A recent expose about the way ex-rental cars are sold by dealers has the potential to damage a market that sells up to 400,000 nearly-new cars a year.
The Daily Telegraph said private motorists are often unaware - or are being misled by dealers - about the history of ex-rental cars when they buy them.
However, the rental companies have said most of their vehicles – up to 90% in some cases – are on buy-back deals with manufacturers.
This means franchised dealers rather than rental companies sell the cars after they are returned.
Rental companies also stress that the cars are well maintained and have proven to be an excellent source of nearly new cars into the retail market.
“The car rental sector is a vital supplier of good value, nearly new vehicles to the second-hand car market.
"Without this annual supply of 3-400,000 vehicles, consumers would struggle to find a competitively-priced used car under 12 months old,” explained John Lewis, chief executive of the BVRLA.
“Rental cars are typically on fleet for 6-8 months before being either sold to a dealer or back to the manufacturer. These vehicles will still be covered by manufacturer warranty and will have been better looked after than many privately-owned cars. Anyone buying an ex-rental car knows that the vehicle has been well maintained and thoroughly inspected on a regular basis during its previous working life.”
Much of the criticism was aimed at rental companies that register the cars under a different name. Europcar was singled out. However, in a statement it explained that there were no underhand practices going on.
Europcar does not sell any vehicles directly to the public so would not gain in registering the cars under another name.
From March this year it has registered all its cars under Europcar Group UK Ltd. However, prior to this, a portion of its National branded fleet were registered in the name of Provincial Securities.
“This is because the group of which it was then a part, had, over a long period undergone several reorganisations and rebranding as a result of changes in ownership.
"In addition, it had at times operated more than one brand. Vehicles were therefore registered in the name of a registered keeper during the period the vehicles were on fleet.
"Due to the size of subsidiary unaffected by such changes to remove the requirement to change the fleet, any changes would have had a huge administrative burden. This measure was to avoid such issues and also provided some continuity to motor manufacturers,” explained Europcar.