But I've been too optimistic!
Below is a quoted comment from an auto industry expert in the midwest. And this ins't me talking or another consumer attorney. This is a car industry guy talking - someone who helps dealers!
BHPH = "buy here, pay here" -- the classic small independent car lot.
He warns that even the big chain used car places have the same practices!
For used car dealers, the car is just the bait for the important part -- selling you an outrageous loan and optional "extras" that give the dealer much more profit than the car ever could. (Because, think about it -- the only reason 99% of the customers step onto the lot at one of these places is that they have such poor credit that they have to buy the car that someone else felt good about getting rid of.)
With the horrible increase in economic inequality in the US, this isn't going to change anytime soon.
But at least understand what you're dealing with -- if you feel like you have to buy a used car from a dealer, do everything possible to GET YOUR OWN FINANCING first, before you get anywhere within 100 miles of a dealer. Know what you are approved for IN TOTAL as well as in weekly or monthly payments, and walk away the minute the dealer tries to sell you financing.
Dealers are pushing out financing terms to absurd lengths to make used cars "affordable," but that just puts you into a negative equity trap (you owe much more than the car is worth) at trade-in time ... if the car even lasts long enough for a trade to be possible.
BHPH dealers are usually their own bank for holding the notes and collecting, and skirt the financial disclosure regulations in the process and in the re-titling of repos. (Assuming the title is ever placed in the buyer's name.) Often, their floor plan is private or through major auctions, and the finance arm is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the dealership.
This particular predatory practice is not limited to the sketchy downscale boulevard dealers, but is often found in the flashy franchised used car groups, doing high volume sales with extremely detailed buyer qualification handbooks. They've been with us for years, but the increase in the mass of low income workers who need mobility
now make the problem more visible.
Often, the condition of the vehicles are blamed for the repo, but it's more likely to be the burden of repayment that triggers. It's a better business model to sell the best cars the particular market will bear, setting the markup aside. These dealers are selling money, and the car is just a mechanism that recognizes a need and opens the door to a payment process. It's a lot more profitable to repo a decent vehicle if you're going to resell it.