Appraising a trade-in sight unseen

Ed Small

More and more we're being asking to appraise vehicles sight unseen.  We've tried about everything we can think of from giving average book, we've held back expecting some issues, we've used 3rd party sites (KBB, Edmunds, NADA,...), we've refused because of age and miles, we've given a price range,......we also tell customers any number we give isn't firm until we see and drive the vehicle.  I'm curious what your stores are doing and what works the best for you?

Jared Hamilton

We dont hesitate to appriase trades sight unseen.  Ask the questions you can, run the numbers and appriase it like you would on a car on the lot.  If you are a store that gives them ACV on the showroom with the car there, do the same when the car is sight unseen.  If you over allow, or under allow, follow the same process.

I dont see a need for a different process with the small disclaimer that you need to see the trade before you sign the contract.  (obviously, as they will give the car to you at some point).  Being confident in your numbers and following the same trade process that you follow on the floor will yeild the most deals for you.  If by chance the car comes in significanlty different that described, be honest with the customer and explain why the number needs to change.  This changing of the number should be the exception, not the rule.


Jared, I have to respectfully disagree. Can these posts be combined, I didn't realize there were two.

I train phone handling and BDC process. Are you using a trained BDC or are the salespeople fielding these phone ups/internet leads?

Customers didn’t just start demanding this. If I was to make a wild guess I would say we aren’t creating value in coming into the dealership. Creating value can’t be “I can’t give you that over the phone…”, (in fact, after you say the words “I can’t” the customer is done listening)

When I train new hires in a BDC I usually take a poll of the reps before we go into trade objection handling. I ask what kind of car they all have. Year, make, mode, trimline, milage, condition. While some can’t remember what year their vehicle is, many have no idea what trimline they have. And as we progress, we find that condition is relative, what the customers perceive as excellent, we may see as good or even below average. This is a loosing battle, but assuming not having the right vehicle data does not matter, lets continue.

I absolutely 100% train reps to never provide a trade number over the phone. It’s suicide.

That’s right. Bold italicized and underlined. They don’t need us to look up blue book or black book, our job isn’t to provide this information. Our job is to set an appointment that shows.

By doing this. you’re doing one of 3 things, period.

#1-you're quoting an amount higher than the customer will be offered upon inspection

#2-You're quoting an amount lower than the customer will be offered post inspection. While some see this as "playing it safe", you're going to compete with dealerships that will do #1 all day.

#3 and last but not least, more often than not you're simply providing a number that a customer will use to leverage their negotiations with other dealerships who also get sucked into the same gam,e over the phone and the customer never had the opportunity to even step foot in your dealership let alone experience what makes your store unique. How many times have you quoted a specific number, or even a “range” to have the customer decline an appointment opportunity and think, I gave him/her what she asked for…what happened? Customers THINK they want something but in reality they want something very different.

Let’s look at some of the wordtracks I train on and have been proven effective in many dealerships with the proper training and support. Bold/italicized indicated words I have reps emphasize

Handling trade in amount demand A-

I certainly understand you want the very best trade amount in for your (Trade in vehicle) , but it would be irresponsible of any dealership to give you that number over the phone because only a trained appraiser can give you that number (without pause or hesitation) I do have 2 priority VIP appraisals this afternoon, I have one at 11:45 and one at 3:15, which one works better for you?


Handling trade in amount demand B-


If I gave you a trade in amount I could be off by 1, 2, or even 3 thousand dollars. Is 3 thousand dollars allot of money to you? (Regardless of answer) It is to most people I speak with. Let’s do this the right way and set up a priority appraisal. It looks like I have 2 appointments today left for chargers, I have one at 2:45 and one at 7:30, which one works better for you?

Now, a few things to keep in mind. When I have reps give appointment times I have them provide times on the :15’s and :45’s and never, ever ASK if that time is “ok” with the customer or if that time will work for you etc. Give two appointment times and without pause or hesitation “which one works better for you”?

Now, for those that are going to say this simply isn’t going to work, guess what? You’re right! Here’s the real shocker.

You don’t want it to work all the time. Yep. The customers that are demanding, kicking and screaming at you for you to give a verbal appraisal over the phone, after you’ve used an effective method for overcoming the objection…that customer was never planning to come to your dealership anyway. They were just using you to get a number to phone shop the hell out of every store in your market and maybe even country.

This absolutely WON’T work 100% of the time. There is no % that I could even assign to this strategies effectiveness but what I CAN say is if you’re using wordtracks like this and executed correctly, they are extremely effective.

When the customer is on the phone we aren’t selling our vehicle, or our trade numbers. We are simply selling the appointment. This is why so many dealerships struggle to tap into the value of their leads and phone calls. The same way we’d never have a BDC rep meet with a customer and attempt to sell them a vehicle-the people that are the best sales people in the building should not be handling your phone leads. Different skillets for a very different job.

Chris K Leslie

Colin, I normally agree with a lot of what you say here. But in this case I disagree with what you are saying and here is why. 


1. We shouldn't assume the reason the customer is asking for that information. When we think that the only reason a customer wants this info is to do damage automatically makes us start to build counter attacks to situations that haven't even happened yet. 

The internet seems to be able to provide a certain range for a vehicle based on certain criteria and we should be able to do so as well. Otherwise we look like we're hiding something. 

Just because KBB doesn't sell cars doesn't mean that they dont know a lot when it comes to the value of them. 


2. We focus so much on selling appts we forget that we sometimes need to be knowledgable about the various parts of our business too. BDC's are great but we pidgeon hole them into doing one thing and one thing only. Which is to convince people to do something they dont really want to do to begin with. Why not increase the dynamic of the team and bring in people who can focus on TRade in requests or Finance stuffs. Our BDC's are not going to deliver more with the same tools all the time. Sometimes you need to increase the size of their war chest to increase the size of the demands made on them. 


I personally think we should do sight unseen with a scale just like KBB does. Let them do what they will with the info because they are going to do that anyways. Don't waste more time by making your job harder than it needs to be. 

Russ Chandler

This might sound like a silly question but have been using a value range opposed to a single number? Also, if/when you use a range, is it a detailed description for what influences a final appraisal value to fall on the bottom or top of that range? 

My recommendation would be to use a trade appraisal range that can be configured to match your dealerhips local strategy (conservative or aggressive), and then work on educating the customer around that range when sending them the numbers. If you can educate to what condition, options, supply, demand and other factors can do to influence the value in detail(actual dollar amount examples) then when they arrive at the dealership you can reference those details a second time. 

I understand its likely they don't fully trust the data your providing but its also likely they didn't enter all of their own vehicle data into the appraisal either. 

Another recommendation would be to just collect the bare minimum for what you need to offer a site unseen trade appraisal. Call it a "pre-appraisal" that you only collect year, make, model, trim, milage and just overal poor/avg/good condition. If they offer more details just tell them we'll take that into account in the real, on-site appraisal at the dealership. This is probably more of a realistic approach to trying to hit the number on the head without seeing it anyway. 

Dealer Guy

If you are a Nissan dealer and are quoting a trade (signt unseen) knowing you have $200 in mark-up versus the Chevy dealer down the road who has $4,000 all day long in play money, it's a no-win situation if it's just about $$.

Most 3rd parties use the same trade algorithm software, and showing a trade range is really what we should be telling the customer, because we know at the auction (if we want to buy that car) we'll also have a range of historical prices to meld through.

IF you give the customer everything they need: WHY DO THEY NEED YOU! 


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