Monday, January 25, 2021

You Don’t Know What You Paid for Your Car

You might think you do, but you’re probably wrong. You think you paid the advertised price, or the one quoted you by your salesperson, but you paid a lot more. No, I’m not talking about added sales tax and the license plate which you expected to be added to the advertised price. I’m talking about hidden, additional profit to the dealer disguised as government fees and added accessories that you didn’t ask for or even know about. If you bought your car in Florida, you probably paid between $1,000 and $2,000 in added profit to the dealer. You paid less in other states that have some restrictions and limits on hidden fees. Florida has virtually no restrictions and the few they have aren’t enforced.

If you doubt me, look at the signed documents you should have been given when you purchased your car…specifically the Vehicle Buyer’s Order, Installment Sales Contract, or Lease Contract. Near the top will be the supposed “Selling Price” and below that there’ll be several additions. Two are legitimate government fees which are not profit to the dealer, because he must pass these along to the state government. These are sales tax and license/registration. But some of the “fees” are disguised profit to the dealership. Florida has a law that that this added profit must be disclosed to the buyer as such, but this disclosure is disguised and hidden in the fine print. If you look closely, you’ll see “fees” named tag agency fee, doc fee, notary fee, electronic filing fee, dealer prep fee, administrative fee, service fee, and delivery fee. Florida law allows dealers to make up any name they wish and that’s just what they do. The surefire test if a “fee” is really dealer profit, is whether you were charged state sales tax on it. The state does not collect sales tax on a real government fee, just on the true price of the car including the dealer’s profit.

The other bogus price increase, in addition to hidden fees, are dealer-installed accessories. These consist of overpriced, virtually worthless items pre-installed on the car you bought, but not included in the advertised or quoted price. Some examples are nitrogen in tires, roadside assistance, pinstripes, road hazard insurance, fabric protection, and paint sealant. You didn’t ask for these, but you bought them anyway because they were added to your car before you bought it.

I’d love to hear from anybody reading this if they actually paid the advertised or quoted price. Call or text me at 561 358-1474. I’m not concerned about my “phone ringing off the hook” because I know almost everybody was tricked by their car dealer.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Answers to Top Ten Devious Statements Made by Car Salesmen


Salesperson Says: “I’ll give you the price only if you’ll commit to buy today.” 

Your answer: I’ll ask you once more for your best price. There are 3 car dealerships that sell this same make within a half-hour drive of here. If I don’t get your best price right now, I’ll walk out of your showroom and you’ll never see me again. 

Salesperson Says: “I’m sorry, but we just sold that car we advertised, but we have others just like it”. 

Your answer: I know that Florida law now allows you to add your $999 dealer fee to the advertised price, because, technically, I’m not buying the advertised car. I also know that you can now legally add “dealer installed options” to the low ad price. However, if you do not sell me the car I came in to buy for the advertised price, I will walk out that door and you will never see me again. 

Salesperson Says: “This price is good for today only”.

Your answer: I don’t believe you and I won’t make my decision to buy today. I want to shop and compare your price with your competition and, if yours is the best price, I will call you to see if I can buy it for that price. If you tell me that I can’t, I’ll buy it from your competitor. 

Salesperson Says: “This price is so low that I’m willing to guarantee it or pay you $1,000 [or some other amount] if you can find a better one”. 

Your answer: First of all, no retailer can always have the lowest prices. If they did, they could not make a profit and remain in business. I’ll bet you can’t give me the name of just one customer that you paid your $1,000 guarantee to. I also know that you ‘reserve the right to buy the exact car from the dealer that I say has the lower price.’ What makes you think that I would believe your competitor would sell you that car so that you could steal his customer?” You must think I’m really stupid and I don’t want to buy a car from somebody who thinks his customers are stupid. 

Salesperson Says: “I can give you this price only if you take a car from my present inventory. If I have to order a car or dealer-trade a car, the price will be higher.” 

Your answer: My car is very important to me. I want the exact color and accessories that will satisfy me and not a compromise. I will buy the car from you only if you agree to get me the exact car I want at the price you just quoted me. If not, I’ll bet that your competitor will. 

Salesperson Says: “I can’t give you this price in writing unless you will give me a deposit”. 

Your answer: I know that Florida law allows you to keep my deposit if I change my mind about buying. I also know that you do not want to commit to a price in writing because I might show your price to your competitor who may beat it. That’s the risk you have to take if you want my business. If you do, you have a chance at my buying a car from you. If you don’t, you have no chance because you will never see me again. 

Salesperson Says:“What will you pay for this car today? Or, make me an offer on this car and I’ll take it to my manager for approval”. 

Your answer: This is not a game that we’re playing. I’m about to make the 2nd largest purchase of my life. If I was shopping for a TV set and the salesman said that to me, I would walk out without another word and buy from his competitor. And that’s exactly what I’m about to do to you unless you give me your best price in writing. 

Salesperson Says: “We cannot quote you a price over the phone”. 

Your answer: It makes no sense to me that I should have to drive 10 miles and back to your dealership just so that you can tell me the price of the car I want to buy. I can get prices on the Internet so why can’t I get them on the telephone? I think the reason you want me to drive to your dealership is so that you can pressure me into buying today without competitive shopping. If you won’t give me your best price right this minute, you will never hear from me again because I will buy from your competitor. 

Salesperson Says: “I’m sorry but the owner isn’t available right now and we are not allowed to give out his cell phone number”. 

Your answer: If the owner of this dealership is too busy to speak to his customers than I’m too busy to buy my next car from him. 

Salesperson Says: “The reason that this $999 item labeled dealer fee [or doc fee, dealer prep, handling fee, admin fee, pre-delivery fee, etc] was not included in the price that I quoted you is because it is ‘to cover our costs of inspecting, cleaning, and adjusting vehicles and preparing documents for sale’.” 

Your answer: The price quoted to a customer for any product should include all of the costs of the seller. Furthermore, I know that the manufacturers of all cars reimburse their dealers for “inspecting, cleaning, and adjusting vehicles”. I also know that now you’re going to tell me that you must charge me your dealer fee because you charge all customers this same fee. But, I also know that you can deduct the amount of your fee from the price you quoted me and leave the dealer fee on the buyers’ order which will have the same net effect of removing it. If you do not agree, I will walk out of your dealership and never return.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Choosing and Buying Cars in the Digital Age

I turned 80 last month and I have many friends and associates that are around my age. We grew up, were educated, and worked from the 1940’s through the 1990’s. We lived in a world where we wrote letters, listened to radios, watched black and white TV, called friends on old fashioned telephones, and if we had a computer, it had a dial up modem. The Internet didn’t exist until 1983 and Google was born in 1998. We Baby Boomers entered the 21st century without a clue about the DIGITAL EXPLOSION that would transform the World. Some of us were able to adapt, but most of us haven’t.

2021 is the perfect example of “The Best of Times and the Worst of Times”. This applies to almost everything, but I’m a consumer advocate and a car dealer (no, that’s not an oxymoron). My goal is to help you digitally buy or lease your next vehicle without being ripped off by a car dealer. Following are some tips on buying or leasing a new or used vehicle utilizing all the support you can find online.

  • Find a friend that’s digitally savvy. Your children and grandchildren will probably qualify.
  • Your digitally qualified assistant will enable you to communicate with online sources to choose the best year-make-model vehicle for you. They will also help you find the lowest out-the-door price. Definition: The price you can write out a check for, give it to the dealer, and have him deliver your new car to your front door.
  • Be prepared to buy your next vehicle entirely online. You should not visit a car dealership except to test drive the vehicles you’re considering. In fact, many progressive car dealers offer to bring vehicles to you for test driving and evaluation. Most car dealers are reluctant to sell you a car completely online becauseyou have control and they don’t; however, if you insist, they have no alternative but to comply.
  • The best sources of online information for your digitally savvy assistant are www.ConsumerReports.com,www.CostcoAuto.com, www.TrueCar.com,www.AutoTrader.com, www.Edmunts.com, www.Kbb.com, and, last but not least, www.EarlOnCars.com.
  • Your total control over the dealer online is because he understands that his one and only chance to sell you a car is to give you his best out-the-door price online. Be sure to tell your cyber-savvy assistant to keep you anonymous by not revealing your real phone number or email address. She can create a functional email address just for this purpose and use a fictious phone number if necessary. This way, you can contact as many dealers as you like without fear of being hounded salesmen.
  • Arrange your financing online using your credit union or bank. Today, everything can be done digitally including exchange of documents and signatures. In some cases, the new car dealers’ manufacturers offer lower financing rates than your bank or credit union, as low as zero percent. Confirm that this is offered by the manufacturer, not the dealer and conduct that transaction online also.
  • Establish the value of your trade-in online also.www.Carvana.com, www.WeBuyAnyCar.com, andwww.CarMax.com are three good sources for getting bids on your current used car. You can also shop your car with the dealers of your same make used car departments. A Honda dealer used car manager will usually pay more for a used Honda than a Chevrolet dealer.

I hope this works for you and I wish you the best of luck. If you can’t find a “cyber-savvy” digital assistant, I’m always available for advice. I’m one of the few baby boomers who’s cyber-savvy, thanks largely to a scientific education and a lifetime fascination with science.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Let Me Help You Buy Your Next New Car Online

I promise you that you’ll get a lower price on your next new car if you buy it online. Many people, especially those born and raised before the “digital revolution” may feel nervous or are incapable of this technological challenge. If you do, I’ll personally walk you through the process. Because I have no idea how many people will take me up on this offer, I must limit it to the first 100 to ask. 
  • Call, email, or text me with the Year, Make, Model, and MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price).
  • Please furnish me with your zip code and, if there’s a new car dealership that you’d prefer to buy from.
  • I’ll need your name, email address, and phone number. I promise to keep this information private. I’ll be using a fictious name, email address, and phone number when contacting dealers on your behalf. This will avoid you receiving a deluge of car salesmen hounding you. 
  • If you’re a Costco member, please furnish me with your Costco membership number. The Costco auto buying program is your best source of getting the lowest price. If you’re not a member of Costco, I recommend you buy an annual membership for $60 just for their auto buying program.
In less than three days, I’ll advise you of the lowest out-the-door price of the car you told me you wanted to buy. This out-the-door price is the amount you can write a check for, hand it to the salesman, and drive your new car home.

If you don’t know me, you’re probably asking yourself “Why would he go to the time and trouble to do this?” The answer is that I like to help people like you. If you’ll read my blog, www.EarlOnCars.com you’ll understand.

You might also be saying to yourself, “This guy’s a car dealer and he’s just trying to trick me into buying a new Toyota from him!” You’d be right that I’m a Toyota dealer, but you’re wrong that I’ll try to sell you a car. Read my blog, buy my book (Confessions of a Recovering Car Dealer, available on Amazon… 100% of the proceeds go to the charity, Big Dog Ranch Rescue) or ask anybody that knows me, and you’ll learn the truth.

Finally, you might wonder if the price I find for you is truly the LOWEST. The answer is “not necessarily”. But it’s lower (likely much lower) than the price you would have paid had you not let me obtain the price online. You might be able to obtain an even lower price if you want to invest the time and aggravation in shopping my out-the-door price with even more car dealers. Just remember the definition of my out-the-door price…the price you can write your check out for and drive your car home.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Lowest Price on a New Car at End of the Month: Old Wives’ Tale, Urban Legend, or Fact?


This question is on the top ten list of most common questions I’m asked. The answer is “Yes”, you usually can save money when you buy new car at the end of the month. You also can save money on used cars, but not nearly as much.

The caveat is not to wait until the end of the month to begin your search and do your research. Be sure you’ve done your due diligence in choosing the right car for you and gotten competitive out-the-door bids from at least 3 dealers. You should have checked TrueCar and Costco pricing as discussed in my previous two blogs. If your reading this in my newspaper column, you can access all of my blogs at www.EarlOnCars.com.

Once you’ve gotten your best price on the specific car you intend to buy, you should “sit tight” until the end of the month. You will be “deluged” with warnings by car salesmen that this price won’t be good unless you buy the car now; or, this car will be sold if you don’t buy it right now. Ignore these threats. Toward the end of the month recontact the dealer that gave you his best out-the-door price. In case you don’t know the definition of an out-the-door price, it’s THE PRICE YOU WRITE YOUR CHECK OUT FOR, HAND IT TO THE SALESMAN, GET IN YOUR NEW CAR AND DRIVE IT HOME. Don’t accept anything less just because they say it’s an out-the-door price.

Here are all the reasons you can get a much better price at the end of the month. (1) All car salesmen are paid on a monthly commission based the number of cars they sell in each month, and there are usually bonuses at the end of the month. (2) Sales managers are paid the same way. (3) The auto manufacturer pays the dealership end of the month bonuses. (4) Both manufacturers and dealers pour on their advertising at the end of the month which increases the competition between dealers. (5) Car dealers and auto manufacturers are “insanely competitive (I know because I’m insanely competitive…just ask anybody who really knows me.) Competition is your best friend when you’re buying a car. The end of the month is a perfect storm of competition between auto manufacturers and between car dealers. (6) Auto manufacturers and car dealers generate their financial, profit and loss statements monthly. They place huge emphasis on making their net profit forecasts. The typical car dealership will sell more new cars in the last 10 days of the month than he did in the first 20. (7) I’m writing this article on December 14 and you’ll be reading before the end of the year. THE END OF THE YEAR IS LIKE THE END OF THE MONTH “ON STEROIDS”. It’s the perfect time to buy your next new car.

A final word of caution on not venturing into a car dealership at the end of any month without having done your due diligence. The same factors that I just described can work against you, if you’re not fully prepared. Because car dealers want to sell you a car so bad at the end of the month, they’re likely topromise you anything they must, to make it happen.

Monday, December 07, 2020

TrueCar: Almost as Good as Costco to Buy Your Next New Car


In my previous column, I recommended CostcoAuto.com as the “Your Best Bet for a Low Price”. You can access that column at EarlOnCars.comTrueCar.com is almost as good as Costco. When you use TrueCar carefully and diligently, you’ll get a fair, low price. When you use the Costco Auto Buying program, you’ll probably get a lower price, but not by much. This is because Costco contractually requires their certified dealers to give Costco members a lower price than they have sold the same car to anybody else.

So, why am I even mentioning TrueCar? It’s because (1) TrueCar’s program is easier to understand and use, (2) dealers’ hidden fees and extra dealer installed accessories are more clearly added to the bottom line price, (3) TrueCar offers many more certified dealers to choose from, (4) TrueCar gives your market price comparisons of what other buyers of the car you are buying paid, (5) TrueCar doesn’t require a $60 annual membership fee, and (6) perhaps most importantly, you can transact a TrueCar purchase entirely online. Costco requires you to go into the dealership.

I just mystery-shopped, online, TrueCar for a new 2020 Ford F-150 XLT with an MSRP of $46,525. I used a factitious name and email address. No phone number is required. I was able to get quotes from 42 Ford dealers, but I chose only to get final prices from two within a reasonable distance, Wayne Acres Ford in Greenacres, FL and Grieco Ford in Delray, FL. The lower of the two was Grieco Ford with an $8,299 discount from MSRP plus $1,459 in dealer fees and dealer installed accessories for bottom line price of $39,685. This price also included all factory incentives. All I’d have to pay in addition to drive my new F150 home were government fee…sales tax and license/registration.

I could probably have gotten a slightly lower price if I’d pursued this with some of the other 40 TrueCar certified Ford dealers available to me. However, TrueCar showed this price to be an excellent one based on actual transaction prices from their database. To be a TrueCar certified dealer, you must agree to allow TrueCar to access your computer database which reveals the actual transaction prices on all the vehicles you sell. In the last 30 days, my price was well below the average price…there were 4 sales of this F150 at a “high” price, 4 at a “fair” price, 8 at a “great” price, and 7 others at an “excellent’ price like mine.

It took me about 10 minutes to go through the above process. If I had been a real buyer, I could have gotten the lowest price from 42 Ford dealers, and it would have taken me an hour two. Compare this with driving from dealership to dealership, shopping dealer websites online, making phone calls, and there’s no comparison. As I said at the beginning of this article, don’t use your real name or email address and there’s absolutely no reason to give dealers your phone number. The harassment from car salesmen if you shopped 42 Ford dealerships and gave them your real contact information would be ENORMOUS. You can easily obtain a free email address from Google, Microsoft Outlook, Apple/iCloud, and AOL.

If you really want a super-low price and don’t mind spending a little more time,use Costco and TrueCar. Remember, that you’ll rarely see two car dealers quote you the same price on the same car. The more dealers you check and the more prices you compare, the lower the price you can get. Comparing at least threedealers is necessary, and you’ll realize a large savings from this. As you shop and compare more than three, the amount of the savings decreases incrementally. The Internet which spawned online car buying and third-party car buying companies like Costco Auto and TrueCar makes it possible to shop and compare as many dealerships as you want to. Furthermore, you’re doing all this from the comfort and privacy of your home.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Costco Auto Buying Program: Your Best Bet for a Low Price


This is not the first article that I’ve written on Costco’s auto buying program, but because I receive so many questions about it, I thought it useful to write another column on the subject.

Click on Costco Auto Program and navigate through their recommended process for buying a new or used car. You must be a Costco member, but this costs only $60 for the basic membership. I promise you that you’ll same many times this cost when you follow their instructions to buy from their dealers. Costco has new and used car programs, but I recommend you use only the new. Their used car program requires only that their dealers discount their list price to Costco members. The dealers with the highest asking prices for their used cars offer the discounts, but dealers with low prices can’t.

Carefully follow these recommendations for purchasing your car through the Costco Auto Program:

  • When you put in your zip code, you’ll be shown the nearest authorized Costco dealer. You should find other authorized dealers in your market so that you can compare prices, especially on those that add extra non-government fees, like Doc fee, Electronic Filing Fee, and Tag-Agency Fee to the prices on their “Members-Only Price Sheet”. Costco requires that these be itemized separately on the Member-Only Price Sheet but ARE NOT INCLUDED IN COSTCO MEMBER-ONLY PRICE. 
  • Dealer installed accessories like window tint, floor mats, protection packages, nitrogen in tires, stripes, etc. are SUPPOSED to be included in the Costco Member-Only Price Sheet at NO CHARGE TO COSTCO MEMBERS. Be sure to verify that these items aren’t added later for additional charges. 
  • On the Costco Website you will be offered the Costco Auto Program Price Verification. It’s VERY IMPORTANT that you check this box giving the Costco Auto Program permission to obtain a copy of your purchase agreement from the dealer. If you’re not contacted by Costco and suspect a problem, call Costco immediately at 800 755-2519.
  • Deal Only with the Costco Authorized, Trained Contact(s) at this Participating Dealership. Call the authorized contact and make an appointment. NEVER deal with another salesman that’s not listed on the Costco website. 
  • Insist on seeing the official Member-Only Price Sheets (two of them) to verify the price you’re given. One price sheet if just for the car you indicated online that you want to buy. The second price sheet shows all of the cars the dealer offers for sale. The prices are indicated by an amount below or above invoice. A high percentage of cars are usually shown at hundreds of dollars BELOW invoice, because invoice is not the true cost of the car to the dealer.
  • Insist on seeing the dealer’s factory invoice on the car you’re buying. You can then verify the amount under or over invoice the dealer has promised Costco they will see this to their members for. 
  • Before you sign on the dotted line, be sure that the check you’re writing to the dealership is for the total amount you have to pay plus government fees only…sales tax and license/registration paid directly to the state department of motor vehicles. This amount should be for the amount, under or over invoice, shown on the Costco Member-Only Price Sheet. Dealer installed accessories must not be charged to you, and should not alter the amount below or above invoice you’re charged.

If you believe all the above is very complicated, I totally agree with you. I’ve had many, long discussions with the Costco Auto Buying program about why they don’t simply give you their price online for what you can write your check out for…an out-the-door price. But, with that said, if you do carefully follow the above procedure, you can buy your next new car for a very low price.