By conducting a little research, you can find the best car dealerships in your market. It’s easy if you know where to start.    

A good car dealership is responsive to all your automotive needs by providing convenient hours of operation, excellent service, reasonable financing, and ultimately, a fair price on your next car.

Overall, they also must run an honest business.

A car is most people’s second most expensive possession, right behind owning a house. The time and money you’ll spend with the auto dealer that sells and services your car is a precious commodity.  So what qualities are you looking for in an auto dealership? And, how do you find one that meets your criteria?  Read on as we provide the answers to:

How to find good car dealerships?

Imagine of roads

You can find a good dealer by asking for personal referrals and by shopping online. Scroll through your contacts, email list, and access all your social media friends. Any time you can walk in somewhere and drop a name puts you ahead of the game. Getting access to special deals is the best way to satisfy your automotive needs.   

 Personal referrals:

  • Do you know someone who recently bought a car?
  • Do you know somebody who works at a car dealership?
  • Do you have any friends who are car enthusiasts or motorheads?

This would be a good time to ask them for a personal introduction.


Most of today’s car-shopping takes place online. Explore the AutoGravity site by plugging in the price range, make, model, and finance terms for which you’re looking. Let the search-engine “bots” do the work!

And, for added convenience, AutoGravity provides which dealers nearby have your dream car after you have identified it.  Also, check out which car dealerships AutoGravity recommends.

Here are three very important things to consider when evaluating car dealerships:


Honesty should come first — especially when making a major purchase.

According to a KPMG report on the future of car dealerships, nearly 65 percent of U.S. consumers believe that business practices among U.S. car dealerships are unethical.

On the other hand, consider the case of used-car salesman Shelmar Roseman at Journee Autos in Largo Florida. Roseman posted a brutally honest ad on his Facebook page for a 2002 Oldsmobile Alero with 200,000 miles on it.  The ad went viral, made the local news, and the car sold for $900 in 24 hours.

Years in Business

The length of time that a company has been in business is an excellent indicator of how they deal with their clientele. The longer they’ve been around, the more likely they have an army of satisfied customers.  Dealing with a start-up or rookies in the business always invites a certain amount of risk.     

According to Entrepreneur, one out of twelve businesses go broke their first year. The IRS says that 57 percent of business owners with employees and 38 percent of those without employees who went out of business reported they were successful at the time of closure. Although being in business for a long time is no guarantee of honesty, it does improve your odds of finding a good car dealership.


When you’re trying to find the best car dealership, consider their reputation.

According to Business Insider, some of the most reputable companies in the world include Rolex, Disney and Hershey. On the other hand, consider the tarnished reputations of Facebook and Wells Fargo, which were caught selling private user data and creating phony bank accounts. One scandal can ruin a good reputation. Consider what happened to the Weinstein Company after sexual harassment came to light. Do a quick internet search on the dealer and look for any patterns of bad reviews.

History Lesson

Car dealers typically don’t have a good reputation for honest dealings — a bum rap that goes back to the days before the internet.  Sure, car prices were right there on the window, but rebates, sales, and promotions were often used to confuse customers about what the “sticker” price actually meant and what the car actually cost.

Buying, selling or trading a used car was even more difficult. It used to be that the only people who could get their hands on a “blue book,” which was the guide that set used-car price guidelines were car dealers. Consumers were at the dealer’s mercy to determine what their car was worth.

For the most part, those days are over. With a few keystrokes, anybody can find a car’s worth and the price for which it’s selling.

When are car dealerships usually open?

Image showing open sign for car dealership

Car dealerships are typically open from early in the morning until eight or nine at night.  In order to cater to people shopping after work, before work, or on the weekends, car dealerships are open practically all the time.

Service centers have also been bending working hours to accommodate busy customers. Several car dealerships across the country, including Paragon Acura in Woodside, New York, will even send someone to pick your car up for a service appointment and re-deliver it to you when it’s finished.

How do car dealers upsell you?

Dealers will attempt to upsell you by directing you to a more expensive model, offering you financing, extra insurance, and car upgrades, including undercoating and paint-finish protection. Extended warranties and service contracts also offer fertile grounds for car dealership upsell opportunities.  Keep in mind that all of them will try to upsell you, as that is how they make a profit.

 Car dealerships make very little profit on selling new cars. Parts, service and repairs are the big money makers for car dealers.

Selling used cars can also be a profit center for car dealerships, but it’s a risky proposition, since no one has control over how long a car sits on the lot.  When buying a new car, the upsell happens in a number of ways.

  • Model Upgrade – Let’s say you’re shopping for that new sporty Mercedes Benz C-Class you saw in a commercial. But when you reach the dealer, the salesperson has you climb into the creamy luxury of an E-Class sedan. Watch out, they’re trying to get you into a more expensive model.
  • Financing – When buying a car, you can pay for it with cash if you have it. Or, you can finance the car. If you have the time and want to take the extra effort, you can go to an outside lender — like ar bank or credit union — and apply for a car loan. The good news is the dealership has a finance person in house that may be able to beat the bank’s rate and terms. Compare and contrast, do your homework, and you won’t be upsold here.  Keep in mind that AutoGravity can process your application and provide you with several offers, including captive financing that may be the best terms out there.
  • Additional Insurance – You may be told you need additional insurance for your new car. Maybe you do and maybe you don’t. Check with your insurance agent, assess what’s being offered, and consider the risk; you can easily navigate those pesky insurance questions.
  • Undercoating – Do you live in an area where they salt the roads during winter? Do you live close to the ocean? Repairing body corrosion on cars is expensive and invasive. The car dealer may offer you undercoating — a treatment done under the car to guard against the formation of rust. Is it an upsell? Yes. Do you need it? Maybe or maybe not. Consider your options and make the call.
  • Paint Protection – Do you live in a sunny locale? The sun’s ultraviolet rays do a great job giving people sunburns as well as creating havoc on painted surfaces.  If you keep your car in a garage most of the time, extra paint protection probably isn’t for you. But if your ride sits outdoors all the time, you might want to consider this upsell.
  • Hard Add-On Products – These include add-on products that alter the physical makeup of the car, including entertainment systems, navigation systems, curb feelers, pickup truck bed covers, racing stripes, and vinyl roof covers.
  • Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) – Keep in mind that a new car starts to depreciate as soon as you drive it off the lot. Financial products, like GAP, protect consumers who owe more on their car than it’s worth.
  • Window Etching – Dealers will offer to inscribe the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the window, making it more difficult for thieves to sell the car without removing the window glass.
  • Key Protection – Just what it sounds like. Insurance that covers the cost of replacement keys, some of which are quite expensive. If you lose your keys, you might wish you had this.
  • Tire and Wheel Protection – Covers the repair or replacement damaged by everyday road hazards. Keep in mind that tires often come with their own maintenance plan that’s pro-rated as you drive.
  • Dent Protection –One trip to the body shop can wreak havoc on your budget. If you park on the street in any major city, dents, and dings are a constant menace. Dent protection pays for certain types of dent repairs that don’t require re-painting.
  • Pre-Paid Maintenance Plans – Covers regular maintenance for a specified period while developing brand loyalty for the dealer. Check the fine print to see what they actually cover and whether it’s worth it.
  • Lease Products – Financial protection for lease customers, designed to protect consumers from excess wear and tear at the end of a lease contract. When you lease a vehicle, you’re responsible for any damage that is considered beyond normal.
  • Warranty Products / CPO – Warranty products are similar to service contracts but are included in a vehicle’s sales price when sold as as a certified pre-owned vehicle. For example, see our articles on Audi Certified Pre-Owned and Nissan Certified Pre-Owned.
  • Credit Insurance – Credit Insurance aims to pay all or part of the outstanding debt on the car in the event of an occurrence such as death, disability or unemployment.
  • Depreciation Benefit Service Contract – Designed to help consumers get a new car when their previous purchase has been totaled or stolen.

Can car dealerships ship a car to you?

Image showing shipping containers

Yes, cars and trucks get shipped across the country every day. There’s also a significant amount of horse trading between dealers, so everybody gets the car they want.     

 Even though cars are machines meant to be driven, new ones can’t be driven very far before they are considered used cars. At the same time, if the used car you want is on another lot, in another state, driving it to you may not be practical. But there are ways around it. 

Shipping New Cars

In 2017, over 17-million new cars were sold. General Motors has more than 30 plants around the world.  Daimler has plants in more than 20 countries, so moving new cars to where they’re sold is part of the process.

Cost for transporting new cars to the dealers is paid for by the “destination charge,” which appears on the window sticker. Technically, the number on the sticker may not actually be the true shipping costs, as these numbers are averaged out over all the cars sold everywhere.

Shipping and Swapping New Cars

If your new dream car is located at another dealership, your dealer may be able to “trade” one the cars on his lot for the one that you want on his lot. The dealer may offer you the car you want at the same price, with the shipping included, or they may have to charge you a delivery fee. Try to negotiate the fee, then weigh it against how bad you want that particular car.

Shipping and Swapping Used Cars

If you’re already working with a dealer you like and find your dream used car at another dealer in another state — there are some options.  In this situation, it all depends on a number of factors. Dealers typically only like to trade used cars if they are the same model in the same condition. It can be done, but the chances of a successful trade are better if you’re swapping apples for apples.

How to Find the Best Car Dealerships and Car Dealers – Recap

Image of close up car

Finding the best car dealership is not rocket science.  Using a combination of personal referrals and basic web research will help you narrow down your list of potential car dealerships to a manageable number.

Although today’s car dealers have had to overcome a reputation tarnished by unprincipled car salesmen of the past, it’s important to remember that they’re regular, hard-working people, just like you, who live and work in the community.

You can get a feel for a dealer’s reputation by checking them out with the Better Business Bureau, and any other local professional organizations they may belong to.

Most dealers these days have Facebook accounts; many are on Twitter and of course there’s always Yelp. Look for raves, referrals, reviews, rants and unhappy customers before plunking down the cash or signing the papers.

So you’ll walk in prepared, do your homework and minimize your chances of expensive upsells. Start your shopping online by considering the make, model and year of car in which you’re interested.

You can also start by looking at different styles of vehicles, including sedans, sport utility vehicles, convertibles, mini vans, coupes, luxury and wagons.  Fuel type is also considered in case you’re looking for a hybrid or electric vehicle. If the dealer tries to talk you out of what you want, it may be time to check out another dealer.

Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to research prices on any kind of car anywhere and get a ballpark feel for what’s out there. If the prices you’re seeing seem out of whack, ask another dealer. Don’t be afraid to walk away.

It’s also fairly easy to check on an individual car’s history by punching it into CARFAX.

Keep in mind that buying a car should be a logical decision, and it’s easy to get caught up in the emotional end of things.  Used cars are even more complicated due to their uncertain history. Consult experts whenever possible regarding advice about buying a used car.

Keep all these things in mind along your journey toward discovering the best way to find a good car dealership.

How to Find the Best Car Dealerships and Save Money
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How to Find the Best Car Dealerships and Save Money
A car is a big investment and finding the best car dealerships makes a huge difference. Read on to see how easy it is to find great car dealers.
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Scott Sowers is a writer based in Washington, D.C. His work appears in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic and many other fine publications. He grew up in the car business as his father managed Western Auto and Goodyear stores for several years before buying his own repair shop. He’s written automotive content for Car Gurus, The Fuel Line, The Auto Body Line, Auto Exec and serves as an Associate Editor for AutoDealer.

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