8 used car ploys and how to expose them
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The average American car has been on the road for 11 years, according to auto industry research group Polk. The recent economic downturn made drivers reluctant to part with their old beaters and forced buyers in need of a car to flock to used car lots. That reduced supplies dramatically and increased used car prices by a third since 2008. That makes even a well-loved vehicle a costly bet for wary consumers.
That risk is just amplified online, when consumers don't have access to the vehicles being sold and are relying heavily on the seller's word. So how does a used car buyer shop online without coming across as a sucker willing to throw money at the first too-good-to-be-true deal he or she clicks on?
In an effort to soothe buyers' nerves, the editors at auto research and shopping site CarGurus combed through user comments, discussion questions and dealer reviews to help us identify issues that most concern, annoy or rattle consumers buying used car online. The following are the eight biggest fears consumers have about online car buying and some advice to help them along:
1. Am I getting a good deal? If a consumer sees a good price online but has no idea what's going on under the hood, how do they know they're making a sound purchase?
What to do? Use pricing resources such as CarGurus, Kelly Blue Book, TrueCar or Yahoo! Autos to do your price homework. CarGurus, for example, uses algorithms to analyze, value and rank local car listings according to whether they are great, good, fair, poor or overpriced. Along with similar tools on other sites, it's a good way to see how local car listings and deals stack up.
2. Is it a lemon? A consumer finds a great deal on a used car, but has a nagging suspicion that there's something wrong with it.
What to do? For starters, request a vehicle history report from CarFax or Experian's AutoCheck. Most dealers will have this on hand, but it doesn't hurt to order it yourself. If there are still concerns, show the car to a licensed mechanic. It'll cost you, but the peace of mind is worth it.
3. "This deal won't last!" A consumer finds a great deal, but the listing puts them on the clock.
What to do? According to a CarGurus study, most used cars take on average 30 days to sell, so don't panic. At CarGurus, TrueCar and elsewhere, you can check the price history and days on market of available car listings, which can help consumers gauge just how much time and leverage they have.
4. No response: A potential buyer contacts a dealer about a car listing online and hours, days and weeks go by without a peep.
What to do? Most dealerships today have dedicated Internet sales departments that are very responsive to online queries about their stock. If a dealer doesn't get back to you within a day about a car, though, call the dealership directly.
5. They won't stop calling: A handful of car inquiries results in multiple phone calls and emails a day from various dealerships that a consumer can't keep track of.