Thankfully, the times are changing. Tough regulations, a challenging economy, and better informed consumers make it tough for the old-school, shady car dealers to stick around. But they are still out there.
The question is – how do you avoid them?
Most people can pick out a shady dealer, but their desire for a deal makes them ignore obvious red flags. Sometimes, low prices on the internet are low for a reason.
A shady car dealer is cheap because he spends less money on reconditioning, meeting industry regulations, keeping current with licensing, bonding, and insurance, and employees.
A reputable dealer will have a clean, open facility with many administrative, sales, and service employees. Licenses and bonds will be clearly displayed and available for inspection.
A quick online search should reveal a significant web presence including state registrations, a well-designed website, online reviews, a Better Business Bureau membership, and several points of contact.
A shady dealer will have few or none of these things in addition to some clear red flags:
A hole-in the wall facility is a red flag. A car deal takes significant capital and administrative support to execute. Any dealer with one or two employees is unlikely to be in business tomorrow, much less handle your transaction ethically behind the scenes. Ask yourself, do you trust these people in this facility with your financial information and well-being? Do you trust them to be in business five-years from now?
No service department is a red flag. Who inspects their vehicles? Who will fix your vehicle if it breaks down the day after you buy it?
No web presence is a red flag. Positive reviews, several points of contact, social media, Better Business Bureau, and a well-designed website are all signs that this a dealer who cares about his online reputation and presence. A dealer with no web presence doesn’t really care if you bad-mouth him on Google reviews.
No documentation is a red flag. Here’s a Car Pro tip: If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist. If a dealer said he did a 1,487-point inspection on the car but can’t show you a copy of the inspection, the inspection doesn’t exist. If he says it’s a good car but won’t give you some kind of written warranty, the “good” car is just a car.
Resistance is a red flag. How does he feel about you taking the car to your mechanic? How does he feel about providing you with an AutoCheck? Will he let you see a copy of the title? Will he let you call the bank that you are getting the loan with? Hesitation or resistance is a red flag. I could do this all day.