We think that reliable dealerships always share a set of basic values and behaviors. You can use this list to check whether a dealership near you is likely to help you out, but it’s also a description of our promise to you, our potential customer, about what you can expect from us.
1. Dealerships should stand by their products.
The most important thing to check for is whether a dealership sells cars “as-is,” meaning that once you drive off the lot you’re stuck with it, come what may. MATS.org only ever sells cars with a 30-day warranty, giving you the confidence that the risk is on us and not you.
2. Dealerships should have high standards for their inventory.
Many dealers will buy cheap cars in poor condition, polish the visible parts, and repair them enough to make it through a test drive. Then they rely on dishonest pricing tactics, misleading listings, and the house edge to persuade someone to buy them. At MATS.org, we reject about 90% of the cars available at auction, choosing to buy only vehicles that we know are worth owning.
3. Dealerships should have high safety standards.
Once cars have been bought, dealers are responsible for reconditioning them. That process needs to come with high standards for every component of the vehicle. We take safety seriously, and can happily promise that our cars are genuinely road-ready.
4. Dealers should make sure that prices match condition.
One of the best ways to tell if a dealership is being honest is by how much information they’re willing to share. If they invest as heavily in selection and reconditioning as we do, they’ll be eager to share that with you—safety and road-worthiness are major selling points, after all. If dealerships won’t answer questions about condition, or say that they can’t, it might be best to move on.
5. Dealers should have broad expertise about cars and car-buying.
A dealer worth working with will know more than you do. Not just about makes and models of cars, although that’s important. They’ll be able to compare expected lifespans, clearly differentiate vehicles based on your needs and intended use, and give you accurate information about cost, maintenance, and features.
6. Dealerships should grant you access to specialized industry tools.
MATS.org prides itself on helping customers find the cars they need using industry search tools that apply to our own inventory as well as those of other dealerships, and include reliable information about condition and value.
We’ll be honest: we don’t know of any other dealership that meets all of those requirements. We had to design our business from the ground up to work the way it does, and we’re extremely proud of the results.
Beyond the Checklist: Hire an Expert
Buying a car is a major decision. It might mean taking on debt for five to six years, and you might be spending two, three, or more hours every day in the car you end up with. It’s important to get it right. For other decisions on this scale, we all know what to do: hire an expert.
Buying a house, for instance, requires you to find the right neighborhood, compare prices over time, pick up on opportunities for renovation and sniff out homes in poor condition, and avoid scams and untrustworthy sellers.
The best way to do all of that is to find a realtor you trust. They’ll bring an entire career’s worth of experience to the table, and prevent you from giving up or making a poor choice that you’ll regret for the rest of your life.
It’s time to use expert consultants for car buying
We think that buying a car should work the same way. What you’re looking for is someone who can access and share information about cars’ condition and value. Someone who will answer your questions directly and honestly, and who has search tools and background knowledge that you either can’t get or don’t have the time to develop.
That’s what we offer, and it puts us in a very small group of services that operate based on fair prices and open information.
Our Business Model
As we see it, consumers need reliable outside help to find the right car at a fair price. Only dealerships have the resources and expertise to identify options that are going to meet your needs without exceeding your budget—or saddling you with a lemon—but most dealerships can’t be trusted.
That’s why we created a whole new business model. One that shifts the risk from the buyer to the supplier.
Instead of selling any cars we can get to whomever we can get to buy them, we sell our expertise. We use our resources, knowledge, and specialized skills to match buyers up to cars that are truly right for them, and we sell those cars to them at a fair price.
A Final Thought
Used car sales is broken. If you’ve read any of the other articles in our Used Car Buying Guide, you know that by now. The house edge is too great an advantage, and you just don’t have access to the critical information about condition that would let you make a clear, informed decision.
Whether or not you choose to work with us, we hope that this information has been helpful, and that it lets you navigate your next auto purchase a little more confidently and with a little more success.
See you on the road!