OCEAN SPRINGS — When most people think about a consignment business, they assume it sells used clothing or furniture. But what about cars? For about the past 16 years, Michelle Cox has been selling pre-owned vehicles through her business Gulf Coast Consignment Sales.
Cox says her business in Ocean Springs has remained so popular because people don’t have to deal with a high pressure used car salesperson — and can save thousands on what they would get with a trade-in.
“When you go to a dealership, you usually get a couple thousand less than the trade-in value,” Cox said. “What I do is suggest a price on the car somewhere between the average trade in and retail. Even after paying my fee, sellers can save a lot of money.”
Buyers also get a good deal. Gulf Coast Consignment Sales is well-lighted, has a large selection to choose from, and is open 24-7. People can come by at any time. Cox usually works only by appointment. If someone sees a car that interests them, they give her a call. She lives only two minutes away.
The idea for the business came up while Cox was going to nursing school and working for a home health agency. She had a habit of not keeping her vehicles long, and would buy and sell several times a year. Her boss said she needed to open a car lot.
She had medical complications when pregnant with her second child, and was no longer able to work in home health.
“While I was on medical leave, a friend of mine who owned a car lot asked me to sell something for him,” Cox said. “Later others wanted me to sell something for them. I opened a full-blown lot in 1995 and started selling cars for people. .”
The mother of three finds it very efficient to work by appointment. Buyers can also find it helpful. Sometimes they will want to meet her early in the morning before work, or late in the evening when most car lots are closed.
People can kick the tires and look closely without getting cornered by a pushy salesperson. And Cox has flexibility to fit her job around activities for her children like football and baseball.
“It has worked well,” she said. “I love it. I have been there so long that I have sold some people four or five cars. People can buy a car from me and put their old car on consignment. I require cash or a cashier’s check, so there is no personal risk to sellers.”
Cox always recommends people take a car they are considering buying to their personal mechanic to get an expert opinion before making a buy.
Sellers like the consignment sales because they don’t have to put an ad in the paper and deal with people coming to their home. Sellers get a call when someone is making an offer on the car, and there may be negotiations over the price. Buyers are helped with financing arrangements if necessary.
The amount she charges to broker the sales between individuals is $400 for a vehicle under $3,000, $500 for a vehicle between $3,500 to $7,500, and $600 for $7,500 to $10,000, etc.
“A lot of dealers want to make $2,000 or $3,000 on selling a $10,000 car,” Cox said. “The sellers pay me $600 and they love it, especially as they might have only gotten $5,000 if they had traded it in.”
Cox also doesn’t tack on any additional fees for processing, which can catch buyers at regular car dealerships by surprise.
Cox prides herself on having a lot of repeat business.
“I have a very good reputation because I don’t normally have problems with cars,” Cox said. “I don’t take any salvage vehicles. I ask owners, ‘Has it ever been wrecked?’ If there has been an accident, customers know where it was repaired and if it had any major mechanical work.”
Cox can particularly offer bargains on high-end cars such as BMWs and Mercedes. She said in some cases, those might sell for $12,000 to $15,000 less than the buyer would pay at a dealership.
Cox will also scout out specific brands for people when they come in wanting a specific type of vehicle with a certain mileage. In that case, she just charges a small fee.
People who buy from her get the vehicle for less than retail value.
“I don’t sell anything for retail,” she said.
While she will take all different types of vehicles as long as they are working well and look good, she likes having a big selection. It is particularly nice when she has something unusual.
“Something unique is always nice,” she said. “I sell Rolls Royces and Bentleys. I’ve sold an ’81 Stingray Corvette. At one point the YMCA got a donation of some NASCAR race cars and I had them out there. I’ve sold an Excalibur, which is a pretty rare car. There are a lot of specialty autos out there.”
Cox personally likes buying low-mileage vehicles that are a few years old, clean and beautiful with leather seats. And she likes giving customers the same good deal she gets by buying a used vehicle, driving it for a few years, and then selling it for close to what was paid for it.
All without any high pressure sales person breathing down your neck.
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