Book Review

A Guide to Appraising Automobile Dealerships
by Bradley R. Carter, MAI
Appraisal Institute, Chicago, IL 60606
Soft cover, 180 pages
$50 non-members, $40 members
(888) 756-4624; FAX (313) 335-4400

A Guide to Appraising Automobile Dealerships provides up-to-date information on:
• Market, site, location, and improvement analyses;
• Highest and best use and land valuation;
• Application of the cost, sales comparison, and income capitalization approaches to value;
• Report writing for auto dealership valuation assignments.

Other topics covered are economic trends and locational issues that affect dealerships.

Each time I buy an automobile I am filled with apprehension because I don’t understand how dealerships actually work. I can’t understand how they claim they sell their cars for a few thousand dollars or less above their costs, yet they support what appears to be large and expensive real estate, big staffs, expensive TV advertisements, etc.

I was surprised to read that new car dealerships have decreased in the United States from 49,200 in 1949 to less than half as many (17,838) in 2013. Since then, they have leveled out. In Connecticut where I live they seem to be increasing with the addition of many single brand foreign car dealerships that use to be combined with American automobile dealerships.

A chart in the book shows that the average dealership in 2013 grossed $23,599,234 from new car sales and that the average sale price for a new car was $31,762. I worked this out to be 744 cars. This seems like a lot of cars for a dealership to sell! These sales represented 57.1% of the total gross income. The rest (31.3%) came from used car sales, with 11.6% from service and parts sales.

The book tries to address the complex problem of how to determine what portion of the total value of the dealership is derived from the value of the real estate and how much derives from the non-real estate property and how much for the good will. This is critical information when the sales comparison approach is used,as the sale price of the comparable sales is often not broken down into these categories.

The book points out the importance of knowing the purpose of the appraisal, and whether it is for tax purposes, condemnation proceedings, or some other value such as insurable value or going concern value, which considers the value of the personal property plus the good will value of the dealership.

Chapter 11 addresses this problem and offers suggestions on how to word statements that make it clear as to what is and is not included in the final estimated value. The author also includes a discussion of how business appraisers estimate “blue sky” value.

Appraising an automobile dealership is a complex assignment. The author presents a case for the real estate component of the dealership to be considered a special purpose property. This would make the cost approach a useful tool in the valuation process

However, a major portion of the book covers how to value the dealership that occupies the real estate. Somehow, appraising automobile dealerships reminds me of the song sung by Elvis Presley: "Fools Rush in Where Angels Fear to Tread”.