Forum OpenACS Q&A: Response to How to buy a used car
The process I used was I found a 'dealer' who specializes in buying cars for private parties at dealer-only auctions. Sounds fishy but they are former sales people of regular dealers so they know the business. They helped me identify the vehicle I wanted and my spending limits. The day before the auction we went down to the lot and found about 5 vehicles I would have been happy with. The next day they bid on a couple but hung in there until I got the one that was really my favorite. I paid the sales price plus $500 to the dealer.
In my case I think the final price was average. I didn't get ripped off nor did I make a killing. The vehicle I bought was one which just came off of lease, which explains the extremely clean condition and low miles. There were also many bank repos and other vehicles their too.
The biggest advantages I see are a) ability to review many, many cars side by side, something not possible buying private party or at dealer lots; b) the chance to get a real bargain, and a cap on the final price.
Unfortunately I picked the Chili Pepper Red one with the factory suspension/tire upgrades and nice interior. Therefore there was one other person who bid it up $2000. If he hadn't been there I could say I made a killing.
Apparently there are many of these auctions going on all over the country and all the time.