You’re looking for a used car, and it seems like every one in the showroom is nothing short of amazing. How does that happen? When you see used cars on the street, they never seem to look that good.
Every used car dealer knows how to make a “beater with a heater” look shiny and new again, and they put some effort into it because they know that if they trick the customer’s eye, they have a good shot of tricking the customer completely.
What are the biggest secrets among used car dealers?
Part of the secret is heavy detail work. A car that’s being used is bound to attract dust, dirt and lint, so a thorough cleaning is essential when a dealer wants to make an old car look new again. That’s to be expected.
What you might not expect, however, is:
- Photoshop: When you look at used cars on a dealer’s website, the reds seem much redder and the blues much bluer than they do in person because Photoshop and other electronic touch-ups can make a car look incredible. The dealer is counting on getting you onto their lot by fooling you with attractive photos.
- Body putty: Dents, chips, scratches and other flaws in the exterior of a used car can be filled with a little body putty, then painted over to match the rest of the car – neatly hiding any actual damage from the naked eye.
- Clay bars and wax: A clay bar (or cloth with clay in it) will remove surface contaminants from the paint of an older vehicle and is used to prep a car for waxing. High-quality car wax can then be used to re-create that “factory shine” on a used car.
Ultimately, the shiny look that used car dealers get on their vehicles is designed to psychologically prime you to believe that any used car you happen to like is the proverbial “kept-in-a-garage-and-only-used-on-Sundays” find of a lifetime.
If a car dealer’s tricks hooked you into a bad deal, you might have legal recourse. Find out more about your options to fight back.