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Monday, August 15, 2016

Don't Get "Flipped" to a Lease

One of the most popular weapons in car dealers’ arsenals is the infamous “lease flip”. This is car dealer jargon for switching a customer who originally intended to buy a car to leasing the car.

Of course the motivation to do this is more profit for the dealer and a bigger commission to the salesman. That’s not to say that leasing a car is always more costly than buying one, but it can be if you’re not careful. And not being careful is exactly what happens when a purchase intender becomes a lessee.

Here’s how it happens. You come into the dealership to buy a car. You may have seen the dealer’s advertisement in the newspaper or TV for a particular model. More than likely you are prepared to make a down payment and/or trade in your old vehicle. You have a monthly payment in mind because almost everybody has a budget and we usually translate most purchases into whether or not we can fit them into our monthly budgets. You negotiate the best price you can to buy the car, or maybe the sale price is good enough.

Now the salesman or more often the F&I manager/business manager tells you what your monthly payment will be. Let’s say that you have a trade-in worth $15,000 and aren’t going to put any cash down. The F&I [Finance and Insurance] manager tells you your monthly payment will be $427 per month. But that’s way more than you can afford and you tell him you can’t buy the car because you can’t afford that big a payment. He asks you how much you can afford and you tell him it must be under $350 per month. Now he has you set up perfectly for the “lease flip”.

“Mrs. Smith, I think I have just the right thing for you. What would you say if I told you that you can drive that new car home today for just $349 per month?” You say, “With glee, you say we have a deal!” Guess what? You’ve just been flipped. If you had bought the car at the advertised price or negotiated a very good price, the dealer probably would have made about $1,000 profit, and the salesman would have made about a $200 commission. Not that you’ve let yourself be flipped to lease, the dealer could be making $15,000 and the salesman could be making a $3,000 commission!

I’m not exaggerating. I get calls weekly from victims of lease flips. Many of the callers are elderly and many of them are widows who never bought a car before, but had relied on their husbands. There’s no law that limits the profit that a dealer can make when he sells or leases a car. $10,000, $15,000, and even $20,000 profits are made and usually on leases. The dealers can do this by using the trade-in as a capital cost reduction on the lease but allowing less for the trade than it is actually worth. In the example above, your trade-in may be worth $15,000 but you were allowed only $5,000 to reduce the capitalized costs of the lease. Also, the dealer could have raised the price of the car you negotiated or the sale price to MSRP or even 110% of MSRP which is allowable by the leasing companies.

By manipulating the number of months of the lease and the down payment [capitalized cost reduction], a dealer can give you as low a payment as you ask for and still make an exorbitant profit. Most buyers are so focused on monthly payments that they don’t carefully analyze what they are agreeing to and signing.

The shorter the number of months of a lease, the greater impact the down payment has on the monthly payment. A $5,000 down payment reduces the monthly payment on a 36 month lease by $139 per month, $208 on a 24 month lease, and $417 on 12 month lease.

Incredibly many victims of the lease flip, never thought about the fact that after the 12, 24, or 36 month term of the lease, they own nothing. After 36 months, a car with a good resale value should be worth at least half of what you paid for it. Many people who have never leased before think they can bring their lease car back early if they want. Leasing is not renting and you can bring your car back early only if you make all of the remaining lease payments. If you had bought the car for $30,000 and financed it for 36 months, you would have about $15,000 in equity at the end of 36 months and no monthly payments. You were building equity with every monthly payment in the purchase but you were building zero equity with your 36 lease payments.

As I said before, don’t let this frighten you from ever leasing a car. Leasing can be a good choice and sometimes the best choice. You can find six articles I’ve written for Hometown News: “Lease a New Car before You Buy It”, “Car Leasing Booby Traps”, “Be Very Careful When Leasing a Car”, “The Lease Acquisition Fee…the Bank’s Gotcha”, “Buy or Lease Your Car at the Right Time of Year”, and “Should I Buy or Lease My Next Car?”

Monday, August 08, 2016

Open Letter to Florida Car Dealers


SUBJECT: ELIMINATE THE DEALER FEE 

Dear fellow Florida car dealer,  

I started in the retail auto business in 1968 48 years ago, and I have seen a lot of changes in the way we dealers sell cars and the expectations of our customers. My remarks in this column are made sincerely and with a positive intent toward you and your customers. I am not trying to tell you how to run your business; I am suggesting a change that will reward both you and your customers.  

Virtually every car dealer in Florida adds a charge to the price of the cars he sells, variously referred to as a “dealer fee”, “documentary fee”, “dealer prep fee”, etc. This extra charge is printed on your buyer’s orders and is programmed into your computers. It has been capped and regulated in most states including California. You charge this fee to every customer and it ranges from a few hundred dollars to over two thousand. Florida law requires that you disclose in writing on the buyer’s order that this charge represents profit to the dealer. Florida law also requires that you include this fee in all advertised prices. You don’t always do this and you get around the law by limiting the number of advertised vehicles (as few as one).  The argument that I hear from most car dealers when I raise this issue is that the dealer fee is fully disclosed to the buyer on his buyer’s order. But, most car buyers are totally unaware that they are paying this. Who reads all of the voluminous paperwork associated with buying a car? The few who notice it assume it is an “official” fee like state sales tax or license and registration fee. Those few astute buyers who do question the fee are told that your dealership must charge this fee on very car, which is simply untrue. These astute buyers are also told that all other car dealers charge similar fees. This is almost true, but, as you know, my dealership does not and neither does CarMax and a few other ethical dealers.  

 The reason you charge this fee is simply to increase the cost of the car and your profit in such a manner that it is not noticed by your customer. This is just plain wrong. Dealers will admit this to me in private conversations and some will admit that they have considered eliminating the fee as I have, but are afraid of the drastic effect to their bottom line. By being able to count on an extra $999 in profit that the customer is not aware of or believes is an “official fee”, you can actually quote a price below cost and end up making a profit. Or, if the price you quote the customer does pay you a nice profit, you can increase that by several hundred dollars. 

 This “extra, unseen” profit is even better for you because you don’t pay your salesmen a commission on it. That’s being unfair to your employees as well as your customers. When the rare, astute buyer objects to the dealer fee, the law permits you to decrease the quoted price of the car by the amount of the dealer fee. This would have the same net effect of removing it. The salesman won’t permit this because he will lose his commission (typically 25%) on the decrease in his commissionable gross profit.  If you don’t know me, I should tell you that I don’t profess to be some “holier than thou” car dealer who was always perfect. Although, I never did anything illegal, when I look at some of my advertising and sales tactics 20+ years ago and more, I am not always proud. But, I have evolved as my customers have evolved. My customers’ expectations, level of education, and sophistication are much higher today. Your customers are no different. As I began treating my customers, and employees, better I discovered that they began treating me better. Yes, I used to charge a dealer fee ($495), and when I stopped charging it a few years ago, it was scary. But I did it because I could no longer, in good conscious, mislead my customers. Just because everybody else was doing the same thing did not make it right.  Now here is the good news. My profit per car did drop by about the amount of the dealer fee when I stopped charging it. But, when my customers realized that I was now giving them a fair shake and quoting the complete out-the-door price with no “surprises” the word spread. My volume began to rise rapidly. Sure, I was making a few hundred dollars less per car, but I was selling a lot more cars! I was, and am, selling a lot of your former customers. My sales volume grew significantly! My bottom line is far better than it was when I was charging a dealer fee. You can do the same!  

Why am I writing this letter? I’m not going to tell you that I think of myself as the new Marshall that has come to “clean up Dodge”. In fact, I am well aware that this letter is to some extent self-serving. Lots of people will read this letter to you and learn why they should buy a car from me, not you. And, I am also aware that most dealers who read this will either get angry and ignore it or not have the courage to follow my lead. But maybe you will be the exception. If you have any interest in following my lead, call me anytime. I don’t have a secretary and I don’t screen any of my phone calls. I would love to chat with you about this. 

My personal cell phone number is 561 358-1474.   

Sincerely, 
Earl Stewart 

Monday, August 01, 2016

Demand an “Out-the-Door” Price Plus GOVERNMENT Fees Only


A car dealership, or any business, is entitled to charge any price for their product they want. This is what the free enterprise system is all about. Prices by the sellers should be decided by what the buyers are willing to pay. All too often, manufacturers endeavor to influence or even control the retail price of their sellers. Sellers that are monopolies or near monopolies like Florida Power & Light and Comcast can also defeat the free enterprise system too. However, the most common threat to the consumers’ right to choose the best price is deceptive advertising by the retailers.
Car dealers lead the charge in the category of deceptive advertising. This is not “just a few car” dealers as their manufacturers and dealer associations want you to believe, but is sadly true for the majority of car dealers. If you doubt I’m right about this, just click on http://www.gallup.com/poll/1654/honesty-ethics-professions.aspx. This is the Gallup annual poll on Honesty and Ethics in Professions. This poll has been conducted for over thirty years and car dealers have been ranked at or near last for every year, including last year.
There is only one surefire way to get an honest and low price from a car dealer. This is by COMPETITIVE SHOPPING. This sounds simple but it’s not. Car dealers will do everything they can to prevent you from comparing their price. Their advertised prices are almost always lower than the actual price. When you ask for a price by phone, email, or in person, they will usually refuse to give you a firm price unless you commit to buy “today”.
You must insist that they give you their best price. I have a recommended “word track” for you that almost always work. “I know you don’t want to give me your best, out-the-door price because you don’t want me to shop your price with your competition. This is understandable. But also please understand that if you refuse to give me your best price, you have ZERO chance of selling me a car. This is because I will leave your dealership and never return. It’s true that, if you give me your best price, I will shop it with your competition and you will have less of a chance to sell me a car. But less of a chance is far better than ‘no chance’. The decision is yours.”
Follow this procedure with three car dealers and be sure to compare the exact same year-make-model with identical accessories. This car will have the identical MSRP on the factory sticker at each dealership you shop. Be forewarned that the car dealers will do everything they can to SWITCH you to a different car. You must remain firm on the exact car you originally chose. You must compare “apples and apples”; otherwise you will be tricked into paying the dealer more profit.
There’s a simple way to communicate to the dealer what you mean by an out-the-door price. Tell him that in addition to the quoted price you will pay extra only for GOVERNMENT fees. These are fees that do not go in the dealer’s pocket but go directly to the state or local government. These are simply sales tax and the actual cost of the license tag and registration. Dealers try to confuse you by adding extra charges, often with the word “fee” included in the same. Examples are dealer fee, doc fee, notary fee, electronic (or “e”) filing fee, tag agency fee, service fee, administration fee, billing and handling fee, and on and on.
If the car dealer tells you that he must charge these fees, explain that if he insists on charging them, you want them included in your out-the-door price. These charges are not really fees, but they are added profit to the dealer or reimbursement to the dealer for non-government expenses (the exact same thing as added profit) that should be included in the price of the car.
The second big trick most car dealers use is DEALER INSTALLED accessories. These cheap, over-priced accessories like (nitrogen in the tires or paint protections) are always excluded from the advertised price and even the verbally quoted price. Sometimes the dealers will tell you that you must buy their installed accessories because they are pre-installed on all of their cars. Tell them that anything they must include in their price you want to know upfront so that you can shop and compare their best price with their competition.
Once you’ve chosen the lowest out-the-door price by shopping at least three car dealerships, be sure to keep the transactions for your trade-in and financing separate from the car purchase. You do this by shopping the value of your trade-in with at least 3 used car lots from dealerships that sell your make car. You shop your financing by checking with your bank and/or credit union. As a final check on the best price of your car click on www.TrueCar.com. At no cost, they will provide you with the lowest price from three dealers in your market for the car of your choice

Monday, July 25, 2016

GO VIRAL!



If you’re like me and can’t understand why our federal and state governments don’t pass a law making it illegal to sell a car with defective airbags that can explode in your face killing and/or maiming you or a loved one, help us make this petition go viral.  

You see in the news every day that millions more vehicles equipped with Takata airbags are being recalled. Auto manufacturers cannot obtain safe airbags fast enough to fix the over 100 million vehicles that are already on our highways, and are actually knowingly building new cars with the very same unsafe airbags.  
Did you know that federal law makes it illegal for a car dealer or other company to rent you a car with a defective airbag, but the very same car dealer or rental company can legally SELL you the same car without disclosing the fact that it has a dangerous airbag? As you know, Hertz, Avis, Enterprise and most rental companies and car dealers retail their rental cars after they stop renting them. Are they taking the cars out of their rental fleets that are illegal to rent, and selling them to the public instead? 

Anna Werner is a well-known reporter for CBS national news, and she recently conducted several undercover mystery shops of car dealerships. The mystery shopper pretended to be interested in buying a used car that had been predetermined to have an unrepaired dangerous Takata airbag. This was aired a few weeks ago on the CBS news and in no case did the salesman disclose this fact. When I saw this on TV, I mystery shopped TWENTY-FOUR car dealerships in South Florida. In four cases I sent mystery shopper physically into the dealerships and in twenty others my mystery shopper called the dealer on the phone. In 23 out 24 mystery shops the sales people denied the truth that the car had an unsafe airbag. The sales people were asked specifically if there was any unfixed safety recall on the car the mystery shopper was buying. Only one car dealer told the truth…Mullinax Ford in North Palm Beach.  

The manufacturers, car dealers, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) know that only ONE IN FOUR SAFETY RECALLS IS EVER REPAIRED! Tens of millions of used cars are being sold with unfixed dangerous safety recalls. For every new car sold in the US, there are 2.5 used cars sold. Last year there were over 17 million new cars sold but there were over 40 million used cars sold. Three out of four of those used cars with safety recalls have not been repaired. As I write this column, there are hundreds of unsuspecting used car buyers buying a used car with a dangerous safety recall.  

For all of the above reasons I implore you to, not only sign this petition, www.AirbagRecallPetition.com, but to tell your friends, family, work associates and anybody else who will listen. Please put this on your Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, YouTube and email it to everyone you know. If you have access to anyone in Florida’s legislature, especially the governor’s office please let your voice be heard.  
  
Best, 
Earl 

Monday, July 18, 2016

The War between Insurance Companies and Body Shops

(That You Never Knew Was Being Waged)


I’ve written other articles about how insurance companies try to fix your car as cheaply as they can without showing the necessary concern for the quality and safety of the repairs. You can find them on this blog, “Collision Insurance and Your Rights” and “Coping with Body Shops and Insurance Companies”.

This new article was written by Alan Nappier, my body shop manager at Earl Stewart Toyota. Alan is, not only the best body shop manager I’ve employed in my 47 years as a car dealer, but one of the smartest, most articulate people I know. I’ll probably sound like I’m overdoing it but he also has an incredible sense of humor. I say all this so that when you read what he has to say below, please take it as the gospel. Alan is not a “smoke blower” or an exaggerator. He tells it like it is. You can ask Alan a question about repairing your car and your insurance company any Tuesday afternoon between 4 and 6. He appears on my live radio talk show, “Earl Stewart on Cars” on 900 AM, The Talk of the Palm Beaches. You can also stream this show live at www.StreamEarlOnCars.com.

Your body shop is either at war with the insurance companies or they fight on their side. If your body shop is not fighting for you to protect your car from cheap, poor quality, and unsafe repairs you’re in a “heap of trouble”. The chances are that if your body shop is on your insurance company’s “approved repairer list” that its loyalty is not to you but to that insurance company. You should take your car to the body shop that you know and trust will fix your car with your interests paramount in their mind, not one who must “play ball” with your insurance company or lose their membership on the “approved repairer list”. One way to find out whose side your body shop is on is to ask them if they will be asking you to sign two forms. One is called a “Limited Power of Attorney” and the second is called an “Assignment of Proceeds”. Please read on and Alan will explain very clearly why this is so.

By Alan Nappier:

Getting an insurance company to “approve” proper repairs to a collision damaged automobile is the toughest part of the collision repair industry. First of all, in a legal sense, the insurance company really has no right to dictate or blueprint a repair process. Their responsibility to the customer is to pay for property damage, NOT determine HOW the vehicle is to be repaired. The insurance company makes money by taking in premiums and investing these premiums. Any damage claim payouts are EXPENSES and like any company, controlling expenses is a top priority. This creates a conflict of interest when the insurance company is allowed to participate in the repair process. Contrary to popular belief, insurance companies DO NOT look out for YOUR best interests; they look out for their OWN best interest. This scenario leads to an adversarial relationship between insurance companies and HONEST repair facilities. Dishonest or unethical repair facilities view the insurance company as their customer and you as a product. They will repair your vehicle however the insurance company instructs, regardless of quality or the resulting structural integrity of the automobile. They want to keep the insurance company happy so that they may keep getting business referred to them. It’s a great arrangement for everybody EXCEPT the vehicle owner. An ethical body shop will repair your vehicle properly REGARDLESS of the insurance companies’ suggestions otherwise. In the past, we would have to just “absorb” the difference between what the insurance company “allowed” and what it REALLY cost to repair your car.

Enter now a powerful couple of legal documents called the “Limited Power of Attorney” (POA) and the “Assignment of Proceeds” (AOP). The POA is exactly what it says it is. It gives the repair facility the power to initiate legal action or collection efforts on your behalf. No, we can’t steal your house or take over your bank account, the LIMITED POA is specific to the insurance claim[Symbol] Remember, in a legal sense, the shop has NO legal connection with, or obligation to, the insurance company. Our contract (signed repair order) and responsibility is with YOU, the vehicle owner. Therefore, YOU are still financially obligated for the monetary difference between what the company allowed and the true cost of the repair. A POA allows me to repair the car properly, deliver the finished product to you and then begin collection efforts on your behalf. Odds are, you’ll never hear about the claim again.

The AOP is actually a document that “assigns” your contractual arrangement with the insurance company to the repair facility which then gives us legal standing to sue this insurance company directly. This “connection” must be established to allow the shop to sue for “breach of contract”. When an insurance company fails to adequately compensate for property damage, they have breached their contract with YOU. The AOP extends this contractual obligation to the repair facility.

With all of THAT being said, here’s the REALITY of the situation. We are most likely never going to use these documents. The power of these documents is the knowledge that they exist. Reaching an agreed repair dollar figure is a negotiation and a negotiation is a battle of wills. You don’t want to enter any “battle” without the proper weapons and knowledge. The AOP and POA are the most powerful weapons the repair facility has available to it. When confronted by a mugger with a knife, just showing the dirty no-good your gun is enough to deter further aggression and typically end an ugly situation and you walk away the victor, not with any illicit gains, but, just with what was rightfully yours to begin with. This is the EXACT same thing we use the AOP and POA for. Simply by brandishing these powerful weapons, the muggers (insurance companies in this case), recognize a losing battle and retreat. No insurance company wants to have their dirty little secrets exposed in court. They know they can’t win because the facts and truth are on our side. The end result is, these couple of signatures you gave me makes me David to the insurance companies Goliath.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Open Letter to Auto Manufacturers: Accept Your Responsibility for Takata Airbag Debacle

Dear Automobile Manufacturers,

As I write this letter, there are over 100 million vehicles on the road with defective Takata airbags. You selected Takata as the supplier for these airbags and you installed them in your vehicles. You then sold them to your dealers, and they sold them to over 100 million drivers.

Many of these airbags were installed more than a decade ago and many more are being installed today even though you know them to be dangerous. The metal inflator which contains an unstable explosive propellant, ammonium nitrate, can detonate too forcefully, causing the metal casing to explode into shrapnel, striking the car’s driver and/or passenger. There have been 10 deaths and over 100 injuries due to this in the United States, and many more worldwide.

Because Takata cannot manufacture safe airbag replacements fast enough, the drivers of your vehicles with unsafe airbags cannot have them replaced. They are faced with the dilemma of renting or buying a safe car or driving the dangerous one. Unfortunately, most can afford only the latter option. Car dealers are telling their customers that the waiting list for a safe airbag can be as long as one year.

As the manufacturer of these dangerous vehicles, you must immediately accept the responsibility for keeping their owners and drivers safe. Why? Because you should have been absolutely certain that the maker of one of the most important safety components on your vehicles, the airbag, was building a safe and reliable product. Your due diligence was clearly insufficient. Investigations have revealed that Takata has been aware of this safety problem for many years and covered up the fact that they were supplying you with millions of dangerously defective airbags every year.

You can point the finger of blame at Takata, and they certainly are guilty. However, Takata has not taken any meaningful actions whatsoever to protect the drivers of your vehicles and it’s highly unlikely that they will; their liability is so massive that they cannot afford to do so. Most industry observers believe that Takata will declare bankruptcy, or have their assets acquired absence any liability.

You must protect the drivers of your vehicles now, and take legal action against Takata to recover whatever you can!

As I write this letter, unsuspecting customers continue to buy the defective used cars you manufactured more than a decade ago. Virtually none of these have had their dangerous Takata airbags replaced. Car dealers are under no requirement to even disclose the fact that that the used cars they are selling contain a potentially lethal airbag. CBS News recently aired an exposé on this by sending mystery shoppers into several car dealerships in several different states. Their investigation revealed that no disclosure was offered to the customers. I mystery shopped twenty-four car dealerships in South Florida. I sent my mystery shopper into four and contacted twenty more by telephone. Twenty-three car dealers misrepresented the car the shoppers were buying as not having a recalled Takata airbag. I verified that the cars did, in fact, have dangerous airbags on the NHTSA website, http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/owners/SearchSafetyIssues.

This is what you must do immediately to stop the deaths and injuries in the vehicles you manufactured:

(1) Order your car dealers not to sell, or allow to be driven, any of the vehicles you manufactured with an unsafe airbag: new or used.

(2) Provide free loaner cars to all owners and drivers of the cars you built with defective airbags until safe airbags can be installed. Honda is already doing this and all manufacturers should follow their example.

(3) Compensate your dealers as well as independent used car dealers for the financial loss they experience by being unable to sell your unsafe vehicles.

(4) Immediately stop manufacturing vehicles that you know to have unsafe airbags. Although you may anticipate eventually being able to replace the faulty airbags, many of these vehicles will find their way into the used vehicle market and in the driveways of unsuspecting consumers prior to being fixed. Millions of these vehicles will never be fixed and remain on the road for years. CarFax data shows that only one in four recalls are ever fixed.

(5) Lobby federal and state governments to pass laws making it illegal to sell a used or new car with an unsafe airbag. 


Sincerely,



Earl Stewart

Monday, June 20, 2016

Treated Badly by a Car Dealer? 5 Steps You Can Take to Resolve the Issues

Hopefully the sales or service experience with your car dealer went well. But, too often, they don’t. Now what? The advice I give you applies to all business transactions, not just car dealerships. 

Your first step should be to communicate your complaint ASAP to the General Manager or, preferably, the owner. Be sure that you are talking to the real owner or the real general manger. A General Manager is over all employees in the entire company. A general “sales” manager is not a General Manager. If you can’t reach the owner (Many car dealerships are either publicly owned or owned by absentee owners), ask to see the General Manager. Often times the owner or General Manager is not aware of everything that goes on with all of their customers and employees. They might have new employee that should not have been hired or received inadequate training. Or, they may simply have a “rotten apple” that should not be working there. The ease and speed with which you can meet and speak to a General Manager or an owner is a pretty good measure of the integrity of the company as whole. If the owner or General Manager cares enough about her customers to allow total access, it is probably a very good place to do business. In fact, it is a good idea to find this out before you do business. 

If you cannot reach the owner or General Manager, contact the manufacturer who franchises the dealership. Car dealers have a contract with the manufacturer called a franchise agreement and this contractual agreement requires that they treat their customers with courtesy, efficiency and integrity. Most manufacturers have a customer hotline that allows you to call and register a complaint directly. The owner or General Manager of the dealership will be made aware of your complaint. As you might guess, the manufacturer has quite of bit of clout with their dealer. If a dealer does not live up to his side of the contract, his franchise could be canceled or not renewed. 

The third step I recommend, if numbers one and two don’t work, is to contact a consumer agency like The Better Business Bureau or the County Office of Consumer Affairs. These agencies will send your complaint to the dealership and request a written reply. No car dealership or business wants an unanswered complaint in the file of a governmental or private consumer agency

The 4th step is to call the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, DMV, and/or the Florida Attorney General’s office. These are extreme steps to be used for serious, even illegal, activities. The DMV has the power to suspend or cancel a dealer’s motor vehicle retail license, putting him out of business. The Attorney General’s Office can file criminal charges and assess large fines, even jail terms. The DMV phone number is (850) 617-2000 and the Attorney General’s phone number is 866-966-7226. . This website provides you with three forms to download…from the Florida Attorney General, Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, and the Florida Office of Consumer Affairs, www.FloridaCarDealerComplaints.com.

Your last resort is to contact an attorney. I list this last because hiring an attorney just about eliminates the possibility that you can quickly, amicably and inexpensively resolve your differences with the car dealer. Be very careful which attorney you choose. Try to choose one that is primarily interested in helping you and not in generating large fees for him. Under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, an attorney is entitled to his fees and costs from the defendant in a lawsuit if he wins. These fees can be much larger than the amount of your claim, motivating an unethical attorney to spend more time than is needed and dragging out a case to generate more fees than are necessary. This can be very dangerous for you because the car dealer’s attorney’s fees run roughly parallel to your lawyer’s and you can be held liable for those if you lose the case. However, there are honest and talented consumer advocate attorneys that will counsel with you at no charge. They will tell you whether or not you have a lawsuit you can win. If you do, the car dealer will pay your attorney’s fee.

Hopefully you never have to resort to the final step of hiring a lawyer. In trying steps one, two, three and four try to present your complaint as concisely and politely as possible. You have every right to be angry when you are taken advantage of, but try to let your anger subside before you speak to or write to someone about your problem. We all react negatively to someone who is profane, raises his voice, or is sarcastic. Your goal of communicating and resolving your complaint is best reached by communicating clearly, politely and concisely.