Monday, May 10, 2021

Buy this New Car for Only $99 per Month


Chances are, since you’re reading this, you’re not very likely to visit a new car dealership, believing you can buy any new (or used) car for only $99 per month. Sadly, lots and lots of people aren’t as savvy as you and do believe it.

Since I’m largely “preaching to the choir” because most readers of my blog and column are educated consumers, why do I write about this? It’s because most of the large volume dealers do resort to this, almost obscene, form of bait and switch advertising. They wouldn’t be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV, digital, radio, and billboards telling their readers and listeners they can buy this car for $99/mo. if it didn’t work.

The targets of this unethical, immoral, deceptive, and illegal advertising are the “victims” of our society. They’re the elderly, very young (buying their first car), the English language impaired, uneducated, and, yes, the just plain gullible. Some areas of our county have large populations of first- and second-generation immigrants; other parts have large elderly populations. South Florida has both. I get lots of emails and phone calls from elderly widows, baby-boomers and pre-boomers. Wives usually survive their husbands and they lived most of their lives during a time when the husband bought the cars in the family. I hear from many widows that are having to buy a car for the first time in their lives. Sadly, they’re easy marks for car dealers’ bait-and-switch ads.

So, my purpose in writing this article is not to inform you but asking you to help me inform others. Let it be knowns to your friends, family and neighbors that you’re available to advise them on buying their next car; or suggest that they read my blog, www.EarlOnCars.com, listen to my radio show Saturday mornings at www.StreamEarlOnCars.com, buy my book, Confessions of a Recovering Car Dealer on Amazon (100% of proceeds go to Big Dog Ranch Rescue,www.BDRR.org). Or read this column in Florida Weekly or Hometown News.

Or, click on SIGN UP NOW! on my blog page and join “Earl’s Vigilantes”. If I accept you as a qualified advisor on “how not to get ripped off by a car dealer”, I’ll send you a “cool hat”, free, with the Vigilante logo, and list your contact information on my blog so that people in your geographic area can contact you for help. Online skills are important for our vigilantes to have, because buying a car online today, is the very smartest way. Virtually all “victims” of $99/mo. ads visit the car dealerships where it’s easy for them to be tricked.

Thanks very much for considering applying as one of Earl’s Vigilantes. When you’re approved, I look forward to working with you to save as many victims of car dealers’ bait-and-switch advertising as possible.

Monday, May 03, 2021

Dealer Fees are Hidden Fees and Deliberately Deceiving


Shame on Florida’s regulators and legislators for aiding and abetting Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices by 99.9% of all Florida car dealers. Almost every auto dealer in Florida adds hidden, extra charges to their advertised and quoted prices for autos and even service. The Attorney Generals have all “looked the other way” on this for many years. Our lawmakers in Tallahassee have done the same. Why? Without car dealers, their associations and Political Action Committee contributions, nobody can get elected to office in Florida or any other state.

Florida does have a law, ostensibly controlling “dealer fees”, but it may as well be not have such a law. It’s not enforced and, even if it was, it’s written with so many loopholes that smart dealers can technically comply and still deceive their customers. Because the law is never enforced, dealers generally ignore it. The law has been ignored for so long that, it may as well not exist. It’s very similar to the speed limit laws on most highways, especially I-95, Florida turnpike, and the Sawgrass Expressway. Every driver on these highways knows they can exceed the speed limit by 9 or 10 miles and mph with no chance of being stopped even faster with very little chance. Now, because every driver is speeding and practically no speeding tickets are issued, it’s actually dangerous not to speed.

The analogy to hidden fees by dealers is solid. It’s dangerous for a car dealer to not charge a dealer fee because all the competing dealers in his market do add hidden fees to their advertised and quoted prices. If he advertises a new Honda Accord for $1,000 more than his Honda dealer competitors, he has very little chance of selling the car. Honest, ethical car dealers are forced to “fight fire with fire”. I’ve had many car-dealer friends and associates over the year tell me, “Earl, I don’t like having to charge hidden fees, but, if I didn’t, I’d “go broke”! Car dealers profit margins as percent of sales is very slim, between 1% and 3%.

The average new car today sells for about $40,000. A 3% profit is only $1,200 and that’s the gross profit before expenses…commissions, advertising, and lots of other overheard expenses like rent, utilities, and insurance. The net profit on a new car is only $200 or $300. Because a dealer’s competitors are all advertising and quoting prices a $1000 or more below their cost, how can an honest dealer with no hidden fees to secretly raise the price survive?

The average hidden fees in South Florida are over $1,000. All dealers have several fees by different, official-sounding names, adding up to as much as $3,000. Some of the popular deceptive names are electronic filing fee, tag agency fee, doc fee, e-filing fee. Some dealers even double charge for the factory freight which is included in the price of all new cars.

Other dealers charge for “dealer prep”, purportedly to prepare the new car for delivery when they are generously reimbursed for this by their manufacturer. Incredibly, the Florida addressing dealer fees requires dealers to lie to their customers by “disclosing” their dealer fees by this verbiage…” This charge represents costs and profit to the dealer for items such as inspecting, cleaning, and adjusting vehicles,.”. Florida statute 501.976 (18) requires the dealer to tell you that they are charging you for performing the same work on your new car that they’ve ALREADY BEEN PAID FOR by their manufacturer.

This is not a re-run column. I’ve written many columns railing against the hidden dealer fees that are an out-of-control pandemic, especially in Florida. I won’t give up because I know that truth and justice will ultimately prevail. I know that consumers and voters are growing smarter at warp speed during this digital 21st Century. Consumers and voters will reach a breaking point, where they’ll no longer tolerate regulators and legislators who allow this unfair and deceptive affront to car buyers to exist any longer.

Monday, April 05, 2021

VOLUNTEERS WANTED: Online Assistance for Senior Car Buyers


I’m proud that my car dealership was featured last week on the NBC Today Show (View the video at www.EarlStewartCovidRescueTeam.com). Thus far, we’ve made Covid vaccination online appointment for over 200 senior citizens, unable to navigate the process themselves.

This inspired me to form a similar team of online-savvy, educated car-buyers to assist our very large elderly population in buying their next car online. If you’re a regular reader of this column, newspaper columns, or a listener to my radio show, you know that the safest way to buy a car today at a low price today is online. A high percentage of our elderly population can’t operate, or are uncomfortable with, computers and smartphones.

If you’re computer-savvy” and have the time and car-buying skills, please let me know. Click on www.EarlOnCars.com and the link on the right, Volunteers for Senior Online Car Buying Assistance. I’ll ask for a summary of your qualifications and your contact information. I’m looking for volunteers from all over the USA who listen to my radio show, read this blog and newspaper column, and follow me on Facebook and YouTube. Thank you for your consideration.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Three Rules to Follow When Financing Your Car

Car dealers make much more money financing your car than they do selling or leasing it to you. Most buyers concentrate on the price they pay or the monthly lease payment, but you should focus and concentrate even more if you’re thinking about letting the dealer “arrange” your financing. Most people do this and they shouldn’t.
 
  • First, the good news about dealer financing. If you’re buying a new vehicle, most manufacturers offer very low interest rates to induce you to buy…often as low as 0%. If you’re buying a new vehicle, you should always find out if the model you’re buying has special low financing offered by the manufacturer. You also need to know if you’re credit score will qualify you for this low rate. If so, remember that there’s usually a special discount offered as an ALTERNATIVE to the low interest rate. You can’t have both the discount and the low interest rate. The dealer’s advertising doesn’t make this clear because he wants you to believe you can have both. You need to do the arithmetic, taking into consideration the amount you’ll be financing, the number of months you finance, and how the difference between the low rate and your bank or credit union’s rate. Remember, the 0% may be offered for 60 months, but you’re going to trade the car in after 48 months.
  • If the manufacturer doesn’t offer a very low interest rate on the model you’re buying, that you can use, always get a rate from your bank and credit union. If you’re not a member of a credit union, consider joining one. Just because the company you work for doesn’t have a credit union, there are credit unions you can join without the affiliation of your company. If you don’t have a banking relationship with a specific bank, contact one and ask. Be sure that you understand that the dealer is getting the money he wants to loan you from a bank (often owned by his manufacturer). The dealer then MARKS UP the interest rate the bank charges him and applies that to your car loan. The dealer “pockets” the mark-up. The amount of the mark-up varies, but 2% is common. If you’re financing $30,000 for 60 months, the dealer’s mark-up is about $1,700. Some dealers retain all of that, but most keep about 75% or $1,275. The dealer will usually make another $1,000 in warranties, maintenance and “products” like GAP insurance. The dealer averages less than $1,000 on the sale of a new car. He’s making twice as much financing the as he did selling it 
  • If you were raised like me, your parents told you never to borrow more money than you absolutely must. When you do borrow, you should always make as large a down payment as you can afford. This doesn’t always hold true today because interest rates are at historical lows and sometimes manufacturers offer even lower rates. If you have excellent credit, your down payment should be as low as the bank will accept…hopefully zero. Today, you can conservatively invest your money to earn a higher return than you must pay to finance your car. But, if you’re going to finance with the dealer and intend to make a large down payment, NEVER TELL THAT TO THE DEALER before he gives you his final out-the-door price. Why? Because the banks dealers finance your car through limit the amount they will finance based on your credit and, the more you put down, the higher the dealer can increase his profit margin. Dealers will often push you for a larger down payment because they can’t finance as much profit as they’d like. They’re likely to tell you that the bank requires a larger down payment which is true, but they don’t tell you it’s because they’re making a huge profit on the car.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Seven Dirty Little Auto Leasing SecretCar Dealers Don’t Want You to Know

You may have noticed that almost all new car advertising today focuses on leasing. A few years ago, leasing a car was rare…less than 10% of total sales, and usually done by businesses. Businesses lease often because of tax deduction and balance sheet considerations. Business leases virtually never required a down payment. Following are the reasons that retail auto leasing to individuals has surged to more than one-third of all car sales. Some dealers are leasing over half of all their sales.

I’m not suggesting that a lease can never be as good a value as a purchase or even better. To the informed, sophisticated lessor, leases can be the way to go. Manufacturers do sometimes offer special lease rates and residual values which can make a lease cheaper than a purchase. But fewer lessors/buyers can navigate the following “complications and deceptions” of leasing.
  • Car dealers make more than TWICE as much when they lease you a vehicle rather than selling it. This is largely because they can attract you on a falsely low monthly payment, and your focus isn’t on the actual total cost of leasing.
  • Every advertised lease you see has a large down payment hidden in the fine print.
  • Customers are coerced and enticed to lease or buy another car from their dealer after their first lease. This is because the dealer never loses contact with you. You must return the lease car to him and he remains in close contact with you every time you make a lease payment. If you don’t buy or lease another vehicle from the dealer/manufacturer, you’re penalized with a “lease disposition fee” of several hundred dollars.
  • There are many more hidden fees in a lease contract than a purchase contract. There’s an “acquisition fee” for several hundred dollars, lease disposition fee at the end of the lease, charge for above “normal” wear and tear when you turn in your lease car, and a mileage charge for exceeding a certain number of miles per year. Of course, the dealer still charges the same hidden dealer fees he charges you when you buy the car. Most of these charges should be included in the monthly lease payments up front, but they aren’t.
  • Despite popular belief, you must make all the lease payments you signed the contract for. It doesn’t matter if you decide you don’t like the car or if it breaks down a lot and/or runs terribly. The leasing company (usually owned by the manufacturer) is separate legal entity. You still must make every lease payment even when the reason you can’t drive your lease car is the fault of the manufacturer or dealer. You also must make all the lease payments even if you’re disabled and can’t drive or die (your estate is liable for all remaining lease payments). The leasing company will insist that you make your monthly car insurance payments even if you can’t drive the car and it’s sitting in your garage.
  • Because your monthly lease payments build no equity as they do on a purchase, you will always have to make a large down payment when you buy or lease another vehicle. Basically, once you lease a car, you can be trapped into leasing again and again. Today’s new vehicles are so reliable and maintenance free that many buyers are keeping their cars for five years and more. Furthermore, they have no more monthly payments!
  • The dealer that leased you the car and other competing car dealers will be calling you to lease or buy another car when they know you have only a few more payments left. They’ll also tell you not to worry about the remaining lease payments because they’ll make those to the leasing company for you. Yes, they will pay the leasing company the remaining payments that you owe, but WITH YOUR MONEY, because they add those payments onto the price of the next car they lease or sell you. Remember that the dealer, the leasing company, and the manufacturer are all separate legal entities. Each has their own selfish interests, and you’re not one of them.

Monday, February 08, 2021

Auto Dealers Think and Act Differently from their Manufacturers

A new car dealership is a franchise unlike any other. Most franchised businesses are rigidly controlled by the parent company like Marriott, McDonalds, Ace Hardware, Century 21, Midas Muffler, H&R Block, and Tire Kingdom. New car dealers are more independent and able to do business the way they want to than any other franchised business.

This is important for you to know and understand, because what a car dealer tells you and how he treats you isn’t always the way his manufacturer would have it. If you have problems with your dealer you should communicate your dissatisfaction to his manufacturer and consider trying another dealer of that same franchise. The manufacturer will communicate your dissatisfaction to the dealership owner and/or general manager, and will sometimes (off the record) direct you to a better dealership. The manufacturer has no power or control over the dealer to force him to do the right thing, but sometimes the mere communication to the dealership management can have a positive effect. Your best bet is to simply try a different dealer. He might be a better dealer, but, if even if he’s not, he’ll be competitively motivated to make you see him in a more favorable light.

Fortunately for you, there’re lots of car dealerships that sell the same make you want to buy. There are about 18,000 new car dealerships in the US. If you’re a Chevy buyer, there’s about 3,000 to choose from, and probably 3 or 4 nearby. Online, you have an almost unlimited number of dealer choices.

The lack of the ability of auto manufacturers to control their dealers is unique among all other franchised businesses. The control and protection of new car dealerships is in the hands of our 50 state governments. Each individual state government department of motor vehicles insulates new car dealers from any real control by auto manufacturers. This was accomplished in the first half of the twentieth century by powerful dealership lobbying groups to protect dealers against unfair and punitive bad behavior directed at car dealers by auto manufacturers. This legislative protection against manufacturers has had the unintended consequences to protect dealers from control against bad behavior by them against car-buyers.

You might be wondering why the states don’t do a better job of protecting car buyers against predatory car dealers. The answer lies in the same powerful lobbying that insulated dealers from their manufacturers. Car dealers, their PACS, and associations are numerous, very wealthy, and very politically powerful.

You can file a complaint with the state Attorney General and/or Department of Motor Vehicles, but that’s time consuming and it’s often after-the-fact. Your best bet is, after you’ve chosen the right car, invest some time in choosing the right dealer.

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.