"Dealership profits should be pretty rosy the next couple of years and that's going to drive a lot of" buy-sell deals, Haig said.
However, some dealers have expressed concern about how long tax rates, including capital gains taxes, will remain low, and have their eyes on the U.S. senate runoff election in Georgia in January as an indicator, buy-sell experts say.
Some dealers worry that a jump in capital gains or personal taxes would leave them with less cash for acquisitions, which could delay some dealers' decisions on selling stores since proceeds would be reduced.
Haig predicts income taxes will stay low for the next two years or longer. Even if Georgia's Democratic candidates win both seats in the runoffs, Haig believes it will still be hard for Congress to pass tax increases, as many will be facing reelection themselves in 2022.
Kerrigan said closing deals by the end of 2020 was a motivator for some sellers who wanted to take advantage of low rates in case they rise in the future.
"At this juncture it's such an unknown as to what will happen next year as it relates to taxes," she said. "But I'm not seeing it as part of the discussion for 2021."
Kerrigan, Haig and Karolis think the public auto retailers will remain active in the market next year.
Haig pegs spending by public companies already at record levels this year, totaling nearly $1.6 billion through the third quarter.
Lithia Motors Inc. bought 17 dealerships through the third quarter, including 10 John Eagle Dealerships stores in Texas. Lithia has purchased 29 stores so far this year and has pledged to spend $4 billion annually on acquisitions over five years.
Asbury Automotive Group, which spent $735 million in the third quarter to buy eight Park Place Dealerships, said this month that it wants to double revenue in 2025, in part through $5 billion in acquisitions.
Group 1 Automotive also has said it is looking to grow, Kerrigan said.
"I don't think it's going to be possible for the other public companies to sit tight," Haig said. "I think this growth, this expansion from Lithia and Asbury, will likely create an urge in those [other public] companies to grow again."
Presidio Group's Karolis said there currently are more buyers than deals.
"The industry is doing well," he said. "The market's strong. Dealers are doing well and have proven their resilience. And buyers are abundant. So that makes for a pretty good market."