Because so many independent used car dealers have set themselves up in the used car business solely to take advantage of people, independent used car dealers in general get a bad rap, even those who strive to be fair and honest. So, the question is: When searching for a used vehicle, how can you tell if the dealer you are working with is honest and reputable?
Here are some characteristics to watch for when searching for a reputable independent used car dealer. If you find a used car dealer who exhibits these characteristics, you have likely found one you can trust.
- TESTIMONIALS & REFERRALS
Any reputable dealer should be able to provide legitimate testimonials and references from recent customers. In order to provide a list of satisfied customers, the dealer had to first create those satisfied customers. Happy customers are a general indication of quality products and good customer service.
- REPEAT CUSTOMERS
Ask the dealer how often they work with repeat customers and ask if any of their repeat customers might be willing to speak with you and provide a reference for the dealer. While this advice may be similar to that offered above, the experience of a repeat customer, versus that of a one-time buyer, will provide you with a greater understanding of the dealer’s reputation and will establish the dealer’s history of providing quality products and service. People tend to frequent businesses where they are treated well. Conversely, if treated poorly or taken advantage of, people will not return. Any dealership doing a significant amount of repeat business is likely treating its customers with care and respect.
Never buy a used vehicle without a comprehensive understanding of the current condition of the vehicle. Transparency is achieved when a qualified mechanic provides a thorough, unbiased, third party inspection of the vehicle and makes the results available for the customer to review. The dealer should also provide a report of the vehicle’s history and should willingly disclose what the dealership has done to prepare the vehicle for sale. Complete knowledge of and transparency about the current condition and history of a vehicle is the only way a dealer can confidently offer a guarantee. If the dealer cannot or will not provide you with these items, you should look for another lot.
- FAIR PRICING
Before you set foot on any lot, consult NADA, Kelley Bluebook, and the current local listings for vehicles of the same make, model, options, and approximate mileage to determine the approximate current value of the vehicle. Do this for the vehicle you are considering for purchase, as well as for any vehicle you may want to trade in. When you trade in a vehicle toward the purchase of another vehicle, you can only expect an offer in the range of the wholesale price. A scrupulous dealer will treat you as if you already understand the trade-in value of your vehicle and will offer an honest price for your trade-in. If a dealer offers you a price much lower than the trade-in value, you may be dealing with someone whose intention is to take advantage of you. Either proceed with caution, or simply walk away.
To review: Look for a dealer whose reputation consists of strong testimonials and referrals of both recent and repeat customers, and offers complete transparency and fair pricing. Following these guidelines will help you find a dealer who will appreciate and who deserves your long-term business.