Is it good to buy an ex fleet car – and what should I look out for?

If you’re in the market for a used car, it could be worth looking at an example that began life as a fleet vehicle. We run you through the benefits and pitfalls of buying an ex company car...

Blue and red Nissan Qashqai cars

It’s that time again – your car is close to breathing its last, so you need to purchase a replacement, and finances dictate that a used car is the way to go.

Yes, there are plenty of privately owned cars out there for you to choose from, but the phrase "caveat emptor" – let the buyer beware – is always uppermost in your thoughts when looking at potential purchases.

So, what about narrowing down your search to cars that began life as company cars? Many people might run for the hills at the very thought of an ex-fleet car, but they’re likely to be missing a trick. There are some good deals to be had if you know what to look for.

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Here we explain why buying a former fleet car could be a smart move and what to look out for when you're shopping around.

It all applies whether you've always been a private buyer, or are currently a company car driver but have decided to take the car allowance and get a used vehicle you'll own outright.

Fleet cars are usually well maintained

Fleet cars certainly tend to cover higher mileages than privately owned cars because they’re used as transport for work duties as well as personal journeys.

However, the good news is that leasing agreements come with maintenance schedules that must be adhered to, so you can guarantee that the car has been serviced on time, every time, and most likely by a franchised dealer. And you can also be assured that if the car has suffered any kind of damage, it will have been repaired to the required standards.

Just to be sure, when you're considering buying a former fleet car, make sure all the paperwork is available and up to date.

Why lots of motorway miles can help

Yes, company cars do more miles than the average private car, but the good news is that the miles tend to be easy ones. That's because for a car to cover a high mileage in a short space of time, those miles tend to be done on motorways, which usually put less strain on a vehicle.

By and large, there’s no constant stopping and starting to wear out brakes and the clutch, and no kerbs to damage wheels. On a good day, the miles pass at a constant speed, which is easier on the engine, the gearbox and the suspension.

Read more: The most reliable used cars

How fleet leasing agreements aid buyers

Company cars are provided under leasing agreements, and such contracts always have a fair wear and tear description included. It means the car must be in a certain condition when it is returned at the end of the lease, or financial penalties will apply.

When a company car suffers damage as a result of the user’s carelessness, the driver will usually pay to have it fixed, because that's usually cheaper than the cost of the fair-wear-and-tear penalties. In other words, fleet car drivers usually have a financial incentive to look after their vehicles as if they were their own.

Having said all that, company cars do tend to acquire slightly more wear and tear than private cars, simply because they are used so much more, so you need to be prepared to live with that.

Read more: What is fair wear and tear for a fleet car?

Plenty of mileage but not much kit

Again, because company cars tend to have a bigger reading on the odometer, they tend to have lower prices when being sold. And in addition to this, many cars will still have some of the original manufacturer’s warranty outstanding.

However, the downside is that companies tend not to let their drivers add many optional extras to their cars (and they also push up BIK tax), so an ex-fleet car is liable to be quite sparsely equipped.

Buying an ex fleet car – conclusion

As long as you go in with your eyes open, an ex-fleet car can make a decent choice as a used vehicle, with potential bargains available if you choose carefully.

You’ll get a car with a higher mileage than normal, and perhaps a few more marks and dings, but the forecourt price will likely reflect this. It will also have a full service history, and given that most leasing agreements are for three years, it will likely have a fresh MOT certificate too.

So, as long as you manage your expectations, and don’t mind a car with few extra bells and whistles, the ex-fleet market can be your oyster.

See our Used Car Reviews for more expert advice

Read more: Is it worth having a company car?

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