a comfortable and capable companion for long road trips.
3. Nissan Altima
The Nissan Altima ranks as one of the most popular midsize cars in the country thanks to its comfort, reliability, and affordability. Rental car companies love it for that, too, and that’s largely what made it the third biggest seller in the industry. If you’re planning on eating up hundreds of highway miles on your next road trip, do yourself a favor and reserve an Altima.
Next: It shouldn’t be a surprise this popular car is also a favorite of the rental car industry.
4. Toyota Camry
America’s best-selling midsize sedan is also a rental car company’s dream. It’s reliable, parts are dirt cheap, and it doesn’t exactly inspire reckless behavior. While the Camry is one of the few midsizers Americans are still lining up to buy, Toyota makes a killing in fleet sales, too. As long as Toyota continues to make the Camry, you’ll be able to rent one. And after you rent one, you’ll probably be able to get a deal on a used one.
Next: This popular compact is synonymous with reliability.
5. Toyota Corolla
Like its larger sibling, the Corolla is a mainstay on America’s the top 10 best-selling cars list. And in this case, it’s also a darling of the rental car companies. Chances are if you’re booking a compact car that isn’t a hatchback (the Corolla hatch, the iM, isn’t a big fleet seller), you’re likely going to be given a Corolla. That’s not a bad thing. With a comfortable interior, competent powertrain, and relatively small footprint, a Corolla excels at everything you’d expect a rental car to do.
Next: This car is loved by police, cabbies, and rental car companies.
6. Chevrolet Impala
The Impala has spent the better part of two decades as a juggernaut in the fleet sales business. On top of being a go-to for police and taxi drivers, tens of thousands of Impalas have done their time on rental lots. These cars have proven so popular with rental companies that the ninth generation model, which sold from 2006 to 2013, stayed in production for rental fleets as the “Impala Limited.” Today’s big Chevy sedan is far more civilized than that model, but it’s still a common offering as a full-size rental.
Next: These workhorses have been on the market for over 20 years.
7. Chevrolet Express
After Ford and Ram made the jump to unibody vans a few years back, the Chevy Express is the last body-on-frame van standing in the U.S. Barely changed since 2003 (with its mechanics dating back to 1996), the Express is still the go-to model for anyone looking to rent a full-size van. Old as it might be, you can expect the Express to be around in fleets for years to come. After that, these vans will stick around as work vehicles.
Next: This crossover was created specifically for the rental duty.
8. Chevrolet Captiva Sport
In 2010, General Motors shuttered the Saturn brand. But there was a problem: The Mexican plant that built the Vue crossover was cranking them out. The solution? Rebadge them as the Chevy Captiva Sport and sell them to rental car companies. This proved to be surprisingly successful. Between 2012 and 2015, Chevy sold nearly 130,000 of these crossovers. If you see a Captiva Sport on the roads today, it almost certainly began life as a rental car.
Next: This brand’s reputation for reliability makes it a rental car company’s dream.
9. Hyundai Accent
As a brand, Hyundai finally reached maturity in the mid-2000s. And as a sign of confidence in the brand, rental car companies starting buying its cars in droves. Thanks to high reliability and safety scores, as well as one of the best warranties in the business, Hyundais no longer feel like a risk. Ask for a subcompact at the rental counter, and most major companies will hand over the keys to an Accent. Its spacious, comfortable interior and excellent fuel economy make it an ideal rental car.
Next: This is a staple on the roads of every vacation destination.
10. Ford Mustang Convertible
Go to any sun-drenched vacation spot in the U.S., and you’re certain to see a glut of Ford Mustang convertibles. From Oahu to Miami, a drop-top Mustang is one of the most popular rentals on the lot. In fact, Ford sells so many fleet Mustangs that when the current generation ponycar debuted for 2015, it kept the aging V6 engine largely because of its popularity with the rental car companies. Come 2018, the V6 will be no more. So they’ll have to make do with the fine EcoBoost inline-four or the 5-liter V8.