Monday, November 11, 2019

Negative Equity

(aka "Upside Down" & "Underwater")
You’ve probably seen a lot of car advertisements claiming, “WE WE’LL PAY OFF YOUR OLD CAR, NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU OWE”! This is a lie, because no car dealer every pays of your car for you; you pay off your car because the dealer adds the payoff amount to the price of the car that he’s selling you.

The Wall Street Journal recently (11-11-19) featured a front-page story, “Car Debt Traps More Drivers”. The article begins “John Schricker took out a loan to buy a car in 2017. Then he took out another. And then another. In two years, the 40-year-old electrician signed up for four auto loans, each time trading in the previous car and rolling the unpaid balance into the next loan. He recently bought a $27,000 Jeep Cherokee with a $45,000 loan from Ally Financial Inc.”

This practice has been going on as long as there’ve been car dealers, but it’s worsened in recent years due to sharply increasing car prices with sharply reduced dealer profits on new cars. Car prices are soaring from the revolution in digitalized electronic safety features, but dealers’ profit margins have shrunk from the increasingly educated 21stcentury consumer, armed with the Internet and online buying. 33% of new car buyers that traded in their old car so far in 2019 owned more on their trade-in than its actual value, compared to 28% five years ago and 19% a decade ago, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Due to car dealers’ reduced ability to make large profits on the sale of new cars, they are focusing on their finance profits. Finance profits are enhanced by the sale of extended services contracts aka warranties, pre-paid car maintenance, GAP insurance, road hazard and roadside assistance insurance, and a litany of other overpriced and usually unnecessary services and products. Car dealers make more money in their F&I (Finance and Insurance) departments than their new car sales departments. Adding the negative equity from car buyers’ trade-ins to the loan on their new cars further enhances the dealers’ profits in their Finance and Insurance Departments.

Many new car buyers with negative equity in their trade-ins are not aware of it, and car dealers don’t bring it to their attention for fear of losing the sale. The facts are revealed in the sales and financing contracts which most buyers don’t read carefully or understand. Most car buyers are focused on one thing…their monthly payment. If a dealer can offer a monthly payment close to their current payment, this usually satisfies the buyer. Dealers can often do this by extending the terms of the loan to a much as 72 months, surprising the buyer with a large down payment, or “flipping” the buyer to a lease.

All the above is why new car buyers should make a point of completely understanding all the numbers of their purchase or lease transaction. This is best done by separating the new car purchase into (1) establishing the actual value of the trade-in compared to the payoff to the bank, (2) knowing the out-the-door selling price of the new car, and (3) the best interest rate, down payment, and terms usually obtainable from their bank of credit union. Car dealers finance most of the new cars they sell through kick-back arrangements with their banks. These interest rates and terms are usually not best for the buyer.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Should I Buy a Car or Have a Colonoscopy?

If you’re over 55, you should have had a colonoscopy. If you haven’t, call a gastroenterologist, because this could save your life; It did mine, but that’s another story. I had another colonoscopy (about a half dozen, so far) a few days ago, and I must tell you that it’s a very unpleasant experience, mainly from the mental anguish, anticipation and the discomfort of the “preparation” the previous day. I had a lot of time to think about my procedure and I started thinking about how this experience parallels that of buying a car. It’s something you must do and has a very good benefit, but you dread the process.

If you need further proof that buying cars is an unpleasant experience, just read the latest Gallup Poll entitled HONESTY AND ETHICS IN PROFESSIONS. The Gallup organization has been taking this poll every year since 1977. Car dealers have ranked last, or nearly last, in every poll…FORTY-THREE YEARS! For the latest full year poll in 2018, click on
https://news.gallup.com/poll/1654/honesty-ethics-professions.aspx.

My newspaper columns and blog consist mainly of suggestions and inside information that can make your new or used car buying experience less of a fearful one. Some of the titles/subjects are “Always Get an Out the Door Price”, “Bait and Switch Advertising”, “Beware of Deceptive Internet Car Pricing”, “Beware of Direct Mail Car Advertising”, “Buying a Car When You Have a Credit Problem”, “Eight Steps to Ensure You Are Buying the Best Car for the Best Price”, “List Price and MSRP Might Not Be the Same”, “Negotiating to Buy a Car”, “Open Letter to Florida Car Dealers” (I, II, III, and IV), “Shop Your Financing and Trade”, “Should I Buy My Car at the End of the Lease?”, “Should I Lease or Buy my Next Car?”, “Should I Pay Cash or Finance My Next Car?”, “Should I Trade in My Old Car or Sell it Myself”, “Tell Your Car Dealer to be Nice”, “The Right Used Car is a Better Buy than a New Car”, “Translating Misleading Car Ads”, “What is the True Cost of that New Car?”, “What to do if You Are Treated Badly by a Car Dealer”, “When is a Car Sale Not a Car Sale?”, and “The Internet Price is the Lowest Price for a New Car”. You can read all my articles (hundreds) at www.EarlOnCars.com. You’ll find links there to listen to my live, weekly radio show (Saturdays 8-10 AM EST), my YouTube videos, Podcasts, Facebook, Twitter and a wealth of other information on “how not to get ripped off by a car dealer”.

Almost every one of these articles originated from readers of my column, callers to my radio show, and others’ experiences when buying cars from car dealers. I get a lot of calls from people who’ve never bought a car from me. They call to tell me of their bad experience with another dealer and, when I get several calls on the same subject, I write a column on it. People often call me asking for advice or assistance after they’ve already bought, which is “closing the barn door after the horse is gone.” On more than one occasion I’ve called car dealers asking them to consider undoing a wrong they have caused one of their customers. I must confess that my batting average on this effort is “below 300”. I won’t give up, however. One of my most recent calls was from a customer who was charged nearly a $1,000 in service work performed on her car when she had brought it in for a routine service that should have cost her less than $100. She called me for help and was forceful and diligent in following my advice. She got a complete refund on the “unasked for, unnecessary charges”.


One thing that amazes me about these weekly columns and my radio show is that I have been writing and airing for nearly 14 years is that no car dealer has ever called me to complain, or for any other reason. I’ve not been sued either. I think that says something about the truth of my articles. I’m not a lawyer, but I do know that you can’t successfully sue somebody for libel or slander if they write or say the truth. I’m puzzled why not one single dealer would call me just out of curiosity. I don’t have a secretary and I don’t screen any of my calls…nor do any of my employees. They do know how successful my dealership is and how fast my sales are growing. They know that I’m selling a lot of their former customers. Many of these new customers tell me how they told the other dealers why they chose to take their business elsewhere. I believe that before too much longer we will see some changes in the way other car dealers do business even if they refuse to call me, as I have repeatedly invited them to do. Sooner or later they will understand that treating your customers with courtesy and integrity is just plain good business.