Feeling Used: How Should A Dealer Handle A Special Order?


Mr. Benson writes:

Hi Steve. One dealer to another, I’d like to know how you handle “special order” used cars.

My neighbor wants me to get his wife a 2010 or 2011 Escape. Cash purchase, so no problem there. There’s no shortage of these vehicles, but you know what happens if I buy him one at the auction, he can probably find one cheaper online that is in far worse shape and higher miles.

Given that I won’t take him to the auction with me…I’m thinking of asking him for a deposit upfront.

What do you think? How do you handle these? Thanks in advance.

Steve Responds:

I keep the rules simple and strict when it comes to buying a wholesale auction car for any individual.

1) 10% down upfront. No exceptions.

2) They agree on the car by first viewing it online through Manheim’s Online Vehicle Exchange (OVE), and then seeing it in person. ADESA, which competes with Manheim, is also a well-regarded chain that deserves a look.

3) Do NOT have them view a vehicle on the day of an auction. The auction environment is chaos in motion, and most inexperienced buyers will not be able to focus on a vehicle.

4) If the car is a good fit, I would follow up by ordering a post-sale inspection that guarantees the car’s mechanical and structural condition.

5) No refund of deposit if they renege on the deal.


This won’t result in a torrent of interested buyers and, personally, I would consider that a good thing.

I have bought cars for companies and individuals for well over a decade now. I can tell you that it’s far easier to buy a ‘workhorse’ for a company interested only in a specific type of vehicle than a ‘showhorse’ for a public buyer who often wants an exact model, color and features.

One other important detail: I stay away from anything over five years old and prefer to stick to higher-dollar purchases. The average price I charge is $500, which is reasonable given that most used-car purchases in this range are typically sold anywhere between 7% and 25% of the average wholesale price.

Good luck!