Well, finally we are open. It has been a dream of mine to have my own dealership since I was a teenager. Having access to many different cars and trucks, meeting interesting people and, of course, making some money. What could be better?
It isn't super hard to open a dealership in Florida, but it does take time, commitment and money. There are many steps to become a licensed independent automobile dealership.
The first step is to find a location that is zoned for a automobile dealership. I stumbled on that one at first. In my eagerness to open up I leased the first warehouse site that I could afford. While it would have been a good location for a dealership, I neglected to get approval from zoning until after I signed the lease. Fortunately, the landlord is a kind gentleman and I am confident that our negotiations will end soon to both of our benefit and I will no longer have a lease on that site. The actual location of Webber Motors is even better. Room to store a nice selection of vehicles indoors and a decent office space with restroom. An office and restroom are required to be licensed. You then need to reach out to your local zoning department for a letter stating that an automobile dealership is allowed at your location. My current landlord allowed me to get this letter in hand before signing a lease with him.
The second step is to obtain insurance. The requirement is for garage keepers insurance as well as a surety bond. Fortunately, my brother-in-law is a great insurance agent at Donovan Abercrombie Insurance (make sure to ask for Blake Shewmaker). This was fairly easy but not cheap. Apparently the insurance companies are not fond of new dealerships and even less fond of part time dealerships, and price these policies accordingly.
The next step is to take the pre-licensing course. This can be done over the internet or in person. I do not know anything about the in person course as I took the internet course. There is quite a lot of reading material and you have to get 100% on the test, but if you are serious about opening your dealership the material is easy to absorb. If you have bought as many cars as I have in the past you will already know a lot of the information. Once you pass the course you receive a certificate that you will have to show to the licensing department.
Next you will need to complete the actual application. Again, not difficult, but time somewhat time consuming. Follow the instructions and you will have no problems.
We are now reaching the end of the journey. Have signage, that is visible from 50 yards, placed on your dealership. Contact the licensing department for a pre-licensing application and complete it. In Duval County, at least, the application has several questions and requires you to attach various pictures of your dealership. You then return this application and wait for an inspection. After the inspection you turn in your licensing application and wait for your dealership license to be approved.