What’s With Those 'We Want To Buy Your Car' Dealer Offers?

Good day, people of Jalopnik, and welcome to today’s installment of Letters to Doug, your favorite weekly Jalopnik column that involves writing letters to a human named Doug!


Before we get started with today’s letter, I must remind you that you, too, can participate in Letters to Doug. All you have to do is e-mail me your letter at Letters2Doug@gmail.com, and perhaps, someday, maybe, if your letter is good enough, I will feature it here on the website.

I may also respond directly to you, if you send me something interesting enough. For instance: I am currently involved in an argument with a reader who says that Philadelphia, a wonderful historical city home to many beautiful neighborhoods, is not as good as Denver, a dry, plains town home to many bearded 19-year-old potheads. But I only check the Letters to Doug e-mail address once a week, so this argument has now lasted for a month, even though we’ve only exchanged four e-mails.

Anyway: now it’s time to take a look at today’s letter, which comes from a reader I’ve named Dale. Dale writes:

Hey Doug,

I’ve been reading/watching your work for a few years now and am a big fan. You’re pretty entertaining and knowledgeable which is a pretty rare combo.

As far back as I can remember I’ve gotten “Dealer Buy Back” offers via email or snail mail that I ignored. Along with this I’d get “robot calls” every once in a while.

However today we got a call from a real human at the dealership that my wife bought her 2012 Veloster from. She’s got about 51k miles on the thing and we’d love to trade to something else. …

The dealer claims that they have a client that wants her exact car and they’d be willing to buy it back from us and put us in a new veloster for the same monthly payment.

How suspicious should I be of this? My gut tells me this is some sort of lure to get us back into the dealership and make us spend more money. Do you have any experience with these dealer buy back offers that are all to common these days? Can we sell to the dealer and walk away to buy something private?


For those of you who do not want to read Dale’s entire e-mail, I suggest you turn right around and do it anyway, because it includes a compliment where Dale calls me “knowledgeable.” Fortunately, Dale was not there a few weeks ago, when I said my Nissan Skyline has a V6, and my cameraman had to remind me that it’s actually a straight six.

Dale’s letter touches on an interesting topic. Specifically, Dale asks a question wondered by many people who have purchased new cars in the last few years: do those letters and e-mails from dealers saying they really want your trade-in actually mean anything? Do dealers really want your trade-in? Are they going to pay top dollar for your vehicle because they have some customer who desperately wants it?

I’ll give you the short answer: no.

I’ll also give you a slightly taller answer: NO.

Let me tell you how things work in the dealership world. When you’re coming down to the end of the month, or the quarter, or the year, you’re desperate for sales. You might be behind on your targets. You might find your targets impossible to reach, like Maserati, who is now offering so many factory incentives that you can buy a Ghibli for the same price as an Ethan Allen flower pot.


So what you do is, you come up with promotions like these mailers.

These mailers always say roughly the same thing: We have very few used cars. We need more used cars. Come on down and sell us your used car. We want it. We know what you have. We need one just like it. It would make our inventory whole. It would make us so happy to have your used car. Happy like a seal eating a fish. Don’t you want to make us happy? Arr arr arr arr (seal noises).


Well, here’s the situation, Dale: they sent this mailer to 10 million other human beings in addition to yourself. And they don’t actually give a shit about your trade-in.

What they want you to do is, they want you to come on down to the dealership and trade in your old car on a new one. They might not even keep your old car. They might wholesale it to Justin the Wholesale Guy who comes around every Thursday at three with Dunkin’ Donuts. The truth is, they’re just trying to sell some more new cars.


But the way they get you is, these letters make it seem like they don’t just want to sell some new cars. It seems like they actually want what you have. So you get all excited, and, you bring your letter on down to the dealership, and they give you $500 above the Kelly Blue Book trade-in value for your car. That’s how bad they want it! They’ll give you an extra $500!!! And you go home telling your friends that you barely lost any money on your old car, because the dealer wanted it so badly, and now you have a brand-new one.

What they don’t tell you is, they would’ve taken that $500 off the price of the new car you’re buying if you had simply negotiated well enough.


Now, I admit that in Dale’s situation, things are a little different. Most notably, they actually called Dale to lie to him, rather than simply sending him an e-mail or a letter.

But here’s how they did it, Dale: they hired a temp, they gave her a list of every customer they’ve had since the Excel came out, and now she is calling them one by one. After you, it was Phil Roberts, who bought a new Sonata in 1994 and died of a meth overdose in 1997. They got Phil’s widow, Frances, whose job is to post those spam ads on Jalopnik about how her cousin’s sister’s racquetball partner made $86 last night working from home. “Well, what are you driving?” the temp asks her. “We probably want that, too.”


If you don’t believe me, Dale, I suggest going down to the dealer and trying to get a really good offer on your Veloster without trading it in on anything. I suspect they won’t give you $500 over anything, except maybe the trade-in value of John Owenson’s ’94 Sonata.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars, which his mother says is “fairly decent.” He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer.



It’s not nearly the same thing, however, once while my 2010 Golf was in the shop I was wandering around the dealership that was going through renovations (new owners)...and I was asked by a younger salesman what I drove. So I told him. He smiled and said “how’d you like to drive a new car new, BUT (drum roll....) it’d be a GTI and not that [pissy] 2.5 you drive for the same payments and no money down!”

(Cue streamers and dancing pigeons).

As soon as he said it and my eyes got as big as jumbo tater tots...another associate came over and said “are you crazy you can’t offer that deal.”

I smiled and said no thanks, I don’t like turbo lag. He was then rushed into some room to commence the water boarding or whatever his punishment was.