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4 lessons from a pre-owned buyer

Liz Hochstedler, Associate Editor - Powersports Business
March 29, 2012
Filed under From the Editors

Anyone who knows me well knows I’m a notorious pre-owned buyer. Just this week I bought what I believe is my 10th pre-owned car (I think it’s No. 10, but I may have forgotten one or two). So I know what I’m doing when I buy pre-owned.

With this experience I thought, why not share with dealers what I’m thinking when I’m shopping pre-owned? I’m sure your customers who are ever in the same boat I often find myself in think some of the same things.

  1. Post, post, post your units. No one’s going to buy your units if they don’t know you have them. I recommend posting everything you have on your dealership’s website, but consider other locations as well. Craigslist is key. My dad and I are on Craigslist everyday looking for cars when we’re in the market; your customers probably are, too. Use sites like CycleTrader.com, CarSoup.com and other classified sites as well. Even consider newspaper or magazine classifieds; you never know who will be shopping for your bikes, and these classifieds might be the only thing they see. Watch your market and learn which outlets are used most and make sure every unit you have is posted in the key places. Not everyone is going to come to your dealership website looking for a pre-owned bike, but they might come to your store if they find the unit they’re looking for through one of your many posts.
  2. Use photos. You say you have a 2011 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe. That’s cool, but I want to SEE it. Is it black? Is it maroon? Does it feature a custom paint job? Does it come with leather bags? Does it have hard bags? Is there a ding in the gas tank? These are things buyers want to know. Seeing is believing, and seeing a photo can easily mean falling in love with a unit before it’s even seen in person.
  3. Be honest and be detailed. Lying about any aspect of a unit isn’t going to help anyone. If you tell a customer a bike is flawless, and they come in and see numerous scratches and dents, they’re not going to trust you, and they might tell their friends not to trust you. On that same note, be as detailed as possible in your descriptions. Maybe you took in a well-ridden bike that has racked up 30,000 miles. Maybe that’s not the prettiest picture you can paint, but it’s true. Once again, the buyer isn’t going to be happy if he or she thinks it might only have a few thousand miles on it, only to learn at the dealership that it had 10 times that amount. Detail can also work in your favor. Advertising a 2007 model that has only 3,000 miles might bring a buyer who was thinking of buying something else, but now is intrigued by your bike.
  4. Only fix what you’re going to fix well. When you learn what’s wrong with any pre-owned bike you bring into your dealership, make a decision whether or not you want to fix any issues or sell it as-is. Nothing is less appealing to a knowledgeable buyer than a half-done job. I recently visited a car dealer who clearly used cheap touch-up paint to cover rust and scratches on many of the vehicles in his lot. My first thought was, “What else is this guy covering up? Did he make a ‘quick-fix’ to the engine that’s going to fall apart 10 miles down the road?” If you’re going to fix something, do it well. If you’re not committed to fixing it, leave it alone. The buyer will decide if he or she is OK with a little rust or a ding, and maybe you can even offer to fix it for an added fee. Once again, you want customers to trust you, and showing off half-done service jobs is no way to get off on the right foot.

In case you’re curious, I ended up buying a 1999 Chevy Monte Carlo in my latest search. Sorry, I didn’t buy it from a dealer, but someone just happened to have my ideal car at a great price, and I couldn’t pass it up. And, yes, I found it on Craigslist.

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