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Here’s How Some Smart Car Dealers Load Their Lots and Get Their Cars

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There are more than 21,000 new car dealerships in the United States and nearly 150,000 used car dealerships.

After years of sluggish sales, these businesses both are starting to see increases once again.

Whether you run a new or used car dealership, chances are you’re selling more cars now that you have been in a while.

Are you having a hard time keeping your lots as full as you’d like them? If so, keep reading.

Listed below are some guidelines that smart car dealers follow in order to keep their lots full and their customers happy. You’ll also learn some other helpful strategies for running your car dealership.

Getting Cars for Your Dealership

If you want to run a successful car dealership, you need to make sure you have a good number of cars in your inventory at all times. After all, customers aren’t going to want to buy from a dealership with only a few cars in the lot. 

There are a few different ways you can go about getting cars for your dealership. If you’re selling used cars, the two most popular options are to buy your cars from auction or to build your inventory with trade-ins from other buyers.


There are two types of auctions where you can purchase used cars. There are “dealer-only” auctions that are run by manufacturers. In order to attend these, you have to be a franchised dealer affiliated with a specific manufacturer.

The cars sold at dealer-only auctions are known as “program” cars. They’re usually late-model cars that were bought back by the factory or returned from a lease. These cars are often high-quality and well-maintained.

There are also open auctions. At open auctions, any licensed car dealer can bid on a car. Many of the cars at these auctions come from dealer-only auctions, where no one bid on them.

Many of the cars you buy at these auctions may be high-quality program cars. You might also find a lot of older cars with lots of miles on them. 

You can also use open auctions to try and sell off vehicles that have been sitting in your lot for a long time.


Used car dealers often get their inventory from trade-ins, too.

Most dealerships have a consistent flow of cars coming in and out of their lots. This is because most people who are buying a car do so with the intention of trading in their old car. 

Most dealerships aren’t terribly picky about accepting trade-ins. They’ll take just about anything that comes their way. Remember, if you can’t sell a car at your dealership, you can always sell it at an open auction later on.

What About Inventory for New Car Dealerships?

Auctions and trade-ins are the two main sources of inventory for used car dealerships. What about new car dealerships, though?

New cars come directly from the manufacturer. Manufacturers sometimes offer incentives to dealerships to encourage them to sell more new cars. These incentives are known as dealer cash. 

Manufacturers might also utilize what’s known as a dealer holdback. This is a percentage of the invoice price of the car that the dealer receives after the car is sold. The holdback lets the dealer sell the car at invoice price and still turn a profit. 

It can be a lot more challenging to sell new cars than old cars. That’s why there are so many more used car dealerships in the country.

Getting the Cars Delivered

If you are selling new cars from your dealership, you don’t really have to worry about the delivery process — the manufacturer handles the shipments.

If you’re selling used cars, though, you may have to get creative with how you get the inventory from the auction to your lot.

Many dealers will make use of vehicle moving companies. Before you agree to work with one of these companies, though, you’ll need to vet them carefully to make sure they can handle transporting your car (or cars) safely.

Before you agree to work with a specific company, do some research to see what kind of cars they typically transport. 

This company recommends checking to see if they offer door-to-door transport services, too. This means they’ll bring the car directly to you, and you won’t have to worry about picking it up from a terminal.

Bonus Tips for Running Your Dealership

You now know how to keep cars in your lot at all times. There’s more to running a car dealership than having a healthy inventory, though.

Listed below are some bonus tips that will help you make sure your customers are satisfied and your business remains profitable:

  • Inspect, repair, and clean your used vehicles carefully before you put them on the lot for sale
  • Offer warranties on all used cars
  • Make sure you’re abiding by your state’s Lemon Laws
  • Make sure your outdoor lot and indoor showroom are both neat and inviting at all times
  • Make sure you and your employees maintain neat dress and grooming standards at all times
  • Greet each customer warmly and make sure no one is ever left waiting

Remember to make customer service your top priority, too. Consider offering free VIN reports or background checks on used cars.

Remember to follow up with customers as well and thank them for working with you. People love to feel appreciated, and this will increase the likelihood that they’ll work with you again in the future.

Looking for More Advice from Smart Car Dealers?

As you can see, there are a lot of strategies you can implement that will help you keep cars in your lot at all times. 

Do you want to learn more advice from smart car dealers who have lots of experience in the field? Or, are you looking for general business advice that can help you take your dealership to the next level?

Whatever kind of information you’re searching for, we can help you find it.

Head to the Business section of our blog today for all kinds of helpful tips and tricks that can benefit any business owner.

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