Every Used Car Has a Story

People selling their own cars tell prospective buyers all about it. Dealerships should do likewise.

Tim Deese

January 29, 2013

2 Min Read
Every Used Car Has a Story


The auto industry has never ceased to amaze me since that cold February morning when I showed up for my first job as a 16-year-old porter at an independent used-car lot. 

My experience in this business has been full of mystery and wonder. That kid back then could have never imagined the many great adventures that lay ahead. 

But one thing I’m seeing today I never expected to see: Private individuals are becoming better at selling cars than some professional sales staffers at franchised dealerships.

It is not that dealerships do a horrible job in their pre-owned operations. Independent and franchised dealers each sell about 14 million of the nearly 39 million used vehicles sold annually. Private-party transactions account for the rest, about 11 million.

But many people selling their own cars tend to do so more effectively. Why? Because as the vehicle owner, they use the personal touch to tell prospective buyers all about the item for sale.

Contrast that to a dealership salesman trying to sell a lot car he may know little about. 

Everybody loves a good story, especially if they are investing their own money in the topic of that story.

When training salespeople today, the strongest message I can give to dealers is that every used car has a story. But if you don’t teach sales staffers how to tell it, they will stumble in their efforts.

The private individual, essentially a dealership’s competitor, is telling the story and selling it. They tell about how much they have enjoyed driving the car. They tell how they’ve taken care of it. They show the service and maintenance records.

Car salespeople can’t do all that, at least not from a personal point of view. But they can obtain a vehicle history of the car and use it to their benefit and to foster customer peace of mind. There’s no mystery, if there’s a history.

Dealership salespeople should use storytelling skills to breathe life into a vehicle that otherwise is just another one on the lot.

If a private individual selling a car can do those things, so can a professional salesperson. Put enthusiasm and color in a sale and you will enhance your used-car operations.

Auto industry veteran Tim Deese heads Progressive Basics, a training and consulting firm. He is at [email protected].

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