- steve reviewed 2 weeks ago
So most dealer reviews are from people who buy cars from dealers.
This one’s just the opposite. It’s a dealer review from someone who sells cars to dealers.
Or at least used to.
I was part of the process that determined who got which cars to put on their lots to sell to customers.
It was the late 80’s and early 90’s, I was the pre-owned manager of a large dealership in Rhode Island that sold one of the most popular automotive brands. It was my job to appraise vehicles for trade in, and once they came in trade, to decide which dealers they went to.
We primarily only kept the trade-ins that were our own brand. That’s a pretty common practice…each dealer knows their own brand best, and has a much easier time selling, and especially servicing, the brand they sell new. We primarily got those vehicles from customers who traded up to a new one of the same brand. But when there weren’t enough of these, we’d go to the auctions to augment our retail pre-owned inventory.
When someone traded in a vehicle that wasn’t our own brand, we’d usually sell it to buyer for an area used car dealer. These guys (and they were always guys) are called “wholesalers”. They’d stop in every few days to see what we had traded and try to buy them for their own dealer’s lots.
Sometimes, if we were appraising a car we didn’t know much about, we’d call a wholesaler to get an exact value on it. A price they were willing to pay, so we didn’t have to risk taking it in and losing money. But more often, they just stopped in to see what you had for sale. It’s a practice that’s gone on for over fifty years, since the start of the auction houses on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, and still goes on at most dealerships today.
Being that we traded close to a hundred cars per month, there were plenty of wholesalers who frequented our dealership each day. They wanted our trade ins, and to buy them at wholesale so they could take them back and sell them at their stores for retail. Most worked for used car stores, employed to go on the road and buy as many cars as their dealer could afford. Their entire living was made buying vehicles of varying quality and taking them back to whoever they were working for, who would clean them up and sell them for a few bucks more.
For most of them, the worse the vehicle, the better. If we had a rusty Geo Metro with 200,000 miles on it, we had a line of wholesalers who couldn’t wait to bring it home. 4WD trucks where the 4WD wasn’t working? No problem, there’s a home for that. High mileage? Ditto. Broken odometer? Frame damage, flood damage, salvage title? We took them all in trade, and there was no shortage of wholesalers who would take every one we could get. Sometimes they junked them, sometimes they shipped them overseas, but more often than not, they ended up on a local used car dealer’s lot for retail.
Terms like Buck (a hundred), Nickel (five hundred dollars), quarter (twenty five hundred dollars) were the most common.
A typical call would go like this:
Me: Hey, I got an 85 Exploder (endearing term for a Ford Explorer-because of their tires tendency to explode) with a buck and a half (a hundred and fifty thousand miles) and a man in the motor (a banging noise coming from the engine). She owes fifty-nine bucks ($5900), but I think I can get it done for 4g’s ($4000). You a check writer?
Wholesaler: that depends, is there twenty-five hundred in the glove box? If not the things worth 2g’s tops.
But there was one buyer who stood out from the rest. He was younger than most, but knew more about cars than any of the others. When we’d see him, it was always either early in the day (waiting for us at 8 am when we arrived) or otherwise usually when we were close to locking up. He was a rarity in the field in that he was his own buyer for his own dealership. He’d be on the road buying cars early and late, but all day he was either at his store, or on Wednesday’s, he was at the auction. His work ethic was unmatched.
But where most wholesalers were interested in the cars that had an edge to them, (some type of problem…which made them cheaper) he wasn’t. Not even close. He only bought the nicest cars we traded. Luxury brand? Yes. Low mileage, yes. No stories? Perfect. Where the air got thin, and the other wholesalers got nervous, he stepped up. Every time. The nicer the car, the more he wanted it.
And if we wanted to package a group of cars and throw in a couple of lousy ones just to get rid of them? He wasn’t interested. Title problem. Not interested. Lemon Law BuyBack? No thank you. Repo? Not going near it. If we were trading a low mileage, no stories, no accidents, perfect car, he was the only call to make.
Those were the only cars he wanted to buy because those were the only cars he wanted to sell. He had a reputation, and he wasn’t going to risk it just to make some money.
And he knew cars like the back of his hand. I remember once I called him on a Mercedes 300 TE Wagon. Low miles, white with tan. Leather and a power roof. It was the perfect car. I called him, and without doing any research he asked “Is the roof factory?” (is the moonroof factory “installed or aftermarket). I don’t know…it’s just got a moonroof. What’s the difference?” I said. He said “The difference is that if it’s a factory roof, I’ll take it. And it it’s aftermarket, and I’m not interested. Not at any price. You can’t cut a hole in the roof on those cars without asking for trouble.
Over the years, I sold him hundreds of our nicest trade-ins.
When I’d go to the auction, It was a treat to see him in action He was like a rock star. Dealers from all over coming up to him and asking his opinion about one car or another. When he had a car on his lot that didn’t sell for some reason, he’d take it to the auction, and everyone wanted to buy his cars. They knew they were the best cars they could get there, and they’d be able to put them on their front line with no questions asked, and no issues of title or mechanical problems.
That was twenty years ago. And while most of those old wholesalers are either out of the business, retired, or still sniffing out clunkers, the guy who used to buy and sell only the best cars, is still doing so today.
In the years that have passed, he’s gone from selling only used cars, to now also a successful Subaru dealer and Nissan dealer as well. His two very talented brothers have joined him. He now employs over a hundred people, including a dozen or so buyers. He goes to auctions all over the county, still looking for only the best cars.
And he still has a reputation in the business of being one of the smartest, most honest and hardest working dealers in the industry. He only sells cars that either he, or one of his brothers, personally inspects.
And for good reason, they’ve become one of the highest volume pre-owned dealers in the country.
I recently bought a pre-owned car from his dealership. My experience was exactly what I would have expected. A flawless car, and a perfect experience. No hassles, a great deal on the car, but more importantly, probably the finest car that I could have found for its year, make, model and mileage.
Although I love to do online research, especially when it comes to automobiles, I didn’t have to worry whether this car had any stories, whether it was a lemon law buy back, had a salvage title, or frame damage. I didn’t have to worry that the odometer had been turned back, or that it had been in a major accident. As a matter of fact, I did no research other than see it on his dealership website.
Most people think that the best way to ensure that is to do a CarFax, or AutoCheck, or do some online research. That’s all admirable and probably a good idea for most. But there is a better and easier way.
Go to the dealer who buys and sells only the best cars in the industry and has been doing so for more than twenty years.
His name is Bob Benoit you’ll find him at Anchor Auto Group in North Smithfield.
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