Dark parking garage with a single car alone being lit by daylight

Urban Legends of Used Car Dealerships

It’s a fair statement to say that we’ve all heard our share of horror stories about used car dealerships. That said, I was always raised to believe that there are three sides to every story: “your” side, “their” side, and the truth. The implication, of course, is that any story is inherently influenced by the perspective of the person who tells it. This means that for every great story about “horrible used car dealerships,” there is an equally memorable story about a customer.

But in all fairness, most stories, legends and stereotypes have at least a shred of truth behind them. As a writer, I have an inherent appreciation for stories regardless of the perspective or degree of embellishment. After all, it’s by our shared experiences that we become relatable to one another, regardless of our differences. I also believe in the importance of finding humor in (almost) everything.

With that in mind, you don’t have to look far or wide to find a wealth of great car buying stories. Ask your friends and family, and you’re bound to find one. But scour the interwebz and, as expected, you’re going to strike gold.


Personal References

One dealer recounts a story about a first-time buyer, looking to secure financing. In order for the dealership to do so, they required proof of income and five personal references. With the vehicle reserved, the customer planned to return the following afternoon with the documentation needed to finalize the deal.

After arriving two hours later than expected, the customer apologizes profusely for running late. Apparently, he had misunderstood and thought that he needed his references to appear “in-person” and was delayed trying to round them all up. Additional difficulty presented itself when they wouldn’t all fit into his car; luckily, two of them arrived comfortably in his trunk.


Give Me a Brake

An elderly customer is looking to buy a new car, and arrives at the dealership in their intended trade-in. When the dealer asked for the keys to test-drive the trade-in, the customer pointed out that the trade-in value should be good, considering “the brand-new set of brakes.”

When the dealer returned on-foot (and pale-faced) they explained that, during the test drive, the car failed to stop at an intersection. Questioning the customer as to why the vehicle’s brakes weren’t functioning, the customer pointed out that there was a brand-new set of brakes in the backseat; he just didn’t have time to get them fitted.


Well, That’s One Way

A customer visited a Mazda dealership, and was interested in taking a sedan for a test-drive. At this particular dealership, no license info was taken in advance since the salesperson accompanied the driver. There was nothing irregular about the test-drive until the customer asked if they could switch seats so that he could experience the car from the passenger’s perspective. The salesperson agreed, and drove further into town. Before turning around to return to the dealership, the customer asked to pull over as he wasn’t feeling well. The salesperson did so, but realized the “customer” was lying when he quickly walked away from the vehicle. It turns out that he was just looking for a ride into town.


Santa’s Little Helper?

At a Ford dealership specializing in pick-up trucks, a man came in looking to test-drive a Focus wagon in early December. With no red flags, the dealer green-lit an unsupervised test drive, which lasted the better part of 45 minutes. After the customer said it wasn’t what he was looking for, he departed hastily. Noticing a pine-scent within the car, and after finding loose pine-needles throughout the interior, the events of the test drive became clear. The funny part? The dealer was less aggravated by the “customer’s” intention of test-driving the car just to move a Christmas tree, and more irritated by the fact that he didn’t just test drive a damn truck!

Let’s wrap it up with a real doozy…



Like so many stories, this is about a sweet old lady. Looking to trade in a silver 2001 Lincoln Town Car, “which she loves,” she arranges to test drive a 2011 model – also silver. Her reason for wanting the trade-in? The 2001 model was possessed by demons, and ‘the man in the radio’ told her to buy a new one.

Despite his concerns, and with his manager’s consent, the salesperson proceeded with the test-drive, after the woman was able to present a valid ID. Once the salesman had confirmed to her satisfaction that the 2011 model had “no demons,” the test drive consisted of her driving at very slow speeds, and braking erratically, much to the irritation of other drivers. Out of concern, the salesman offered to drive the car back to the dealership so that ‘he could show her some of the car’s other features.’ She agreed and, upon returning, she spotted the same 2001 model that he she had arrived in and asked if she could test drive it. Suspicious of the woman’s mental state, the salesperson asked, “Are you sure that you want to buy a car today?” Her reply? “Yes, do you sell any silver Lincoln town cars?”

Confused and concerned, the salesperson consulted with their manager. They decided to contact the police out of concern that she might be senile, and shouldn’t be driving. After running her ID the police arrived and advised the salesman that she was, in fact, a patient at a mental health facility. The 2001 Lincoln Town Car belonged to a random family she had no connection with, and they had no idea how she had escaped or obtained the vehicle.


So, there you have it…
While each of these stories is undoubtedly biased by the storyteller, it’s important to remember that the broad strokes may very well be true. Whether a genuine first-person account, or simply a repurposed urban legend, each one is worth a laugh. The important thing to remember is that although sometimes used car dealerships have questionable practices, customers can be equally as…interesting.

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