Used Car Dealership: 8 Warning Signs You're at a Bad One

Used Car Salesman
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Buyer Beware: Signs You're at a Bad Dealership

Used car dealers have a well-earned reputation for shadiness, with their plaid jackets, high-pressure sales tactics, and predatory high-risk financing. That reputation isn’t fair to all used car dealers, though. Many are just trying to make a living providing a service to buyers who need transportation but can’t afford a new car.

Part of the reason used-car dealers may seem shady is because selling used cars is a tricky proposition for dealers, too. During their time on the road, cars encounter millions of potential hazards ranging from abuse to neglect, including accidents, flooding, overloading, encounters with potholes, and often a chronic lack of maintenance. A good used-car dealer’s job is to set those problems right before reselling the car – and to turn a profit in the process.

That can be a tall order for many used car lots, which get last dibs at used-car auctions and so get stuck with the oldest and riskiest inventory. Original new-car dealers usually keep the trade-ins that are in the best condition. The next best go to brand-name dealership auctions only. Only cars that haven’t been skimmed off by then make it to the public auctions open to ordinary used-car lots. The cars that are left are older and more likely to have their share of problems. The key is to find a dealer who recognizes those problems and is adept at addressing them quickly and affordably. In general, small car lots are riskier than larger, more established dealerships.

Here are eight signs that your used-car dealer is in over their head.