What Happens to Unsold Cars at a Dealership?

Author: Stat

What Happens to Unsold Cars?

Have you ever pondered, "What happens to unsold cars?" when you saw the vast array of vehicles displayed on a dealership lot? We may safely presume that there are at least a few of unsold vehicles among all those waiting there. What happens to unsold vehicles then? Are these vehicles returned to the assembly line? Do they visit a salvage yard? The reality is that dealers really don't have a lot of inventory that goes "unsold," it just takes more effort to transfer these vehicles. This is the result of brand-new automobiles being on the lot for too long.

Understanding the Dealership Model

It would be useful to have a basic understanding of the US vehicle sales process before moving on. The sale of automobiles by manufacturers to end users is frowned upon, and in fact is outright forbidden by law in certain places.

Rather, manufacturers sell their vehicles to approved dealers, who in turn sell them to consumers. To rephrase, dealers pay manufacturers, and you pay dealers. Dealers are unable to return vehicles to manufacturers for a reimbursement if sales are low. Consequently, each dealership is mostly responsible for selling their unsold inventory. 

There are a handful of factors that push dealerships to sell each and every vehicle they have in stock. Of course, it's in everyone's best interest to move all of your inventory, but dealerships also have to make do with what they have on the lot. The space that might have been used for a faster-selling or more lucrative vehicle instead went to one that is slow-selling. Dealers aim to reduce the opportunity cost associated with each unsold automobile on the lot.


Furthermore, it is unusual for dealers to purchase vehicles directly from the manufacturer. Rather, they take out a loan to buy the car with the expectation of reselling it to customers at a little profit. This implies that the dealership loses money due to interest payments on a vehicle loan for every day that it stays idle. Unsold vehicles incur real expenses in addition to the opportunity costs already stated.

Overview of How Cars are Sold

The diversity of the automotive market is reflected in the variety of channels and methods used to sell cars. The typical process of selling a car is as follows:

  • Dealerships. Buying a car from a franchised lot is the norm. These dealerships are linked with certain manufacturers and offer new automobiles along with certified pre-owned cars. The sale is managed by the dealership in every way: from providing test drives to handling paperwork, financing, and arrangements.
  • Independent Dealers. These dealers are not linked with any one carmaker and often offer secondhand automobiles. Independent dealers may provide a greater selection of car brands and models at varied pricing ranges.
  • Private Sales. People could put unsold cars for sale to other people. Due to the absence of dealer markup, private sales often provide the opportunity to save money. Nevertheless, the financing options and warranties provided by dealerships are absent from unsold car deals.
  • Online Sales Platforms. Websites enable both dealers and individual sellers to post automobiles. More recently, organizations like Carvana and Vroom provide fully online purchase experiences, where you may buy a vehicle online and have it delivered right to your house.
  • Auctions. Cars are also sold via auctions, which may be open to the public or limited to licensed dealers. Auctions may be a source for cheaper autos, albeit they frequently come with larger risks regarding vehicle quality.
  • Car Supermarkets. Huge establishments known as "car supermarkets" stock an enormous number of pre-owned vehicles. They provide a no-haggle, fixed-price approach that streamlines the purchase process but sometimes restricts negotiating.
  • Leasing. While not a sale in the classic sense, leasing is another means to 'acquire' a new or used automobile. Leases are often negotiated via dealerships and include paying to use the automobile for a specified term rather than full ownership.

Each of these sales channels has its benefits and disadvantages, catering to various sorts of purchasers depending on their demands, from those seeking new and newest models with complete warranties to those searching for savings on used cars.

Fate of Unsold Cars

When dealing with slow-moving inventory, dealers might take one of many approaches. This is how and where to buy unsold new cars. 

Offer Incentives and Discounts

Saving money is a joy for everyone. You not only obtain what you want, but you also end up saving money. Plus, the vendor makes a profit by getting rid of an unsold new cars.

Automobile lots know how effective sales can be. In an effort to clear their lot of unsold autos, they drastically reduce their prices. In addition, you will often find larger reductions on unsold but immaculate older devices when comparing their lowered pricing to those of brand new ones.

A new vehicle's markup is more than the profit from selling an unsold used one at a discount. But, the dealer may rake in enough money to pay off a sizable chunk of the loan that went into the sluggish seller's vehicle. If nothing else, the dealership may simply cease making interest payments on the loan for that car.

Manufacturers help auto lots sell their unsold inventory of new vehicles. Some examples of manufacturer incentives include rebates, reduced or eliminated interest rates on loans, and cash back for leasing older vehicles. The dealership will be able to finance future manufacturer acquisitions if it is able to effectively slow-sell automobiles.

Utilize as Loaner Vehicles

The resources and equipment available at the dealership are necessary for certain maintenance and repair tasks. It might be days, or even weeks, before these issues are resolved. While you wait for your car to be returned, the dealer's service department may offer you the use of one of their service loan vehicles.

The practice of using a dealership's slow-selling vehicle as a loaner is widespread. The dealer has the option to reclassify a brand-new unit as a nearly-new used car after it has been used for some time.

The manufacturer-suggested retail price is much more than the price tags on practically new secondhand cars. Customers on a restricted budget may be interested in them because of their low prices and pristine condition.

Auctioning Off Unsold Cars

No matter the steep discount or the car's popularity in another region, nobody wants to buy a sluggish seller. In such case, the dealership may take the junk car to a local auction. This is a great option of how to get unsold cars for cheap.

Bidding on the automobile will begin at the auction house. The house keeps a cut of the winning offer after selling the vehicle to the highest bidder.

Vehicle auctions are seen as a last option for dealerships. Even at high discounts, they offer automobiles that aren't moving the market. But if they decide to sell a car at auction, they'll have to cover the costs of the auctioneers' fees. But, some dealerships may be so eager to get unsold new cars off their lot that they'll even offer to auction it off.

Alternative Solutions

  1. Vehicles for Demonstrations

Used as display vehicles, dealerships may turn unsold inventory into practically new pre-owned automobiles. Unsold automobiles that are still listed as dealer stock are called demonstrators. People working at the dealership and those looking to buy from them utilize them for:

  • Test-drive automobiles
  • Company vehicles

Demonstrator cars are sometimes also used as service loan vehicles. Used automobiles that have seen very little wear are considered demonstration autos. They might be discounted by the dealership to entice purchasers.

   2.Cooperate with Other Merchants

An ancient adage states that what one person considers rubbish is really treasure to another. Unsold new cars on a dealership lot are only one of many examples.

Regional considerations, such as topography and climate, influence people's vehicle choices. Vehicles with all-wheel or four-wheel drive may be more appealing to those from the South than they are to those from New England.

The idea may come from a dealership that wants to swap out its unsold new cars with ones in another area where there's a lot of interest in those models. Vehicles that aren't moving quickly but may be a hit in its region will be given to it in return.


Dealers often loan their inventory and pay interest on it until it sells, so every day it sits on the lot is money. In order to address the problem of slow-moving inventory, dealers often offer discounts and promotions to entice consumers. They could even attempt to turn a brand-new vehicle into a "loaner" that has been driven very little. Ultimately, they could decide to sell the vehicle at auction as a last option. To sum up, it's not always clear what happens to unsold autos when you pose the question. At some point, every new automobile will sell; the question is how much more work it takes to sell one model compared to another.


Can customers benefit from purchasing unsold vehicles?

Dealerships sometimes provide discounts or incentives to sell older inventory, so buying unsold automobiles might actually benefit consumers. These cars are usually brand new, but they've been sitting on the lot for a while.

How long do unsold cars typically remain on dealership lots?

A number of variables, including supply and demand, model popularity, and pricing tactics, affect how long unsold vehicles sit on dealership lots. Car showrooms often have unsold inventory that sits for months, if not a year, on end.

What factors contribute to cars remaining unsold at dealerships?

Cars sit unsold at showrooms for a variety of reasons, including as too much inventory, low demand for certain models or trim levels, consumers' perceptions of price as too expensive, and the introduction of newer, more appealing models by competitors.