Complete Auto Sales has four lots of inventory to fill and they each have 150 to 200 cars on them. So we get them anywhere we can find them, really. We’re pretty flexible on the cars we buy.
However, there are cars we don’t buy because they have known problems. And there are cars we like to buy because of their reliability.
So really, we buy from a variety of different places: via new car stores on their trade-ins, at auctions, and our own trade-ins. We like our trade-ins with our customers because we have repair history on the vehicles.
We also won’t hesitate to send a car back from where we got it. If we go under our inspection list and the guys come back and say, “Hey, we don’t think this is going to make a good car,” then we evaluate the situation, talk to the shop mechanic or the shop manager, review it with the shop manager, and we boil it down to where we sit on this thing and is it going to be a problem? If it is, we’ll kick it out.
Our service department has an advantage over a Chevrolet dealership or a Toyota dealership or a Honda dealership. They really only see one brand of car. Even though they try to sell all kinds of used cars, they really only know Honda, Chevrolet, or Toyota. With our service department, we see nearly every make and model of vehicle.
Occasionally we do buy a mistake, and we keep track of our mistakes. We stay on top of the service bulletins that indicate a particular car has a bad transmission and they’ve updated the recall to 120,000 miles. We pay close attention to all that so that we buy cars that meet our standards, that we can sell and warranty, and that stand a chance of lasting.
We do focus on our own technicians getting continuing education classes when they’re available. The more they know, the better off everybody is—as the business, and so is the consumer. So we invest in technicians as well. We really focus on getting those guys the most updated technology, the best stuff we can out there.
Some of the education is proprietary and we don’t have access to it, but a lot of it, we do. Our guys are pretty savvy, we’re a pretty up-to-date shop.
I think that goes back to another misconception of buy-here pay-here: that work gets done on vehicles, but the techs 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. Brand-focused mechanics see 50 different problems in 50 different cars, and they know how to fix that.
Our techs’ knowledge of so many vehicles becomes useful when a new problem arises, or something they’ve never seen. Then they know, “Hey, this isn’t worth messing with,” or, “Hey, this isn’t a problem—I know how to fix this.” And we trust them to do it.
It goes back to the question “How do you trust a car dealership?” If you can see their service department—I don’t know how you tangibly sell a service department—but if you could look inside as the customer and see what dealerships actually do to their cars, then you would know whether or not you want to buy from them.
That’s kind of why we show everything we do to the car prior to sales and have an AutoCheck ready. But that’s kind of a hard thing to show people, how in-depth the car buying process is and the reconditioning process is. It’s not simple. It’s actually more complicated than anything.