Used vehicle prices have been on a tear for over a year now, as slow new vehicle sales during the financial meltdown of 2009 have created a dearth of available used models today. Yet the sluggish economy means demand for used vehicles is high, so dealers are going to ever-increasing lengths to acquire inventory.

According to Ward's Auto, the latest tactic is buying vehicles from service customers. Dealers are appraising customer cars and trucks before they pay their repair bills, then offering to buy the vehicles rather than charge the owners for the service visit. Dealers are even giving service personnel incentives to bring in trades.

One dealer said his service areas have signs reading, "Before you pay your service bill, you might want to find out the value of your car."

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