How Long Do Used Cars Stay on the Lot? – Useful Tips for Buying a Used Car

We all know that timing is the key if we want to get a good deal on a used car. Not only do we have to choose the correct season, month, or day, but we also need to know how long do dealers keep used cars on lot. That way, we’ll be able to select the timing when salespeople are ready to negotiate the price that works for us.

Lucky for us, the majority of dealerships operate with similar principles. In other words, we have a magical key that allows us to crack the doors of negotiation wide open. Let’s cut to the chase and figure out together how long do used cars sit on dealer lots.

Why do dealers want to sell cars quickly?

To answer this question, first, we have to understand that dealerships are businesses that have their expenses.

The majority of them don’t have enough money to pay for all the cars up front. This means that they have to use financing services or take out loans from banks.

They pay the interest when they sell their used cars. But if they aren’t able to sell the car as quickly as possible, their interest rate will increase.

In other words, the sooner they sell the vehicle, the less they will have to pay for the financing or the loan.

If they wait too long to sell a car, they will have to face serious losses. Not only do vehicles depreciate over time, but they are also more expensive to keep. Cars take up certain space on the lot and dealers have to pay for that space.

To pay out the interest, the dealers might have to settle for a smaller price. Even though it’s better for the customers, it means that they won’t get as much profit by selling the cars. For instance, if the profit would be $1000 initially, it might reduce to $200 in 30-60 days.

How long do car dealers keep used cars on the lot? – it might depend on internal policies, but generally, all the dealers try to avoid exceeding the 90-day margin.

In certain dealerships, the car goes straight to the auction after 90 days, which means it will sell at a much lower price. Of course, they prefer to get at least some money rather than keep paying for its interest. However, if they end up sending all the cars to the auction, they will eventually go bankrupt.

Therefore, the dealers will go out of their way to sell used cars as quickly as possible.

Why is it important to know how long do dealers keep used cars on lot?

As we have seen, knowing how long do used cars stay on the lot is important because it helps us figure out the perfect timing in terms of price. However, that’s not the only reason why it’s crucial to know how long the vehicle has been sitting on the lot.

If the dealer doesn’t take care of their vehicles, their condition will deteriorate over time. Here’s what could happen if the car had to stay on the lot for too long:

Drained batteries

If dealers don’t drive a used car at all for an extended period, the batteries will easily get drained. When you drive your vehicle, you’re essentially charging the batteries, which keeps them alive for longer. Therefore, the car that had to sit (literally) on the lot for two months could have battery problems.

Rusty parts

If the car isn’t stored in proper conditions, various parts could start corroding. Considering environmental factors is extremely important while storing vehicles. So, if a dealer tries to save up on the costs of storage, their cars could easily become rusty on the inside.

Damaged exterior

The first thing that the environment can damage is the exterior. The majority of the dealers will do their best to maintain the attractiveness of a car, but you should examine the exterior carefully. If the car isn’t stored properly, it could start corroding, the paint could fade away, etc.

Flat spots on the tires

If the car stays in the same position for a long time, the tires might develop flat spots that aren’t that easy to repair. This happens when the whole weight of the vehicle pushes one specific area.

The majority of the dealers will try to avoid such things, though. Since their main focus is to sell cars as quickly as possible, they won’t let them rot on the lots. Nevertheless, it’s not a bad idea to double-check the condition of “older” vehicles.

How to find out how long do used cars sit on dealer lots?

There are different ways to figure out how long do dealers keep used cars on lot. Generally, the dealers won’t be willing to disclose that information if you just ask them. Thus, you need to know all the ways that will help you find out what amount of time the vehicle has spent on the lot.

Keep an eye on the listing

The most time-consuming method is to keep an eye on the listing. For instance, if you notice that a car that was listed a month ago is still listed, then it’s fair to assume that dealers will start reducing the price soon. But it’s risky to wait for that to happen if you want to purchase a specific car.

Check the paperwork

If you suspect that a car was sitting on the lot for a long time, you can double-check that information by examining the paperwork. You can ask the dealer to provide the relevant documentation regarding the title and registration. Most likely, you’ll see the date when that paperwork was handled. There you go – that’s the listing date.

Take a look at the Carfax report

Another method you can use to figure out how long do used cars sit on dealer lots is to ask for a Carfax report. It’s a history report that has all the necessary information about mileage, accidents, etc. It will also tell you when the car was listed, so you can calculate its age according to that date.

Use different tools on the internet

Of course, you can always turn to the good ol’ internet. Nowadays, there are numerous tools these days that enable you to see how long it’s been since the car was listed. Autotrader, CarGurus, and other websites allow you to access that information easily.

How long do car dealers keep used cars on the lot on average?

On average, dealers keep used cars on the lot for around 30-60 days.

They should do their best to sell them during that time. Otherwise, they will start facing the loss. The 90-day threshold is something they are all afraid of because that’s when the majority of dealerships start sending their cars to the auction.

As mentioned, the auction will sell those cars for a lower price, which is not profitable for the dealers.

How long do car dealers keep used cars on the lot? – as a rule, a maximum of 90 days. But there are certain exceptions as well.

Dealers who have dedicated too much time and energy to a certain vehicle might be unwilling to reduce the price too much or send the car to the auction. They might hold on to such vehicles hoping that they will still sell for a decent price.

In such cases, the car might even spend 4-5 months on the lot. Such cases are quite rare, though, because there’s always competition between dealerships.

Now that you know how long do used cars stay on the lot, you can use that information to get the best deal. It’s more reasonable to find a car that has spent around 60-90 days on the lot to negotiate the lowest price than to choose a car beforehand and wait for a month to make an offer.

If you go for a second option, you’ll risk missing out on a vehicle that you really wanted.

Don’t forget to check the condition of those vehicles that have spent the most time on the lot. If you’re too lazy to go through that process, you might end up with a car that’s in a poor condition. All your efforts will be in vain because you’ll have to pay to repair all the damages.


Now that you have read this article you know how long do used cars stay on the lot. If you consider the information I have provided, you won’t have to worry about overpaying. You simply have to choose the perfect timing and you’ll be able to get the best possible deal.

Buying a car is always associated with risk and there are no tips to make that go away. Whether you purchase a car that has just rolled into the storage or go for an older one, you’re still risking something. But the main thing is to be prepared for all the scenarios and make a decision that suits your needs and circumstances. Good luck, fella!