Buying a Used Car? Watch Out for Too-Good-To-Be-True Deals!

This article is a true story of a situation I faced when employed in an car dealership. It should help anyone currently shopping for a used car be weary of deals that are just too good to be true!

About two years ago, a client came into the dealership intending to purchase a new car. Without disclosing the model, I will mention that the vehicle was a small sport-coupe retailing for $42,995 + $1,395 transport and preparation fee. The client test-drove the vehicle and she absolutely loved it. We started looking at color availability and the client was disappointed to find out that it was impossible to get a silver vehicle with the equipment she wanted because there was none in stock across the country and orders were closed at the factory (this was in late summer and we were having our inventory close out sale). Still, we managed to find a suitable color replacement and were very close to finalizing the deal.

About a week later she calls back. She says she has found a slightly used version of the model. It was silver, had all the equipment she wanted and was amazingly well priced. I was surprised that she was interested in this vehicle because she had told me that she had never purchased a new car from a dealership and was excited to finally buy a car that no one else had owned. When I pointed this out, she told me that she really wanted to buy new, but this deal was too good to pass up. I thanked her regardless for her interest and mentioned that I looked forward to seeing her at the service department.

After I hung up, I was curious to see this apparently to-good-to-pass-up deal that my client was so thrilled about. It did not take long to find. The vehicle had 6000 miles on it, and was retailing for $27,000. The seller was located about 2 hours from our dealership and was not a commercial vendor, just someone selling their car. Even if my client had not told me any details about the car she had found, I knew this had to be the one.

The first thing that struck me was the price. Every other similar vehicle with the same features and equipment was retailing on average for $35000 with roughly the same mileage. Why was this vehicle priced so low? I also wondered why someone who had just bought the car 6000 miles ago was selling it so quickly and for such a low price; $8000 below market value. This is something you could see in a dealership, with demonstrator vehicles or cars that have been on the lot for a while, but you rarely see an individual selling a vehicle they have just purchased.

I decided to call back my client and ask if this was the car she was talking about. Now, usually I would never do this. Once a client calls off a deal, the last thing I want to do is take up more of their time. It no longer becomes my business what they have decided to buy, but in this case, I had to ask. She confirmed, a little awkwardly, that this was the vehicle she was going to buy. I mentioned to her that I thought that the car was priced very low and also that I found it odd that the seller wanted to get rid of it so quickly. I recommended that she make an appointment to get the vehicle fully inspected before making her purchase just to make sure everything was in order. She mentioned that she would try to find the time to make the appointment but felt fairly confident about the car because it had been owned by a police officer. I do not think she actually ended up making an appointment at our dealership for the inspection, but I believe she did get it inspected at an independent garage.

The problems begin…

About two months after all of this, I walked into the dealership one morning and saw my former client waiting in the service department. I walked over, said hi, and asked how things were going with the car she purchased (I have an excellent memory and remembered every aspect of the deal, even though there had been a few months in the interim). She told me she brought the car in because every time she put the transmission in reverse, her headlights would start flickering. Now, for anyone who has ever owned a ‘luxury’ automobile, you know that the extensive technology found in them can sometimes create quirky situations such as the one described above. It is rare, but easily fixed at the dealership. However, it was odd for this to be occurring on our client’s vehicle because these had historically been very reliable cars with almost no electronic glitches.



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