LONDON, Ontario -

Attention dealers: used-car buyers are testing your vehicle knowledge.

Fifty-one percent of Canadian used-car buyers told us the last time they bought a vehicle, they tested the sales person by asking a question they already researched the answer to.

There is some good news: Your well-trained sales reps are passing, for the most part. But 37% of used-car buyers still believe they knew more about the last vehicle they bought than the sales person that sold it to them. To get this number down to 0%, you need to look for information where the used-car buyers are looking. With so much information (and misinformation), you’ll need to know where to start.

What could it cost you?

Our research has found that Canadian used-car buyers are unforgiving when it comes to a sales person’s vehicle knowledge. If a sales person isn’t knowledgeable about the used vehicle the customer is interested in, 61% of customers said they would leave the dealership. If that sales person accidentally provides some incorrect information, 72% say they will leave.

Where are customers looking?

  • 51%: dealer websites
  • 45%: Independent listing websites
  • 39%: Google search
  • 34%: Friends and family recommendations
  • 31%: Online reviews of dealerships or vehicles

There is a bright side to this; the most popular places to do vehicle research before visiting your dealership are your dealership’s website, followed by independent listing sites. These two places give you the chance to explain any information that the customer should know. This could also be a large reason why customers are so willing to leave if a sales person slips up; the sales person isn’t just wrong, they’re contradicting information you already gave them.

Other commonly used resources are online searches and reviews. Try challenging your sales people to Google the vehicle in question with the words “reviews” or “common problems” to improve their product knowledge.

Of course, we can’t forget advice from friends and family. This is a challenge, because if the customer’s trusted friend has incorrect information, who will they trust more: an old friend, or a used-car dealer they just met? The secret is to find an opportunity to investigate the question or concern together with the customer, so they can see for themselves.

How to ace the test

If you want to have the knowledge your customers expect, half the battle is ensuring the information written on your listings match what you’re communicating in person. After that, it doesn’t hurt to see what the listing sites or review sources have to say about your vehicles and have a process for investigating unclear facts alongside the customer. Do this, and you’ll pass every test a customer can throw at you.

Drew Harden is manager of research & insights at CARFAX Canada.

Driving Insights is an information series designed to help used car-dealers better understand the motives and behaviours of Canadian used car buyers. The research, designed by CARFAX Canada and executed by Dynata, is based on the most pressing questions of dealership management and staff across Canada, answered through a national survey of 1,000 Canadians who recently bought a used car from a dealership. If there’s a question you’d like us to address, email and we’ll get you some answers!