Inside China's booming used car market

Story highlights

  • Last year, the number of used cars in China increased by 8.6% to 5.2 million units
  • Used vehicles make up only 19.1% of total car sales in China, compared with 72.4% in the U.S.
  • The Chinese used car market is opaque, with smooth-talking salespeople and a wide price range
  • Local driver warns against safety issues with used cars
Would you buy a secondhand car from Li Tian You? You probably don't have a choice. For more than 10 years, she has been selling used cars in Dongguan, a factory town in southern China, and she knows every trick in the book.
"I've already sold four cars today. No, five," she says as she guides us through the Dongguan Used Cars Trading Center, which mainly sells Western and Japanese cars.
Now, she is looking to score her sixth sale of the day.
"This Volkswagen is very good," she says as she opens the door to a 2006 Jetta Sedan, starts the engine and offers me a seat. Loud Chinese pop music starts pumping from the sound system.
"It has only had one previous owner," she continues, "And that was me. So I know it's a good buy. I promise."
Asked about the price, she immediately shaves off 15% -- just for me -- to RMB 68,000 ($10,900), and continues the pitch.
"Volkswagen is very safe. This is the best car if you have a family."
"But if you want to find a new girlfriend, you buy a Mercedes-Benz," she says with a wink.
In with the old
It's not only at Dongguan Used Cars Trading Center that business is booming. All across the country small and big car markets are popping up in response to the growing demand.
Secondhand cars used to be a hard sell in China as owning one is associated with settling for less. But things are rapidly changing as driver