3 Online Dealer List Red Flags to Watch Out For

As a former dealership employee, I know what goes into selling and marketing cars. I was responsible for inventory for a group of dealerships, often listing hundreds of vehicles per month for two different dealerships at once. As a result, I have a good idea of ​​what works, what customers like to see, and why dealers need to avoid posting certain things online. Like any good car buyer, you should always check online inventories before heading to a dealership. Here are three lists of online dealerships you should be wary of.

1. RED FLAG: missing photos

Ford Dealership | David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

One essential thing I did when managing a used car inventory was take photos to post online. Many customers aren’t interested in a vehicle until they see it. Some will think nothing of the lack of photos. Then they will show up at a dealership and find a car that looks different than they expected. However, photos may be missing for several reasons.

  • The vehicle has just entered inventory.
  • There is something to hide.

In my time at the dealership, we practiced total transparency. This means that we have never purposely hidden the photos to deceive the customer. However, I have seen with my own eyes that some dealer locations hide images. This is to make the customer believe that the vehicle is of better quality than it is. If no photo is on the website, look for a date of registration. A 1-7 day inventory without images is perfectly normal. However, longer than a week or more, and something could be fishy.

Also, do your due diligence with other inventory selections. If you are interested in a vehicle with 35 photos online and there is another car with 40, what are the missing entries? One car may have features that the other does not. However, in my experience, some dealerships fail to post a photo of the left side of the vehicle if there is significant, visible damage, for example.

2. RED FLAG: A missing or strange odometer reading

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Almost all online dealer listings will have an odometer reading. Mileage is one of the most important things for customers when buying a used car. As a result, it’s usually at the top of the list, and sometimes photographers will provide a photo of the actual odometer. However, some dealerships hide the actual distance that previous owners drove a vehicle.

For one thing, if the odometer is missing from the list, ignore that car altogether. As with the photos, if this is new inventory, it may not have been updated yet. Alternatively, a vehicle a week old or older should have a reliable odometer reading. Pay attention to missing mileage, as it could be higher than expected or so high that the dealership doesn’t want buyers to know about it.

Also, watch out for a strange odometer reading. For example, if a 10 year old car has driven 20,000 miles, don’t just accept it as the truth. While it’s entirely possible for a vehicle to have extremely low mileage, it’s uncommon and buyers should question it. According to KBB, the average driver drives between 10,000 and 15,000 miles per year. Also, a vehicle with a mileage above or below that average could be a typo, a cheat, or a bargain. Either way, always question it instead of accepting the odometer as fact.

3. RED FLAG: An undervalued vehicle has a problem

A Reliable Used SUV Under $8,000 Includes This 2007 Toyota Highlander
The 2007 Toyota Highlander SUV | Toyota

Finally, a very low price is a red flag to watch out for with online dealer listings. As a former dealership employee, I helped my fair share of friends and family find a new car. They will often send me a listing and say something like “wow, that sounds like a good deal”. I then click through the list to find a car listed at $10,000 under other versions of the same vehicle. If it sounds too good to be true, it almost always is.

Almost every time this happens I find something wrong with the car. Also, the average buyer won’t notice a few things, only that it’s very affordable. Look for an unusually high mileage, a bunch of accidents on the CarFax report, or some other hidden issue. Sometimes a car is listed at a lower price than others because of something simple, like its hideous color, and no one wants it.

The thing is, if one vehicle listing looks really cheap compared to the others, there’s something wrong. An incredible offer is almost completely unknown to a dealer. Always compare your vehicle with an identical vehicle at a different location. Keep in mind that sometimes location matters and a dealership across the country may charge differently.

Online dealership listing red flags

In conclusion, online dealer listings have a few red flags to watch out for. If a car is missing pictures, has a mileage, odd mileage, or a grossly underpriced price, don’t trust the listing. Plus, a car that looks too good to be true probably is. Do your research thoroughly before entering a dealership or agreeing to buy a new or used car.

RELATED: How Unlimited Sick Days Boosted This Dealership’s Productivity

About Nunnally Maurice

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