EchoPark, the “Trader Joe’s of used cars,” sells 19 cars in first day open — here’s how it works

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EchoPark, a new dealership concept focused on 1- to 4-year-old used cars, is now open in Charlotte. And it’s off to a hot start, selling 19 cars on its opening day (10/8).

EchoPark’s exact address is 3648 E Independence Blvd, about five miles from Uptown. This is their ninth location. The dealership is owned by Sonic Automotive and EchoPark Charlotte’s hours are Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. It’s closed on Sundays.

Honestly, I love the concept because, unlike most car buying experiences, it’s logical and transparent.

EchoPark has been dubbed “the Trader Joe’s of used car dealerships” because their experience is straightforward, their focused inventory only includes cars that are 1-4 years old (most have between 20,000 – 35,000 miles) and they pride themselves on having the lowest prices.

In order to have the lowest prices, EchoPark is up front on what they do not do — no delivery, no paying with credit cards, no shipping vehicles between locations, no negotiations and no bank drafts of personal checks (they accept cash, debit cards, financing or cashier’s checks).

If you’re a car pricing nerd, you can view their Charlotte inventory on CarGurus.com, a site that analyzes prices.

Currently, EchoPark Charlotte has about 225 cars on the lot. You can view them here along with their pricing. A company spokesperson told me to expect about 300-350 on the lot once they get completely ramped up.

lobby-at-echopark-in-charlotte

bmw-echopark-used-car-dealership-charlotte

I’m in the market for a car, so I figured I’d shop EchoPark and tell you exactly how it works. Here’s a play-by-play of my experience.

Before I went, I viewed their inventory and prices on their website.

I walked in, told the greeter that I was interested in looking at a few cars. He introduced me to Caleb, their equivalent of a sales rep.

Caleb sat me down in their lobby with his iPad. He explained the concept, scanned my driver’s license, wrote down my email and phone number and then asked me if I had any cars in mind. I said I was interested in the 2016 Audi A4 ($24,659 with 30,000 miles) and the 2016 Audi A3 ($20,659 with 27,000 miles).

We then walked outside to look at the cars. Caleb punched numbers into the lockbox at the car and got out the keys. He handed them to me and I got in both cars.

I liked the A4 more than the A3, so I test drove the A4 around the block.

audi-echopark-cars

After the test drive, Caleb asked if I would be trading in my car. I said yes.

My current car is a 2007 4Runner with a big dent in the back fender. He asked me a few questions, took photos of the car on his iPad and then got another guy from the dealership who took my car for a test drive. We went inside.

To get the final price, Caleb pitched me on two additional items: a 75,000 mile warranty and another protection plan for the exterior/interior of the car. I said no to both. He then walked me through the financing options.

Caleb left to check on the appraisal of my 4Runner. He came back and told me they’d pay $8,000 for my car (which was higher than I thought it would be) and the appraisal was good for 14 days.

I asked exactly how much it would cost if I paid via debit card or cashier’s check. Caleb then gave me the print out (below).

Overall, the painless process took about 50 minutes. The only real sales-y thing they bring up is that cars move fast and in order to reserve a car, you need to buy it (obviously) or pay $500 to reserve it (which is applied to the car price if you end up purchasing it). But now that I think about it, maybe this isn’t a sales-y thing if they keep the pace of selling 19 cars a day.

And I’m still debating this A4, so don’t go buy it.

car-pricing-at-echopark-charlotte

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Ted Williams
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Publisher, golfer, dad and magician (seriously).