How Dealers Can Acquire Car Inventory From Service Customers

May 31, 2024

A red hatchback in a service center bay

Since the pandemic in 2020, inventory crunches and supply chain delays have impacted the used car market. As a result, many dealers have struggled to get the used car inventory they want, and customers are seeing fluctuating prices that trend higher than they used to.1 To overcome this, dealers have had to get creative with their methods of sourcing pre-owned inventory. In this article, we will explore one avenue: maximizing opportunities in your service department.  

The Pre-Owned Vehicle Landscape 

Although CarFax reports that April 2024 saw used car prices level out after several years of upheaval, the current landscape still reflects less supply and higher pricing than pre-pandemic levels.1 Today, there is more new car inventory than there has been in the past few years, helping to lower used car prices. 

But   pre-owned vehicles are also predicted to be harder to find as the year progresses, raising the prices and exclusivity of models from recent years.1 For dealers, one solution is to go beyond the traditional auction and trade-in routes of sourcing inventory and utilize your service department to find opportunities.2 

How Can Dealers Get Used Car Inventory From Services? 

Vehicles that dealers source from service customers can hold as much investment value as those sourced from traditional routes like trade-ins. Dealers who are looking to use this strategy of turning their service lane into a reliable stream of inventory should keep the following best practices in mind when developing their acquisition process3

1. Identify Potential Customers

Search through your customer database to determine individuals who have an equity position in their current vehicle. This means they may owe less than the value of the vehicle, or, they have a vehicle with a payment that could be traded in for another new car at the same monthly cost. 

2. Set Up Equity Alerts

Flag these customers so that when they set up a service appointment, the team knows to notify them of the opportunity to set the groundwork for a trade-in discussion. 

3. Don’t Be Pushy

While this is an attractive offer for many customers, trying to force a sale is not a strong strategy. Upon hearing about the opportunity, a percentage of customers will convert, so don’t press the ones who aren’t interested—it only reflects badly on your business and can cause you to lose that customer in the future when they are ready for a trade-in. 

4. Avoid Conflicts

Make sure you don’t establish conflict or competition between the services and sales departments by cannibalizing business. It’s important that these strategies feed the overall goals of the business. 

5. Establish Protocols and Dedicate Resources

Tracking these opportunities and identifying qualified customers takes time and effort—this strategy will only work if you commit to a regular process with dedicated team members available to analyze the database information.3 

Make Car Trade-Ins Easy for Customers Using ClearCar

Accurately valuing used vehicles is essential to maximizing the opportunities within the services department. By using ClearCar’s tools, professionals within your dealership can easily input details about a given customer’s vehicle, get an estimated value, and propose the trade-in.  

The ClearCar vehicle appraisal tool makes it easy for dealers to add it to their system to maximize sales opportunities when it comes to used cars. Schedule a demo to learn more today. 


  1. Olsen, P. 2024. “Used Car Price Trends for May 2024.” CarFax. Retrieved May 24, 2024. 
  2. Like I See It. 2022. “A Closer Look at Where Dealers Can Acquire Late Model Vehicles More Profitably.” Like I See It. Retrieved May 24, 2024. 
  3. Pollak, D. 2022. “How Dealers Acquire Inventory from Service Customers.” vAuto. Retrieved May 24, 2024.