How to Find a Reputable Used Car Dealership

Finding a reputable used car dealership while looking for a used car can be a tedious task. Many dealerships nationwide are flagged with negative comments or reviews from angry customers who have had bad experiences.

From price changes to fewer perks, many dealerships have pulled a fast one on a customer at some point or another. It is important while searching to buy a new or used car that you locate the right dealership. This is even more important with used cars as these cars can come without warranties and undisclosed problems.

The steps to finding a reputable used car dealership are as follows:

  1. Decide on a Specific Vehicle or Type of Vehicle
  2. Research Dealerships within Your Vicinity
  3. Inspect Dealership Websites for Inventory
  4. Contact Dealership to Setup Test Drive with Sales Associate
  5. Haggle & Purchase the Vehicle of Choice

Below, we will review each of the above tasks in detail.

 Decide on a Specific Vehicle or Type of Vehicle

The first step to successfully purchasing a used vehicle is to decide on a specific vehicle or type of vehicle. You may already know which car you’d like to purchase making this process much easier. If not, you can focus your search by deciding on a type of vehicle.

Types of vehicles include coupes, hatchbacks, minivans, pickup trucks, sedans, sports cars, SUVs, and trucks. If you are unable to pick a specific vehicle or type of vehicle, you can begin your search by visiting a local car show, searching the web, or visiting a local dealership to simply take a look around. Once you’re familiar with the specific vehicle or type of vehicle, you can move to the next stage.

 Research Dealerships within Your Vicinity

The second step is to look for a reputable used car dealership within your vicinity that offers used vehicles. If you know a specific vehicle, there will most likely be less dealerships offering the vehicle whereas searching by type will lead to a larger variety of options.

The best way to locate local reputable used car dealerships is to search on Google. Examples of what to look up are “BMW Used Car Dealership in Los Angeles, California” and “Used Sedan in Chicago, Illinois”. Simply search the specific vehicle or type of vehicle plus used car dealership in your city. From there, sift through the list of dealerships locating who has a car of interest already in stock.

Next, search the internet for reviews on each dealership on websites such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Google, and Yelp. If any dealership has a poor rating across the board, it is best to avoid it.

Attempt to locate a dealership or dealerships with good ratings across the board. There will always be negative reviews that do not reflect the true experience of a dealership. Always be sure the review has thorough reasoning for their distress, not simply the dealership being closed before operating hours

Another option is to check the dealerships’ social media pages as these will usually contain reviews. Social media pages will also show you if anyone you know has been to or likes the dealership, allowing you to reach out to them for a personal perspective.

Inspect Dealership Websites for Inventory

The third step is to inspect dealership websites for inventory. This step begins with searching each dealership’s inventory to see which vehicles are of interest to you, and which are not. Eliminate all vehicles that do not meet your expectations or requirements. Remember, this is a long-term purchase so the goal is to try to meet your expectations or arrive as close to them as possible.

Once you have sifted through inventory after inventory, make a list of about 5 cars you’d like to see in person. If you have a list of at least one dealership with at least one vehicle of interest, you are ready to consider moving to the next stage. If you have more than one dealership to contact, this may help with your haggling process later on due to competition.

Contact the Dealership to Setup a Test Drive with a Sales Associate

The fourth step is to contact the dealership, or dealerships, of interest and setup a test drive with a sales associate. If one of the dealerships has more than one car of interest, make sure to take a list with you to test drive each of the vehicles.

If you have a list containing multiple dealerships, contact each dealership and set up separate appointments across your schedule when available.

From here, take the time to visit the dealership and take the test drive. Starting with the appearance of the dealership inside and out, begin to analyze the quality of the dealership. Next, see how the salesman treats you during your test drive. Some salesman can be seen as “snakes” and will attempt to sell you any car they can at the highest price they can. The goal is to find a sales associate who cares about your personal interests more so than their own.

Once you test drive each of the vehicles, eliminate any vehicles that may have lost your interest during this period. Test driving each of the cars will allow you to see the quality of the engine, exterior, and interior as well as the quality of the functionality. Make sure to take note of any and all damage to the vehicle or any other obvious problems. Once you have decided on a set list of vehicles to move to the next stage with, get ready to haggle.

 Haggle & Purchase the Vehicle of Choice

The fifth and final step is to haggle the price then purchase the vehicle of choice. At this point, you have decided on one or more vehicles you’d be happy to use for an extended period of time (whether years or a century). Be prepared, each sales associate will attempt to sell you the vehicle under some form of pressure. Although it may be stressful, this is your time to shine. Remember, the dealership and the sales associate want the sale due to profit and commission, respectively.

Haggling the price of a vehicle may seem difficult or intimidating, but it is completely possible. Each dealership lists cars to sell at a profit, whether small or large. The expected profit allows the dealership room to negotiate the price of the car to get it off of the lot. Most dealerships will be willing to haggle the price of a vehicle to get it off of their lot. Next, some advice will be laid out on how to haggle the vehicle.

How to Haggle Effectively

First, wait until the sales associate comes back to you with their “discounted” price. Once you see the price, state that you are unsure about it and will need to think about it. If you are looking at multiple vehicles at different dealerships, then mention that you are doing so and that you think the other dealership has a better offer.

If you have proof of this, that is even better than blindly stating a false claim. Next, if the sales associate is unwilling to go back to their manager to request another discount, leave the dealership stating you will think about it. Next time you speak to the sales associate, state you aren’t satisfied with the price and you are considering taking your business elsewhere.

Usually, the sales person will try to win your sale so they will attempt to receive another discount. Sometimes the dealership may simply be unwilling to negotiate which leaves you with no other options. But in many cases, the price can be negotiated down to a middle value in which the dealership and the buyer are happy with the results. While negotiating, keep a straight face and show strong determination to find the best price.

Deciding Whether or Not to Purchase the Vehicle

After haggling, you will need to make the decision as to whether to purchase the vehicle or not. If there is only one vehicle of interest, this decision may be tough as you don’t have other options. However, if you have multiple vehicles of interest, figure which vehicle offers the best price to quality ratio. If one of the vehicles truly stands out to you, then that is the vehicle for you. Once the decision is made, contact your sales associate and prepare to handle the paperwork required for the purchase.

The purchase process usually begins with filling out an application. If paying by cash, you will simply need to handle paperwork related to the dealership sale. If you are requesting a loan, you will be required to undergo a hard credit check which will show up on your credit report. It is best to minimize the amount of times your credit is pulled by applying to a specific bank of choice or attempting to accept a pre-approved offer. Allowing the dealership to contact many banks will result in multiple hard checks, dropping your credit score slightly.

Overall, buying a used car is an important decision in anyone’s life. The used car will most likely be an extended use item which will be part of your life for years. It is best to choose a vehicle that fits your needs and will satisfy your expectations. Remember, the dealership wants to sell the car to you, so you have the upper hand in negotiations. In the end, hopefully this article helps you to locate a reputable used car dealership and make a satisfying purchase.

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