With a vast majority of the used auto market flowing through organized dealerships and car shops across the country, they are highly incentivized to maintain the status quo.
A few months ago, I started researching into the used auto sales market and the various options available to consumers who were either looking to buy or sell a vehicle. After a number of articles all pointing me in generally the same direction, I started to find myself aligning with their message. At some point though, thankfully, I questioned what I was reading and paid attention to the company that was sponsoring it and had written the article. One of the first I remember was ‘CashCarBuyers’, and looked around for a bit and began to understand why they were pushing me to not sell my car privately. Because they wanted to buy it and then send it to auction.
Use our Car Talk: Transactions blog section to read up on all the specifics on how to safely buy and sell your cars
Now, don’t get me wrong. Every company is more than welcome to write up articles that provide insights and also gently nudge users to their products. I use it, they use it, everyone uses it! It’s actually been one of the best revolutions of the internet since, well, the internet. Basically every company out there is now inclined to write up full form articles about each little topic and issue they cover to drive people with that problem to their site. Google does a good job at filtering out the ones that don’t provide value, so both the consumer and (the good) companies win.
My concern when reading about private car sales stemmed from the fact that most outlets were making the argument that buying a car from a dealer was somehow intrinsically safe. Any time you went through a list of pros vs. cons, you would get to a point where it would say ‘but dealers are a safer bet’. Do dealers inspect their cars before putting them up for sale, no doubt. Will they fix some issues like windshields and tires and clean the cars? You bet. Does that make them any less likely for them to have issues down the road? Debatable.
If you go out and buy a car from a private seller and do 0 checking of the vehicle, sign on the dotted line, and drive off, you are certainly more likely to have issues. But that is just as true at the dealership down the road. And very rarely do people purchase a car car privately without using a checklist to make sure they cover their bases. In fact, you should do that no matter who you buy from! Many people think that because they have a big sign and lots of cars, that dealers will be of help should their used vehicle go kaput a few months after buying it. Think again. Take a look at an example from the State of Georgia government. As-is notices pretty much give your favorite car dealer full reign to sell you a car bordering on acceptable with no repercussions. This includes any verbal agreements the salesperson might make to get you to that signature. They are not held to any agreement made while talking so don’t hold your breath waiting for them to get around to it. > Buying or selling a beemer? Checkout our Bmw service guide to make sure everything is up to snuff before the sale.
So, if you accept that even the ‘official’ car shops can sell you a car as-is with no guarantee of any support should something go wrong, how is it that everyone accepts the trope that the dealers are a safe bet? Where does that come from? I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that it comes from the repeated articles, commercials, and lobbying by the dealers to ensure they maintain control over the used car market. 40 million cars at an average sales price of $20,000 is a $800B market every year in the US. That’s a lot of change for these auto outlets to keep in their corner.
When considering when to buy or sell from a dealer vs. a private seller there are definitely some serious differences that you need to consider. A dealership will often provide a controlled process where you just need to sign and provide the money. Going private will likely save/make you more money, but requires a few steps on your part. The one big thing to take home is that neither one provides you any kind of ‘guarantee’, even if the salesperson says it does. The one caveat here is the CPO option, which is an actual warranty backed by the manufacturers. These can be a good option to opt for, although they can be pricey.
You may be thinking, aren't you another company just trying to sell your option over the next? Yes and no. Do I provide an alternative to part of the current problem, sure. And I would certainly benefit from a shift in consumer thinking so I'm by no means an altruist. That said, use Topmarq or don't, but DEFINITELY do not buy a used car from a dealer thinking that it's a safe guarantee. Pay attention, be vigilent, and inspect any used car you buy. A lot of companies, including many dealers, provide a ton of great and helpful information free of charge. You would be wise to take advantage of that. In this case, though, it seemed like there was an echo chamber across the web of an argument that was fundamentally unsound. I welcome your thoughts either way.