Got A Low-Mileage Car? Dealers Want To Buy It, Badly

January 23, 2012

“What will it take to get you out of this car today?”

That’s not a question consumers are used to hearing at car dealerships, especially when they only drop by for an oil change. Selling or trading may not even be on their radar, but it’s another story for dealers, explains The Dallas Morning News (subscription required).

Car dealers’ normal channels of finding low-mileage, high-demand used models are drying up, so they’re finding creative ways to fill the void. One retailer appraises any vehicle brought in for service and leaves an offer to buy on the dashboard--with the tantalizing appearance of a check.

Even an Aston Martin dealership was spotted having a sign reminding their well-heeled clientele of their desire to acquire pre-owned units of “all makes and models.”

The Morning News traces this unusual trend back to 2008, when new-car sales flattened by 40 percent as consumers responded to the unstable economy. Since trade-ins accompany around half of new cars sold, dealers were dealt a double whammy. Fewer new units were leaving, so there were fewer fresh trades to stock the lot or sell to dealer auctions.

The hits just kept coming. Automakers soon had fewer off-lease used cars to stock auctions. So did rental car companies, as they kept their fleets in action longer than before.

As a result, U.S. and Canadian auctions that inventoried around nine-and-a-half million vehicles yearly before sales tanked have to make do with less. One analyst doubts that number will exceed eight million this year.

That’s why dealers are browsing online classifieds, sending appraisal invitations and skimming service appointments for potential lot inventory. Even as new-car sales rebound, it could take two years for used-car supply and demand to level out.  And as we recently reported on the other side of the equation, used-car prices at dealers could soon reflect this.

Until then, don’t be too surprised if your dealership suddenly presents an unusual proposal.

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