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Not All Car Dealers Are the Same

How many different car dealers and dealerships have you worked with over time? If it’s more than one or a couple, then you’ve likely noticed that not all car dealers are the same, in any sense. Some people are lucky to consistently have very positive experiences and so think highly of dealers, whereas others can have the opposite experience.

In today’s blog, we’re taking a look at some of the important ins and outs of working with dealers: how to find good dealerships to work with, what the advantages and disadvantages are, and what differences commonly exist between different dealers.

How to Find a Good Dealership: Tips

Read Online Reviews

A good place to start when looking for a reputable dealership to work with is to read their online reviews. Not all negative reviews should be seen as gospel, of course, because there are some people who are just grinding axes online. However, if you notice distinct themes in the negative reviews about customer service, pricing, after sales service and more, then you have good reason to steer clear of that dealership.

Make Inquiries and Check Responses

When you want to test dealerships further before “going down the rabbit hole” with them, you could start by sending an inquiry to them about a car or type of car you’re interested in. How they respond will tell you a lot about the quality of their service.

For example, if they take many working days to respond to you, it shows they pay little attention to such inquiries, perhaps indicating that they don’t care about them too much. That’s a red flag, right there. Alternatively, you can look at what they say in their response. If they immediately start trying to push or recommend cars you’re not interested in, that’s also a red flag.

Ideally, they’ll respond quickly to help you set up an appointment to come and see them and talk about your needs. If they use phrases like “what you want” and “what you need” then it shows they have good customer-oriented service.

Sales Technique

If you engage a dealership, observe their sales techniques closely. A good dealership will have salespeople that focus on giving you relevant information about what you want or need. Less reputable dealerships tend to push their own sales agenda. For instance, perhaps a poor dealership is trying to offload a surplus of crossover SUVs, and will try to sell you one even if you’ve made it clear that what you need and want is an 8-seater minivan.

Steady and Fair Prices

Finally, another strong indicator of a good dealership is one that offers a steady, consistent and reasonable pricing structure on its inventory. Many fall into the traps of massively (and suddenly) reduced prices without ever inquiring into why it might be that way. Dealerships that are changing their prices daily or even weekly are lacking in organization and structure.

Advantages of Selling Your Car to a Dealership

Below are just some of the general advantages of selling your car to a dealership. They’re all things you can take advantage of using the CarTradeGo app, of course, but they apply to virtually any dealership sale to some degree. Read on further below to read about further specific advantages of selling your car to a dealer when compared to a private sale.

Convenience and Ease

The first and most immediate benefit is that the entire process becomes hassle free and easy. Dealerships are far more open to purchasing any and all used cars in good condition because they are in constant need of inventory. That’s especially true at the time of writing, when a global chip shortage and increasing demand for used cars has seen dealers keener than ever before to acquire quality vehicles.


Following on from that first point, when you sell to a dealer, the entire transaction can be over very quickly. Whether you contact a dealer directly in your local area or make use of a wider network of dealer buyers like you find on CarTradeGo, once a dealer wants it, they’ll make it happen very fast, most often within the course of a single day, or even a single morning or afternoon.

Instant Cash for You

The final advantage that results from the first 2 is that you get cash in your pocket very quickly indeed. For those who are selling a car to a dealer to raise money to cover key expenses, or to get money to put towards another car or something else important, selling to the dealer can see you get that money in time.

Pros of Selling to a Dealership Rather than a Private Sale

Here are some further advantages one can enjoy when selling to a dealership when compared in particular to engaging in a private sale.

Near Instant Results

When you set up a private sale, you have to spend time uploading information about your vehicle to the various platforms you want to use. You’ll also need to take perhaps a dozen or more high-resolution photos, all of which adds more time. Even when you finish the uploads, you then have to wait for people to respond. This usually involves some back and forth on messengers or through email, which takes more time…you get the picture.

Dealerships will give you a yay or nay on whether they want you car based on very limited information, and in minutes. If you auction it, you can spend just a short time uploading it to a platform like CarTradeGo and then just wait and watch all the results come in.

Lower Risk of Post-Sale Conflicts

Dealerships have a much clearer idea of what they’re buying, and have an equally clear and solid sales process to match. Since they know what they want and what to look for in terms of condition, they can make firm and reliable offers. If there are mechanical issues to deal with, they can reflect it in the price and then deal with them in-house before they sell the vehicle on.

Private buyers do not work in the same way. The knowledgeable and experienced buyers that come your way will likely not present any issue, but those who buy the vehicle but then discover a problem afterwards could try to sue you or return it claiming that you’ve deceived them or hidden some fault with the car. In short, it can get messier. Working with a dealership is invariably cleaner and simpler.

Multiple Channels to Explore

Dealers are hardly in short supply, nor do they work exclusively within the realm of brick-and-mortar locations. You can connect with dealers online or in-person and enjoy all the same benefits. You can also look to dealers near and far to really explore your options. This isn’t the case with private buyers, who will invariably have to be drawn from the local area, limiting your options.

Can Part-Exchange, Bringing Tax Benefits

When you’re working with a car dealer, you can “sell” your car as a part exchange while buying a new one. This is something you can’t do in any typical private sale. When you sell to an individual buyer, you then have to take that money and go car shopping with it and the process begins again. Working with a dealership means you can kill two birds with one stone: sell your car first, and then put the value towards your next car.

Doing that in Ontario brings you tax benefits, as well. When you part exchange, you only pay sales tax on the adjusted price. So if the old BMW 3 Series you’re exchanging as part of your deal for a brand-new one is worth, say, $8500, and your new 3 Series is going to cost $50,000, then the adjusted price comes to $41,500 and your sales tax is based on that.

Cons of Selling to a Dealership Rather than a Private Sale

Of course, not everything is always rosy when selling to dealers.

Price and Negotiation

The dealership will leave you virtually no room for negotiation when it comes to sale price. It is common practice among dealerships and other car retailers to offer a firm last-offer price on used cars they are hoping to acquire. They do this as part of their overall push for efficiency and speed. They make it clear that no negotiation is possible, and so you either take it or leave it.

That’s good when you want speed, but not when you want to ensure you get the best price. There’s no amount of leverage you can use over dealers, which is different to when you sell to private individuals.

Harder to Explain Away Defects

Dealerships will also give you little to no room to explain any mitigating circumstances behind damage and defects. Private sellers may well be willing to listen and factor in your explanations, but dealers simply will not. They build their offer based purely on condition and there’s nothing that can modify those assessments.

Ease of Private Sale has Increased

While organizing a private sale is definitely not as easy as selling to a dealership, it has become easier thanks to modern online platforms that make entering the details and uploading pictures faster and more convenient than ever. With many more users on online platforms now, as well, you don’t always have to wait so long to start getting responses.

You Learn Very Little

Finally, when you sell to a dealership, you learn nothing from the process. The dealership makes everything so convenient by handling all the bureaucracy and other paperwork, that you do almost nothing towards it except hand over the things they ask for. If you want to learn about what it means to sign over ownership of a vehicle to another party, selling to a private buyer is a better way to achieve that.

Differences From Dealership to Dealership

Demand for inventory is arguably the first difference you’ll notice when visiting different dealerships. If they are all quite close together, then the kind of inventory they are willing to buy might be quite similar, but if you go further afield to try and get a better deal, that willingness might shift. For example, demand for electric cars would be greater in an urban area than in a remote or rural one where there are few options for charging. Equally, pickup trucks and off-road SUVs are more in demand in those rural areas than in the cities.

Buying price will certainly change from dealer to dealer. You might assume that all dealerships would pay a standard price, or close to that, but in fact different dealers take into account various factors at different levels from each other. Following on from above, the local demand for certain vehicle types is one factor that determines price, as would condition, model year, features, etc. You’ll more than likely find variation at every dealer you visit.

Quality of service can also vary greatly from dealer to dealer, depending on many factors. The perception is that perhaps the OEM-branded dealerships will offer a better service experience as they have more resources for training and standardizing their procedures. This can be true, but it’s not universal. So strong is the competition from branded dealers, independent auto dealers have had to step up their service game to compete.

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