Buying a Car? Watch Out For This.

A new twist on a classic underhanded move

Frank Vaughn
2 min readMay 29, 2023
Photo by Clayton Cardinalli on Unsplash

I was treated to a slightly new (to me) twist on the classic bait-and-switch by a car dealership yesterday.

I’ve been through the “Dude, you’re not going to believe this, but that car you called about just sold 15 minutes ago. Can I show you something else more expensive?” setup before.

Arkadelphia, Ark.; Paramus, N.J.; Bayamon, P.R. It’s the same move everywhere.

Until yesterday.

I found a car online Friday that I liked. It had everything I wanted, the mileage was acceptable, the Carfax was clean, the service records were thorough. The price was right(ish).

I made an appointment to see the car, and yesterday I drove 50 miles in my trade-in, title in hand, preauthorization for financing completed.

The car wasn’t there. Of course. They didn’t call to tell me it was gone. Of course.

“Let me guess,” I said with a slight grin twitching at the corners of my mouth. “It sold 15 minutes ago.”

“Actually, no,” the salesman said, with a much toothier grin of his own. “It didn’t pass inspection, so we sold it to an auction. We don’t sell cars we don’t believe in!”

How noble.

“But you do list them before they’re even inspected, make appointments to show them, and then ship them out before that appointment, eh?” I asked.

“…………,” he replied.

He offered to show me the rest of their inventory. Of course.

Funny thing, though. While we were having that conversation, several dudes with company polos and clipboards were going over my car with a fine-toothed comb, assessing its trade-in value.

It turns out, they -do- inspect cars before they list them. Before they even accept them in trade, no less.

I drove my less-than-perfect, but well-loved (and paid off) vehicle 50 miles right back to my house.

See, none of the rest of their inventory was even close to the price range I showed up for.

Of course.



Frank Vaughn

Regional Emmy- and AP-award winning journalist and writer. Everyone’s brother.