Mike Garrard can count to 10: 10 years, 10 cars, and 10 employees.
Ten years ago, Garrard hung up Bargain Buggy’s sign at the corner of state Route 36 and Cimmaron Way. With 10 cars on the lot, he started selling used cars with his partner, Doug Bergener. Garrard bought Bergener’s interest in the partnership in 2016 when Bergener decided to retire.
Today, Garrard’s Bargain Buggy’s has 10 employees who sell, detail and finance used cars.
Garrard wears jeans, a long sleeve T-shirt, and tennis shoes to work. Sitting at his desk, he leans back with sun glasses pushed to the top of his head and props his feet up on the corner of his desk. He looks more like a neighbor than a used car salesman.
“I gave Bargain Buggy’s the tagline, ‘the local boys,’” he said. “Chances are we see our customers at church or at the store.”
From the initial stock of 10 cars, Bargain Buggy’s has grown to over 75 vehicles on the lot during its busiest time of the year.
Initially selling an average of 10 vehicles per month, Bargain Buggy’s had its best year in sales in 2016, with over 365 vehicles sold, according to Garrard.
Garrard has been selling cars for over 20 years, including working as a general sales manager for a local used car store and desk manager of one of the leading GMC stores in the state.
Tired of the game-playing involved with selling cars for big dealerships, Garrard decided to come home to Tooele County and be his own boss, selling cars his way.
That way involves no gimmicks or pressure, according to Garrard.
“You get to know people,” he said. “And that’s what we do here at Bargain Buggy’s. If you get to know people, and are honest and straight forward with people, they come back.”
Return customers are a large part of Bargain Buggy’s business, according to Garrard.
“I’ve sold 20 cars to one family, including mom and dad and their kids,” he said. “I’ve also sold 37 vehicles to one company.”
Garrard said his customers are his friends.
“The average person buys a car every three years,” he said. “So I get to know these people when they come in to buy a car and then they come back. In what other kind of business do you get paid to go to work and talk to your friends?”
But selling cars wasn’t Garrard’s first choice for a career. He grew up in Lake Point in a house built from wooden ammunition crates from Tooele Army Depot.
“The boxes formed the walls,” he said. “We had no insulation and in the winter the water pipes would freeze. I learned how to string an electric wire through the pipes to thaw the water.”
Garrard said he was 5 years old when he started hauling hay for the family.
“We would get the truck loaded and my dad would get it going in granny and then he would set me behind the wheel,” he said.
Maybe that’s why Garrard’s favorite vehicle today is the Ford F150 Platinum truck.
“I’m a second generation Ford owner,” he said. “My dad owned Fords and Fords are my favorite.”
Graduating from Tooele High School in 1978, Garrard’s first job was at the salt plant in Lake Point. After a few years, he went to work at Tooele Army Depot.
Garrard was working as the depot equipment manager in 1995 when he was laid off due to base realignment.
“A friend I had worked with at the depot was selling cars for Quality Ford,” Garrard said. “He talked me into selling cars with him.”
Along with selling cars in Tooele County, Garrard is known for coaching local sports teams.
A member of Tooele High School’s baseball team, after high school Garrard played for the Red’s, a rookie league baseball team sponsored by Red DelPapa, of Tooele’s New Town.
Garrard said his dream of playing professional baseball as a pitcher ended when he injured his arm.
However, Garrard estimated he has coached around 2,000 local players during 20 years of coaching Little League, Babe Ruth, and travel baseball teams.
Today, when Garrard isn’t at Bargain Buggy’s, he is most likely to be found watching one of his grandkids play ball.
Knowing the local market also plays a large role in Bargain Buggy’s success, according to Garrard.
“When we go to auction to buy vehicles we know, down to the color, price, and sale-ability, what we are looking for,” he said.
Four-wheel drive sport utility vehicles and trucks, family cars, and commuting vehicles with good fuel economy, are top sellers in Tooele County, according to Garrard.
Sales follow gas prices. As gas prices rise, the sale of fuel-efficient cars also rise. When gas prices drop, sales of trucks and SUVs increase, according to Garrard.
He said his approach to selling a vehicle depends on the person buying the vehicle.
“If they like to bargain, I bargain. And I can bargain good,” he said. “If they don’t like to bargain, I give them a good price that they can afford that leaves a little bit of money for us.”
Danny Garrard, Mike Garrard’s son, who also works at Bargain Buggy’s, explains his father’s proclivity for making deals that favor the customer.
“While my dad was growing up, at times his income was the only income his family had to live on,” said Danny Garrard. “And he hasn’t forgot what it’s like to grow up without money. I think that’s why he likes to make deals — to help people.”
Garrard not only likes to give people a good deal on price, he said he also wants to make sure his customers get a good vehicle.
Inside each vehicle on Bargain Buggy’s lot is a folder with the vehicle’s BlueStar car inspection report, the CARFAX vehicle history report, and the National Automotive Dealers Association’s book value, according to Garrard.
Bargain Buggy’s also offers an optional warranty with each vehicle its sells, he said.
“We have no vehicles with odometer issues and all of our vehicles have clean titles, no rebuilt or salvage titles,” Garrard said.
Garrard brought in his neighbor, Brad Mackie, to be Bargain Buggy’s finance director. Mackie works with local financial institutions to find the best deal for customers.
“We have contacts with all the credit unions in the county,” Mackie said. “We can often get a better deal than credit union members because of the volume of business we do.”
Garrard said he picked the SR-36 and Cimmaron Way location for his used car lot for one reason —visibility.
“People have to drive by here to get out of town,” he said. “And I can’t see any reason why people should drive past Bargain Buggy’s to buy a car in Salt Lake County. If we don’t have what a customer is looking for, we’ll go out and find it for them.”
In 2016, following Bergener’s retirement, Garrard brought another friend into the business: Finney Cheadle.
Cheadle was the general manager of the Quality Auto Dealership in Tooele during the 90s, when Garrard was working for Quality.
Cheadle has also worked for Camelback Toyota in Phoenix, Arizona, as the used car director. He then went on to work for Right Honda in Scottsdale, Arizona, as general sales manager and for AutoNation as the general sales manager for Superstition Springs Chevrolet in Mesa, Arizona.
“Having Finney around gives me the ability to take a little time out for my family,” Garrard said.
But even with his trusted friend as general manager, Garrard has no plans for retirement.
“I don’t need to retire,” he said. “What’s retirement? I’m already doing what I love and I’m happy.”