Ask the Beaverton Car Guy: Where to Buy a Pre-owned Vehicle

By Larry “The Car Guy“ Ferguson


Hello Beaverton Readers!

Recently I was asked if I were to buy a pre-owned vehicle where would I buy it? Would I buy from a franchised dealer or a used car dealership that doesn’t sell new vehicles. I thought I would offer some information to our Beaverton Readers to aid them in their searches.

When you’re looking to buy a used car from a dealership, you have two choices: 1) You can buy from an “independent” dealership or 2) a “franchise” dealership. Independent car dealerships and franchise car dealerships each have strengths and weaknesses when compared with each other.

Independent Car Dealers – These are used car dealerships that don’t have agreements with any particular car manufacturers to sell certain makes of vehicle and they won’t feature the name of any particular manufacturer in their name. They’ll usually have names like “Bill’s Quality Used Cars” or “Great Deal Auto Sales.” Since they’re not linked with any specific car manufacturer, independent dealers don’t sell new cars and will offer a large variety of used cars from many different makes.

Franchise Car Dealers – These are dealers that have the authorization or “franchise” from certain automakers to act as an agent in selling their vehicles. Franchise dealers can be easily spotted because the dealership’s name will usually contain a car brand’s name in it –  “Franklin Sussex Hyundai”, for example.

Here are the differences in buying a used car between the two types of dealers –

Vehicle Variety – Independent car dealers will typically have a much bigger selection of used cars to choose from. Franchise dealers that also sell new cars typically don’t put as much focus on the used cars they offer.

Financing – Franchise dealers usually have lower interest rates when it comes to financing and it’s done through their manufacturer’s financial services arm – GMAC or Ford Motor Company Credit, for example. Independent dealers’ interest rates are often higher, but they are also more likely to offer financing to people with less than excellent credit, making it easy for someone with a checkered credit history to finance a car that would be turned down at a franchise dealer.

Vehicle Age – Used cars at franchise dealerships are usually later models. Independent dealers may offer late models, but also typically have a selection of cars that are older than you would find at a franchise dealer.

Price – Prices for used cars at franchise dealerships are often higher than at independent used car lots. Since the inventory at independent dealers is usually a bit older than at a franchise dealer, you’re more likely to find cars for lower prices.

Vehicle Service – Most franchise dealerships have their own service departments with technicians trained to work on the brands of new cars that they sell. That can be a good thing if you’re buying a used Honda from a franchised Honda dealership, but doesn’t matter so much if you’re buying a used Chevy from the Honda dealership. Most independent used car dealers don’t have service departments to fix your car after you buy it. However, there are plenty of good, independent mechanic shops around to fix your car, so it’s not really a big deal.

I have typically found from experience that, the non-franchised dealerships do less of a reconditioning on their used vehicles than the franchised dealers. One of the reasons is the franchised dealers have a service department on site, this means that the work is not sent out to an offsite mechanic trying to upsell the dealership on work that may or may not be needed. The other side of this is, the franchised dealer has the onsite service department. This enables the sales team to actually view and inspect the used vehicles while in the service department.

Another thing to consider is the franchised dealerships today, have technicians who are cross trained, this means that they are able to work on any vehicle, not just a Toyota if it is a Toyota store, or just a Ford if it is a Ford store.

In the event I were purchasing a pre-owned vehicle I would certainly purchase through a franchised vehicle over an independent dealer. It seems that again from experience, the franchised dealerships do a more thorough inspection so we are not purchasing someone else’s pre-owned vehicle problems.

Please Beaverton Readers, if you have a question or need automotive advice please contact me, chances are good that I just may have the answer or there is no doubt we will find it.

About the Car Guy: Larry’s specialty is locating cars, even hard to find cars, for everyday folk. He has been in the automotive industry for over 35 years and has several degrees in automotive technology.

Email him at or call 503-930-1493