The first commandment for turning used-car shoppers into buyers (Part 1 of 5)

Know thy customer.

Three simple words that are easier said than done for dealerships that sell used cars.

“As dealers, you want to match up the right car with the right customer as quickly as possible,” says the introduction to a CarStory white paper based on responses to a recent survey of used-car shoppers. “It helps you move cars, and it helps turn shoppers into repeat, happy customers.”

Photo: autotrader.com

Photo: autotrader.com

So what did CarStory find were reasons Americans were seeking a used car instead of new?

The top two reasons far and away, followed by the percentage of shoppers who chose each, were: save money, 60 percent, and get a good deal, 53 percent. In fact, four lesser reasons also made some reference to savings, including getting more features for the money, 26 percent; reducing insurance costs, 19 percent; minimizing depreciation, 17 percent, and avoiding hidden fees, 13 percent.

Only two of the top eight reasons cited by CarStory (surveyed shoppers were allowed to select more than one reason) involved something other than saving money. Those were getting a special model you can’t buy new, 32 percent, and getting exactly what you see, 26 percent.

So, first and foremost, be sure you are making a strong value-based proposition.

In “How to convert used car shoppers to buyers,” CarStory also reported that eight in ten used-car buyers (81 percent) want to know vehicle condition (81 percent), followed by accident history (77), service history (75), listing price (74), value of the vehicle (73), make (72) and mileage (71). Also important are price compared to the market, dealership’s reputation, selling prices of similar vehicles, mileage compared to similar vehicles, comfort features, cost of ownership and fuel efficiency.

But dealer vehicle descriptions fall short for most shoppers, according to the survey, in which 47 percent of women and just 38 percent of men felt they got all the information needed to make a decision.

“Understanding what information your customers need to make a purchasing decision can help move them along the buying process,” says CarStory, which provides independent reports about the value of individual vehicles and features in specific markets.

Understanding what customers are feeling, meanwhile, can take a positive experience even further.

CarStory found that used-car shoppers who answered the survey were mostly excited (49 percent) or optimistic (44 percent) and, to a lesser extent, satisfied (28 percent) or happy (23 percent).

The trick, of course, is to make sure they stay that way during and after the sale.

NEXT: The most important three-letter word when selling used cars

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