There are a number of used car dealer stories out there that describe the salesmen as pushy, controlling, and money-grabbing yet still charming and warm. It is a delicate combination of qualities that allows them to convince people to buy cars from that particular salesman. That combination of traits also grants the average used car dealer a very negative reputation. Although some might argue that it is not deserved, the truth is that there are a number of used auto lots that willingly do some questionable things to help improve their chances at getting a sale. The pushy salesman with the TV-manufactured smile is often just the tip of the iceberg.
The most practiced and most well-known practice is called „clocking,“ which is the turning back of the odometer. The odometer, for those who are not savvy about car terms, measures the distance that the auto has been driven. By „clocking“ an odometer, one reduces the mileage that shows on the odometer, giving the impression that the vehicle has only been slightly used. While not indicative of an auto’s overall condition, the distance on the odometer often can be taken as a reflection of how much longer the machine’s life is. The general assumption is that the longer a vehicle has been in a person’s possession, the more miles will appear on the odometer. By altering the number the odometer represents, the used car dealer is giving the illusion that the car is relatively new and has not been used extensively yet.
Also, a buyer has to watch out for the worthless extended service plans that salesmen push on customers. A practice that the average used car dealer has picked up from retailers, the extended warranties are worded such that the contracts appear useful to the customer but, in the legal details, actually disavow the dealership of any responsibilities except in certain scenarios. It goes without saying that the aforementioned scenarios do not happen very often. Even if the coverage is fairly decent, the warranties often come with so much fine print in the contract that a dealership can easily argue their way out of what may or may not be the dealer’s responsibility. The decision often comes down to who one asks; the dealership or the customer.
Perhaps, one of the most nefarious practices that a used car dealer can engage in would be the masking of the vehicle’s repair records. Every year, automobiles, which are in need of some level of repair, get sold. The machines then end up in used auto businesses, where they are often repaired just enough so that the vehicles can be driven for a while. This indicates that the myth that dealerships repair the vehicles just enough so that they fall apart, after the warranty has expired, has a level of factual basis. Repairs are conducted, but usually, the dealerships are unwilling to pay for full repairs and instead, opt for machines repaired to retain just enough functionality to convince a prospective buyer. A salesman neglecting to mention that an automobile has gone through extensive repair due to collision damage is not completely unheard of and, in reality, is a common anecdote of used car buyers.
While a specific used car dealer can have other methods, the three listed above are the most commonly practiced. The above practices can be circumvented, however, if the buyer is aware of them and knows how to deal with them. For example, certain areas of the auto, no matter how well-repaired, will still show signs of damage, provided a complete replacement of the vehicle’s chassis is not done. There are also ways to check if an odomoter has been tampered with. Finally, even the best used car dealer cannot force a customer to take an extended service plan if the buyer is really opposed to the idea. With a little knowledge and a little preparation, any customer can avoid being fooled by a crafty used auto salesman.