Car Buying

Buying a Car: What Does "Fleet Use" Mean?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro February 2016

If you're interested in buying a car, you may have seen the term "fleet use" on its Autocheck or Carfax vehicle history report. So what exactly is fleet use? Should it cause you to turn and run away? Not so fast: Before you do that, allow us to explain exactly what these reports mean when they say that a vehicle has endured fleet use in the past.

What Is Fleet Use?

If you see that a car's vehicle history report indicates that it's previously had fleet use, your first thought is probably that it was a rental car -- and that may cause you some stress, as rental cars aren't always treated too well. But don't worry: Fleet use doesn't always indicate that the vehicle was a rental car. In fact, both Autocheck and Carfax will separately list a vehicle's rental car status if they can verify it. So fleet use typically means that a car was part of a fleet, but it wasn't necessarily a rental fleet.

So what other kinds of fleets are there? Dozens of examples spring to mind, from taxicab services to large businesses that give their drivers company cars when they reach a certain level within the company. Even leased vehicles are also sometimes considered fleet vehicles on a history report.

Is Fleet Use Bad?

Fleet use is not always bad. Although we may be wary about buying a former rental car -- and we'd certainly be concerned about buying a former taxi -- it's hard to have qualms about a fleet vehicle if it was used as a company car, for example, and otherwise driven normally. As a result, you shouldn't let a vehicle's fleet designation stop you from buying a car you really like. Instead, we suggest that if you have any qualms, you should have the car inspected by a trusted mechanic before signing the papers.

Fleet-Only Vehicles

It's worth noting that some specific vehicles are only available for fleet sales. Although it's rare, some automakers market certain vehicles -- such as the Chevrolet Capitva Sport -- specifically to fleets, with no sales to retail customers, through dealerships. However, these cars eventually find their way to the used market, where they're sold just like traditional cars.

Although we don't necessarily suggest avoiding these cars, we do think shoppers should use a little caution with them. Since they're equipped for fleets, many of which are usually looking to save money in any way possible, they aren't always designed with today's latest gadgets and equipment -- and they don't necessarily use the highest quality materials. If you're considering one of these cars, bring a checklist of features that you find important in order to ensure that the vehicle is equipped with the items you want.

Our Take

If you're interested in buying a car, you shouldn't necessarily consider a fleet use designation on a vehicle history report to be a deal-breaker. The same goes if you're thinking about buying a used car that was specifically made for fleet use. However, in both cases, you may want to be extra diligent in ensuring that the car you're considering offers everything you're looking for.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: What Does "Fleet Use" Mean? - Autotrader