Myths and misconceptions about used car dealerships…oh my

One of the biggest myths is that like we’re out to screw people. I think used car dealerships and buy-here pay-here dealerships have gotten a bad rap that we’re here to hose people, that we don’t care, that we’re here to stick it people who have had a rough go.

In fact, at Complete Auto Sales, we pride ourselves on the fact that we want to help. Our goal is for you to get your car paid off. Our goal is not to take your car away. This is another bad rap—people think we’ll say, “Oh too bad, you missed the car payment,” then we pick it up, put the car back online, and sell it to somebody else. Missed a car payment, pick it up. Are there people out there who do it? Absolutely. But us, that’s not our main goal.

Another benefit of buy-here pay-here in general is the fact that we have to have transparency about the vehicle. Nothing can really be hidden because if it breaks down, you’re not going to make the payments and we understand that.

So that guy in the plaid coat hiding whatever he can hide in that car and selling it to you and being done with you doesn’t happen in buy-here pay-here. We’re not done with you. You’re still our customer for the next three years on average. 

Some people think we’re making money by repossessing cars, and that dealers just want to repo the car so they make it impossible to succeed.

We’re not in the business of doing that. We wouldn’t be in business if we did do that. There are some dealerships out there that do it. And frankly, they go out of business. We’ve seen it time and time again. One happened less than a year ago here locally.

We can’t set you up to fail because it’s bad on us is we do that. Because we already know that reputation proceeds us, we have to do better. If people aren’t paying off cars and we’re repossessing everybody, well hell, how do you have customers? You don’t. Word gets out pretty quick. Especially in our line of business.

I think the other thing is to highlight is that people think that buy-here pay-here dealerships sell turd cars. To stay in business, you can’t. Because the second something goes wrong, if we handle it wrong, it’s also a hindrance. Because where you bought the car is where you bought the car. So we’re going to have to deal with that customer on our end if I sell a piece of crap.

That goes to another myth: the prices are too high. The problems that we face with the people who sell just straight up cash, are that we really do have to prepare that car for a three-year loan. With a dealership that sells it to you for cash or you get financing at a bank, they don’t really have to prepare the car to go the distance. For them, the car just has to drive off the lot and maybe make it 30 days.

But our cars have to last. We really spend a lot of money to make sure they last three years or longer. So there’s a lot of upfront costs that we’re really transparent about. We’ll show you everything we’ve done to the car before the sale. We’ll give you the entire work orders, the cost of the parts, everything. It’s in the books that we have in every single car that sits on the lot, that tells you what we’ve done to the car. Our average reconditioning cost is over $2,000 per car before it even hits the lot.

I’d argue that the average used car—not a buy-here pay-here car—is probably $800. You can see a huge difference there. We are very transparent. Part of our paperwork with our customers is that we tell you everything we’ve done to it, and we give them an AutoCheck which tells you the history before we owned the car.

We can’t dig and find out every single thing, but any information that’s out there, we provide. The customer signs that, acknowledging that we showed all this to them.

We also do a full inspection on the car with the customer prior to leaving. They check lights, windows, radios, CD players, A/C, cruise control, everything before it even leaves with them so that we all make sure everything’s in great working order.

Buying from our dealership is actually less expensive in the long run, because customers are not having to pay out for a lot of repairs. We do all the maintenance up front.

For example: Timing belts that are due every 90,000 miles. I mean, you go buy the average used car the chances of you knowing whether that was done or not is pretty difficult. So sometimes we’ll just do it because we can’t find out whether or not the timing belt’s been changed. So we just do it ahead of time. That’s $700-$800, maybe more.

Another misconception of buy-here pay-here: that service and reconditioning work gets done on vehicles, but the mechanics don’t know what they’re doing, or they just put Band-Aids on it—those sorts of things.

I would put any of our guys up against any new car dealer mechanic any day.