A man and woman are fighting in front of a concerned man at a used car dealership near me.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Customer’s Tales

The Customer’s Experience Comes First

Sometimes shopping at a dealership for a used vehicle can be a somewhat intimidating endeavor as you’re not sure what kind of experience you may get. Trust us when we tell you that many used car dealerships offer fantastic service on a regular basis. If you find yourself searching online for a “used car dealership near me,” you’ll likely start your search by reading reviews left by previous customers. This can be the deciding factor for many people between visiting a dealership or considering them not worthy of your time. While we don’t always want to admit it, there can be some pretty terrible dealerships out there. However, the majority of dealerships you work with will offer you a good to excellent customer experience. It all just depends on where you go.

The ideal experience when visiting a used car dealership typically consists of working alongside a knowledgeable and personable representative who will assist you in finding the perfect vehicle for your price range, and the best of these experiences end with you behind the wheel of a vehicle you desire. Many sales representatives are skilled and highly proficient at their jobs and love interacting with their customers. If a sales rep doesn’t come off too strong, is generally interested in what you would like to have in a vehicle, and doesn’t want to break your bank or get you involved in some exuberant monthly payment, then there really shouldn’t be a reason not to work with them. However, it’s always important to recognize any red flags that might mean a dealership doesn’t have your best interests in mind. In this world, sometimes the ideal experience isn’t what you’ll get. There are countless variables to what can make or break your overall time spend at a dealership, but what would you classify as extreme?

The Bad and The Ugly

When it comes to an extremely bad experience, the best way to describe it is when something happens completely out of the left-field that you didn’t expect. Sure, you can have an unpleasant time with a sales rep who isn’t the best at making a strong first impression or doesn’t contain the knowledge you’re seeking. Some reps who aren’t good at making a sales pitch may refer to every vehicle you look at as “top of the line” when you know that can’t be the case. Sure, this can be frustrating, but shouldn’t be considered an extreme case.

A prime example of an extreme case was discussed by a gentleman who describes his former boss’ experience at one of their local dealerships. When he visited the dealership to shop for a vehicle, he suddenly noticed his car keys were missing. Upon approaching the employees to inquire about any information regarding the whereabouts of his keys, the employees seemed less interested in helping him remedy the problem of finding his keys to the old car and instead insisted he purchased a new vehicle as an attempt of persuasion. The customer who sensed suspicion among the employees gave them an ultimatum stating they had no more than 30 seconds to find his keys; otherwise, he’d call the police. To no surprise, the employees just so happened to find the customer’s keys within ten seconds, proving his curiosity.

While it is rare to have an experience like this, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. Always keep an eye and ear out for anything that might feel suspicious or shady. If you get a bad feeling, or if something really obvious like theft of your personal belongings happens, run for the hills.

A salesman is handing over the keys to a used car.

The Hidden Fee

The next example stems from a car dealership tacking on a last-minute fee to trick the customer and attempted to break the law for their own benefit in the process. This customer explains as he recalled the story that the provincial laws in his area claim the advertised price is the subtotal you pay before tax, no exceptions. The customer was helping his friend shop for a vehicle, and they found one he enjoyed and got to take it on a test drive.

With both of them agreeing his friend should consider the vehicle, they showed up again the next day to look into it further. Once they sat with the sales rep, everything started smoothly, and his friend felt confident in his decision. All of a sudden the rep handed him an invoice which added an additional $500 to the advertised price under an “admin fee.” The customer’s friend remained calm and asked them to remove the admin fee.

The sales rep remained adamant, claiming there was nothing they can do regarding the admin fee and goes on to tell them it’s a fee everybody has to pay. Luckily for the gentleman who was assisting his friend, familiar enough with local laws, he was able to call the sales rep out on the fee. Upon hearing the argument ensuing nearby, the manager approached them and offered to waive the fee if they decide to purchase the vehicle right then and there, which only further exacerbated the customer’s claim that the fee wasn’t necessary, to begin with, and was merely a cash grab. It’s moments like these where you need to stop and leave the dealership you are working with and find one that is better suited to help you. You can find that car you fell in love with somewhere else.

The Extreme

The last case is probably the most extreme case we’ll mention to you here, but unfortunately is not all that uncommon at bad dealerships. The customer in this scenario was shopping for a vehicle, but found that none of the employees seemed to want to help him in any way. When he finally approached someone, they responded with an unacceptable racist remark. The customer explains at the time he was interested in a sports car. He visited his local dealership to look around and maybe speak to a sales rep for more info. The customer walked around browsing various vehicles and was appalled that there were no employees around to help him the entire time he was there. He ultimately brushed it off, thinking that perhaps the sales reps were caught up in something important and then decided to return at a later date.

About two weeks later, he returned to the dealership and again started walking around, hoping for a different result this time around but to no avail. The customer ran into somebody who he asked where he could find a sales rep, and to his surprise, they told him they were a rep. The customer then asked why he continually received no help in shopping for a sports car during the two trips he had made. What the rep said after that completely baffled the customer.

He mentions to the customer that he is shocked he hasn’t received any service, especially considering he wasn’t a person of color. This, of course, made the customer very upset and resulted in him going out of his way to travel further than he wanted to a dealership over 30 minutes away. At the next dealership, the customer was then helped right away and had an effortless and painless time during the transaction with them in order to get the sports car he wanted. If a dealership has such a clear bias towards any type of customer, they are not worth your time or business.

A man is in the background at a used car dealership near me looking at a white SUV.

The Reality of It All

What is important to remember is these cases represent the minority of thousands of daily visits customers make to a dealership. Realistically, most shady dealerships with such horrible practices are no longer in business. Chances are your local dealership is well equipped and more than ready to assist you with no trouble whatsoever. If your experience isn’t terrible or “extreme” but just didn’t work out, then fret not because it’s important to remember that not every shopping trip is going to be enjoyable.

Of course, there are plenty of experiences shared by customers who claim they can recall their very best visits to a dealership. Perhaps this is due to their visit being that much better at “Dealership B” when compared to “Dealership A.” Often, having a good experience following a bad one will make the good seem so much better.

For example, a young man was helping his father shop for a new vehicle to replace his old one, so they decided to visit a local dealership that specializes in higher-end sports cars at lower prices. While his father was working out the logistics with the dealership after choosing the vehicle he wanted, the young man then decided to look at a beautiful yet somewhat pricey sports car. A sales rep then approached the man and asked him if he would like to see the interior, to which the man agreed, although made sure it was clear he had no intention of purchasing one at the moment and was simply at the dealership assisting his father.

This didn’t bother the sales rep whatsoever, and he continued with a friendly and personable conversation regarding the vehicle the man was looking at. A few moments later, as the young man’s father wasn’t done with the paperwork yet, the sales rep grabs the keys to the sports car he was eyeballing and said to him, “Let’s go have some fun.” He was then able to test drive a car he would have never envisioned himself driving otherwise. After the test drive, the young man gave the sales rep his phone number and gave the instructions to give him a call, should a lower-priced model arrive. The sales rep in this situation did an exemplary job and made the customer feel valued as they should.

An important tip to take away from all of this is to be prepared for the worst, but don’t expect it. If you do research before visiting your local dealership, then you will be able to express exactly what you’re looking for, and it will help you understand if you’re getting a good deal or not. Great experiences are what car dealerships strive for, and one or several employees doesn’t represent the dealership as a whole. Never be afraid to keep shopping around until you find the dealership you’re most comfortable working with.