Advise for small Independent Dealer

Matteo Batelli


I am about to open a small used car dealership with 20-30 cars. It will be warehouse and i am looking for some suggestions for tools that i can use. In the past, I used vAuto and some other tools I had around 100 cars but it was expensive. I am looking for inexpensive solution to this small dealership. I had a break for 2 years that is why I couldnt follow the new market tools. 

What do you guys advise? :


- Website

- What finance companies and lenders for sign-up and what financing software etc. DealerCenter ?

- Appraisal and Pricing

- Auction tools instead of MMR

and any other recommendations are highly appreciated!

Aaron Berg

For DMS, you will need something simple. I would look at automate as I heard they are inexpensive and work well with smaller stores. I have not personally used them but hear that they have great service. Vauto and AAX are both good but expensive. Try looking at ICC for vehicle reporting/pricing. New company but seems to be good. Ask for Kenny and tell him I refered you. We have started to use their pricing tool on our website and we really like it.

Matteo Batelli

Thanks Aaron, I will take a look at your recommendations and I try to find out ICC but it is not working. It goes to different companies webside.

Clint Jones

Hey Matteo-

You and I have a lot in common.  I can help you sort through a lot of this stuff.

DMS-If you are computer saavy, and have extensive experience with some of the heavy systems like ADP then look at Desk Manager.  They have a great system that integrates with Quickbooks so you can handle your accounting and sales at the same time.  They also do websites that integrate with their DMS so again, it is single entry.  It will cost you about $1500 up front, and you then OWN the software.  You won't get another bill for 15 months, with the exception of NADA or Blackbook if you choose them.

If you want plain and simple, straight forward, print the paperwork and let's go...then look at Frazer.  It is month to month, about $100/month including whatever book you want to use.  It also has an accounting system built into it so won't waste a bunch of time screwing with multiple data entry, has integrated credit reporting, lending platforms, and some other stuff.


Appraisal/Pricing-This one will get as many replies as people you ask.  Some will tell you to bite the bullet and pay up for vAuto.  Maybe so?  I personally don't.  If they had a small dealer package for $500/month I would be on it.  They don't.  

I use a company called Dealers Link.  It is a dealer to dealer wholesale network that has pricing, appraisal, competitive view, days supply, etc..  They have an iPhone app with scanner, so it works pretty good.  It isn't vAuto, but it isn't bad either.  

Autoniq is another one that is pretty good.  Again, not vAuto...but not bad.

Some of the 3rd Party lead providers (cars/autotrader/car gurus) have pricing tools built into their subscription.  They are free, and are better than nothing.


Website-This one is really wide open.  I use a company called Carbase because I wanted a 100% customer website rather than just picking a template and calling it mine.  This may be a waste of money (it isn't but I don't want to argue with anyone about it today), but I like it and it does what I need it to do.  I believe their rates start at about $300/month.

If you decide to go with Desk Manager for your DMS, I would certianly look at their websites.  Their company is called Automanager.  The DMS is called Desk Manager.  The integrated website side is called Web Manager.

If you want to get up and going ASAP with the smallest initial investment, I would tell you to go with Auto Corner.  The guy that owns the company is the head of their Support Department.  His name is Albert Dewey, and he is absolutely the nicest guy you will ever meet.  He chose to manage the Support department of his company rather than be in Sales.  This alone speaks volumes about his company.  I believe he is going to charge you around $500/YEAR for a site and he can have you up and going really fast.


Finance Companies-  What state are you in?  DealerCenter is good for one thing only.  Westlake Financial deals.  As a DMS, not so much.  I used it for 4 years.  Unless you want to spend half of your day pounding out data entry, don't use it for a DMS.  It is no cheaper than Farzer, and their support absolutely sucks.  I mean it SUCKS.  I still have DealerCenter because I do a little Westlake business.  That is the only reason.

Depending upon your state, there is a company called Vantage Finance that will help you with banks.  They take a portion of the back end that they put into your deals and get the paper placed.  Good guys to look to as you get your dealership going.

Who else do you sign up for lenders?  Absolutely everyone that you can find.  


Do not give in to the temptation to sign up with everyone that comes along promising you that they will sell you 25 cars a month.  Do not give in to the temptation to hire people that you don't need.  

Make sure that you are well capitalized.  When we opened our store, neither me or my partner took any money out for 6 months.  


Feel free to reach out.  Good luck to you.  



Matteo Batelli

Thank you very much for the great comment Clinton. 

Clint Jones

You are welcome Matteo.  

I am never going to claim to be an expert, but when these vendors start calling and giving you the "my service will only cost you 2 sales per month" speech, the whole expense side of the business gets hairy.

Just keep your expenses as low as you possibly can, and make sure that your vendors are carrying their weight.  No free rides!  


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