Buying a Used Car? 5 Questions to Ask the Owner

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buying a used car

While it’s cheaper than purchasing a new car, buying a used car from a private owner carries some added risk. You don’t have the benefit of being the car’s first owner, so you might be taking on someone else’s problems or mistakes. You have less of an idea of the car’s condition, and in most cases, no warranty to protect you if something goes wrong the day after you bought it. If you are looking for a used car, it’s always a good idea to check out used rental cars that come with both warranties and full histories. But if you’re set on going through a private seller, we have five questions you should always ask when buying a used car!

1. How does it run?

Unless you’re foolish enough to consider buying a used car without a test drive, you’ll find out for yourself how it operates. So why ask? The way the seller answers the question could provide clues. If the seller hesitates or stumbles over the answer, he or she may not feel comfortable disclosing its actual condition. Also, if the owner says it runs great and you hear a lot of knocking during the test drive, it’s probably a good idea to walk away.

2. Why are you selling it?

If the seller provides a legitimate reason without thinking or hesitating, you can trust their motives more than if they nervously search for an response. This question may also help when it comes to negotiation, because you can gauge how motivated the seller is to get rid of the car.

3. Do you have service records?

If you want to increase the chances of buying a reliable used vehicle, find one in which the previous owner kept meticulous service records. How often was the oil changed, the tires rotated and the coolant flushed? Will the car soon be in need of new shocks, brakes or belts? An owner with this information recorded can provide a more accurate picture of the car’s condition–and also a little more peace of mind that he or she cared for it.

4. Has it ever been involved in an accident?

It’s almost never a good idea to buy a car that has been involved in a collision, because it will be prone to more problems. Even if the seller says no, have it checked out or look for signs that it’s been repaired, such as filler spots on the body, evidence of repainting and uneven body lines. A vehicle history report can also help you answer this question. If the seller tells you the car is accident free, and then you determine it’s been damaged and repaired, he or she is either untrustworthy or not knowledgeable about the car’s condition.

5. Does it have a clean title?

Again, don’t take the seller’s word that the car has a clean title. The seller should have the title in hand, and it should be in the seller’s name (unless they are selling it on behalf of an aging parent or similar circumstance). Not having a clean title can cause headaches when you go to register the car in your name.

Though you may not always get an honest answer, these five questions are designed to help you consider “how” the seller answered as much as what he or she actually said. If you ask these questions, and consider the responses carefully, you’ll feel more secure buying a used car!

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Connecting with Customers to Earn Referrals

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Car Sales LotWhen you’re selling big-ticket items like automobiles, one way to boost your business is referrals from satisfied customers. The key to earning referrals and repeat business is connecting with customers!

At best, auto sales professionals are forgotten when the buyer drives off the lot. At worst, they are remembered for the wrong reasons. Rarely do car salespeople leave an impactful, positive impression that makes customers want to tell their friends about them. But there are simple and inexpensive ways to keep your name in the minds of buyers after a deal is closed.

Stay in Touch
One of the trademarks of a salesperson who stays connected with customers is providing periodic emails. Remind them of service dates like oil changes. Sending birthday e-cards or an “anniversary” message to commemorate the date of their purchase keeps you present in their mind.


Car Wash

One salesperson I worked with took cars to a nearby car wash and shined them up while his customers signed the paperwork. Most dealerships have onsite prep stations, but if that’s not the case for you, this is definitely a great service to provide!

Giveaway
With a car being such a huge purchase for most people, new owners always appreciate a little thank you gift. A nice (inexpensive!) organizer for keeping maintenance records and insurance cards is always useful. A small car maintenance starter kit that includes a tire gauge, a bottle of wax and a chamois is also a lovely alternative.

Cash Money
One of the easiest things to give a satisfied customer is a gift card for gasoline. It doesn’t have to be much—-$5 or $10 is plenty—-but this is a great way to say thank you to a new customer. A unique turn to this idea is to give the customer a $2 bill to commemorate the purchase. This is an inexpensive but memorable option!

Thank You NoteA Simple Thank You
An acquaintance told me how delighted he was when he found a hand-written thank-you note in the glove compartment a few weeks after he purchased his car. The card probably cost between $1 or $2 but the customer’s experience was priceless.

Take a Photo
Many dealerships now take pictures of buyers with their new cars. This is a great way to connect with customers on a personal level. You can offer to send the picture via email, but remember that if you want to send any marketing material to an email address you need permission.

These are just some of the ideas you can implement to move beyond the transactional nature of selling a car and earn those referrals and repeat business. We’re sure you have some creative ideas too, so please share them in the comments section below!

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Patience is a Virtue when Buying & Selling Cars

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4481300759_518757ff35_zBuying & selling cars has always been about speed. Time is money. Always be closing. Activity equals productivity. Cut to the chase. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

These sales clichés have mostly disappeared, relics of a bygone era when many salespeople tempted prospective buyers with empty promises instead of true value. But, even though you may not hear these words come out of a salesperson’s mouth, the attitude behind them still exists in some places. Especially in vehicle sales.

Many people in the market to buy a car dread the process. They’re afraid that as soon as they start looking around the lot a salesperson will stalk and bully them into something out of their price range. They especially dislike the negotiation process.

One way you, as a vehicle sales professional, can allay these fears is by demonstrating patience.

On the one hand, the idea of patience flies in the face of successful sales. Competition requires decisive action. Conventional wisdom says you need to get in front of as many people as possible to hit your sales goal for the month. That means you can only spend so much time with each prospect.

Patience, on the other hand, communicates to a client that you are more interested in their well-being than your own. It signifies that you want both parties to come out of the deal happy. Being patient can ultimately lower a customer’s natural defenses against you and make them feel more confident about the process.

Yes, being patient means taking things slower. But your success ratio is potentially greater. Say you interact with 15 clients a day using the old high-speed, “get-er-done” pressure tactics. If you’re lucky, maybe three will end up buying from you. Most likely you will never see the other 12 again.

It’s true that if you exhibit some patience, you may only have time to interact with 10 clients. But those who have their questions answered, and feel like they came to a decision themselves rather than being bullied into it, will buy more often. You may close six of those 10 deals. And, guess what, the other four may just need to think about it for awhile. Since you were patient, they may return.

Patience will also force you to remember that you are dealing with a human being–a person who may not want to buy a car, but must. Or reduce your frustration with a person who takes up an hour of your time, gives you every inclination they are going to buy but ends up walking away. Patience will help you answer all of the prospect’s questions, even the silly and obvious ones. It will also allow you to understand the customer so that, when he or she hesitates, you can understand why and try to work toward a reasonable solution instead of the quickest one.

If you’re the buyer in this situation, try to work with a professional who exhibits patience. Buying a car is a major purchase. For many, only a house will be require a larger investment and more debt than an automobile. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly. The sales professional you’re working with shouldn’t be rushing you. You have the right to take several test drives, ask questions and negotiate. If the sales person isn’t willing to take that time, you’re perhaps better off walking away.

Before you even begin the car buying process, do your homework on both the car(s) you might be interested in and on finding the right salesperson. If a friend or family member had a pleasant experience with a dealer, get that individual’s name and location and head there first.

Above all, be patient, and take as much time making the decision as you need to feel good about it.

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