How to Start a Brick-and-Mortar Car Dealership in Michigan

Starting a car dealership can be an incredibly rewarding business decision. Whether you’re selling salvage vehicles or motorcycles, Michigan residents are always looking for vehicles and modes of transportation. While it may seem as simple as buying a salvage car at auction and setting up a storefront, there’s more that goes into setting up a brick-and-mortar car dealership in the Great Lake State.

From learning how to acquire a salvage title to refining your customer service so you provide a great experience, here’s what you need to know about starting your own dealership.

car dealership

Planning and Licensing

It’s time to structure your business and decide how you’re going to operate. Do you want to be a high-end dealership that carries Porsche and Ferrari products? Are you more interested in rebuilding cars and repairing cars? Do you even know where to buy salvage cars in the first place? If you’re struggling to come up with any of these answers, you’ll need to take your business to the drawing board to ensure that your business plan is rock solid. Otherwise, whether you’re trying to sell an SUV or a salvage title car, you’re going to find it difficult to get your business off the ground.

You’ll also need to get licensed by the state of Michigan and likely incorporated (an “Inc.” business). Luckily, there are plenty of licensors throughout the state. You’ll need to determine whether you’re Class A, Class B, or Class W. Throughout this process, you’ll also likely be meeting with lenders and insurers as well to determine every piece of your business is in its proper place.

Finding a Location

Your location can have a major impact on the performance of your business. Not only do you need to be conveniently located but you also need to ensure that your business itself is visually appealing. That means selecting a location that has some solid curb appeal as well as one that is easily visited. Often, this will take a good deal of exploration. Michigan doesn’t have as much real estate as, say, New York, but there are still enough locations that will work just fine for an auto dealer.

Once you’ve selected a location, you can begin to spruce up your curb appeal. For example, there are numerous awning companies in Michigan that create custom awnings and commercial awnings that can help you build your brand as an auto dealer. Depending on the type of awning you want, you may want to reach out to an awning company to discuss your options. Retractable awnings offer extra flexibility, metal awnings may match your aesthetic more closely, and canopies can cover patio spaces. Adding some additional curb appeal is always a good idea.

Sourcing Products

Unless you have some connections with the pros, you’re going to have to build up your buyer network. Especially for a salvage title vehicle, it’s important to get a vehicle history report in a timely manner. Luckily, there are plenty of salvage title auctions throughout the United States that make it easy to purchase high-quality products and get them sent to your Michigan dealership. From vans to ATVs all the way to luxury repairable vehicles, auctions are a great way to find vehicles for your dealership at a fraction of their original cost. Finding a good rebuilt salvage vehicle takes a good eye for quality but it’s a skill that will develop over time.

Whether you’re meeting with an awning company to spruce up your location or you’re looking for the perfect salvage vehicles to carry in stock, there are plenty of ways to start a popular dealership in Michigan. It takes time, some industry know-how, and hard work, but it can be done.

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