How to Source Smart and Maintain Used Car Inventory Levels

June 17, 2022

Team ACV




How to Source Smart and Maintain Used Car Inventory Levels

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BMW M3 inside a car dealership showroom

Demand is high for used vehicles. During the pandemic, supply chain disruptions and the lack of semiconductor chips caused new vehicle inventory shortages. If you own a dealership that sells used cars, it’s time to strategize. A solid game plan will help fill your dealer lot with used cars, satisfy consumer demand, and help maintain your used car inventory levels. We’re giving you the skinny on how to get your used-vehicle inventory up using smart strategies.

Why is Car Inventory So Low?

Low new vehicle inventory resulting from the microchip shortage and other factors have changed the outlook for car shoppers. Faced with a lack of new vehicle options, buyers are trolling the used car market. But, both used car and new vehicle prices have increased because of pandemic shortages. So consumers are also searching for the best car prices they can find.

This is where your dealership can shine. You’ll want to offer a readily available inventory of pre-owned vehicles. And you'll want to move the vehicles off of your lot quickly. Typically, car dealers have a 60+ day supply on their lots. But the slowing of new vehicle production has made this challenging. It has caused record-low inventory levels and record-high used car price inflation.

The semiconductor car chip shortages and supply issues are estimated to last until 2023. The recent war on Ukraine has contributed to supply chain issues with automotive parts. Workforce availability could also end up being a factor in inventory shortages.

How to Source Used Car Inventory for your Dealership

As a car dealer, you’ll want to have an efficient sourcing strategy that brings results and car buyers to your dealership. Check out our tips on how to increase your lot count and keep the used car inventories of your business moving smoothly.


Trade-Ins are a great way to bring inventory to your dealer lot. When customers are on the hunt for a new car and have another one to sell, both the dealer and consumer win. Customers receive what their car is worth and use those funds to purchase a vehicle (new or used) from your dealership. Used cars can bring in a lot of profit for a dealership. You can make a profit off the trade-in since the value of that vehicle is lower than the actual retail value. And trade-ins can help you maintain a healthy stock of vehicles.

The sales team can also send out notices that let customers know that it’s a great time to trade in their vehicles. Customers who get services often in the service department or customers who are coming up at the end of their lease are good candidates.

With trade-ins, you’ll want to keep in mind the market demand for that particular vehicle. But you have a few options. Keep it to sell or put it up on the auction block.

Private Sellers

When low on inventory, private sellers can come in handy. You can help restore your inventory by promoting a dealership buying program. You can advertise this on your website or other digital platforms. Let private sellers know through your marketing efforts that you are seeking used vehicles.

You can also offer sales events to draw in consumers that are preparing to buy and sell their current vehicle to your dealership. Another tactic for dealers is to reach out to private sellers directly through the ads they post.

Former Demonstration Vehicles

Stocking your inventory with former demonstration vehicles is another option. This category of vehicles is registered to the dealership. They are typically used for test driving, dealer transportation, and service loans. You can turn around and sell these demonstrator vehicles for a sticker price that’s less than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP).

Sourcing from the Service Department

Did you know that your service department is a way to source used car inventory? When customers are at your location for a service call, ask them if they are willing to sell their car to the dealership. You can even provide the employees in the service department with recruitment compensation.

Your sales team can also be a big part of sourcing from your service department. They can contact customers that may not want to pay for costly repairs. And customers that are more inclined to want to do a trade-in. This can aid in improving your dealership’s used vehicle inventory. They can lean towards more high-demand vehicles that are in short supply.

Auto Auctions

Auto auctions are a great option for car dealers to source vehicles. You can bid on vehicles that match your customers’ wants and needs. At auctions, you can pay a lot less for vehicles, and find superior inventory. ACV Auctions offers dealers the ability to take part in online auctions designed specifically for car dealerships. Built on trust and transparency, we provide a one-stop online shop that allows you to research and purchase vehicles that will fill your consumer demand. Serving over 16,000 dealerships across the United States, our full-service wholesale marketplace provides numerous options from various automakers and a variety of vehicles including cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs. 

Our in-depth vehicle condition reports allow you to make informed decisions. You can use Virtual Lift™ to see the undercarriage of the car or check out our exclusive Auto Motor Profile (AMP™) tool, to hear the sound of the engine from wherever you are.

Won big at auction and need delivery? We’ve got you covered there too. We also offer vehicle delivery with ACV Transportation.

Maintaining Your Used Car Inventory

Don’t get overwhelmed trying to figure out how to best maintain your used car inventory. Here are some ways to ensure a good inventory that will bring you results:

  • Utilize online reports from companies like J.D. Power to gain information about customer preferences
  • Create proper inventory sourcing techniques like how often and where your vehicles are acquired
  • Perform frequent inventory analyses to identify gaps and the best time to source inventory

To get your inventory back in shape — and to keep it that way —  buy from ACV Auctions today to help increase your auto sales! Getting started is easy, just register for a free ACV Auction account and you’re on your way to smart sourcing. Need a little inspiration? Check out our list of the fastest-selling used cars in 2022. 


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