Honda Dealer Creates "Evidence Manual" To Ease Used-Car Shopping Anxiety


  • Honda of Thousand Oaks Picture

    Honda of Thousand Oaks Picture

    Cars on the used car lot at Honda of Thousand Oaks contain an Evidence Manual, to help consumers better learn the unique history of each vehicle. | September 13, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • Honda of Thousand Oaks is offering easy access to repair history of its pre-owned vehicles through its new Evidence Manual program.
  • The idea for the Evidence Manual stemmed from conversations with the service department.
  • The consumer-oriented idea is spreading to other dealers.

THOUSAND OAKS, California — To offer buyers more confidence in his pre-owned vehicles, Barry Smith, used car manager at Honda of Thousand Oaks has created what he calls the used car Evidence Manual.

The Evidence Manual consists of a brief history of the vehicle, a Carfax report, a 150-point inspection checklist (both certified pre-owned and non-CPO cars get the checklist), and a copy of the used car reconditioning/repair order. An Evidence Manual is placed in the glovebox of every used vehicle on Smith's lot for the purpose of customer review.

On a certified vehicle, there will also be a current Honda VIN inquiry report that will alert both the buyer and the dealer if there is an unaddressed recall or a suggested software update.

The idea for the Evidence Manual came from a meeting with the dealership's service department. The sales management team decided that if a service customer expects to receive a breakdown of work done, a customer buying a used car deserves similar information prior their purchase.

"We've done this to make the process more transparent for our customers. We wanted to step out of the old-school used car salesman shadow. So instead of just telling our customers we've reconditioned the car, our customers can actually see exactly what we've done," Smith says. "We are taking every step we can to reduce the stress associated with buying a car."

Comparing the Evidence Manual to a restaurant with an open kitchen that allows diners to see the food being prepared, Smith believes shoppers appreciate being able to see what's been done to their potential purchase in the reconditioning process. He also believes that buyers will appreciate knowing the history of the vehicle, making it easier to feel good about the purchase.

The Evidence Manual is also being used at neighboring dealer Acura of Thousand Oaks. Other dealers in the area are adopting the idea as well.

To help buyers feel more comfortable with a pre-owned car, vehicle manufacturers began offering certified pre-owned vehicles in the 1990s. CPOs differ from other pre-owned vehicles by including not just warranties and assurances from the car dealer, but from the automaker itself.

To be a CPO vehicle, the car must pass a thorough inspection, and have questionable parts repaired or replaced to factory specifications. These vehicles usually have extended factory warranties that will cover the powertrain up to 100,000 miles, along with an extension of the limited (bumper-to-bumper) warranty.

The pre-owned vehicles at Honda of Thousand Oaks range from import to domestic, economy to midlevel luxury. Certified Honda Civics are the most popular models at this location.

Honda of Thousand Oaks is a member of the Silver Star Automotive Group. Silver Star Automotive Group offers Acura, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Honda, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan new vehicle dealerships. It is one of the largest employers in the city, which is about 30 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.

Edmunds says: Used car buyers aren't always just looking for a cheaper vehicle. Some are more concerned about the overall value for their money. The Evidence Manual may help buyers see value where they had not before.

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