Monday, March 25, 2019
Why a Car Dealer Won’t Give You His Lowest Out-the-Door Price... by Earl Stewart
I’m sure you noticed that the last time you went car shopping you were unable to get a firm price on the car, unless you were willing to sign on the dotted line and put down a deposit. It’s impossible to get a firm, honest price on a car over the telephone, and very difficult to get one via email. If, on the off chance, you’ve never bought a car, or haven’t bought one in a long time, try this. Call any car dealership and ask for a price on a specific year, make, and model. I can guarantee that you won’t be able to get a firm price.
Have you ever wondered why you can get a firm price on just about any other product except an automobile? You can call a jewelry store and get a price on a diamond ring that costs as much or more than a car. You can go on Amazon.com, get a firm price, and buy virtually anything. Walk in or call any department store and they give you a firm, out-the-door price.
Car dealers don’t want to give you a firm price because they want to deprive you of your rights in our American free-market economy. One of our most important American freedoms is to be able to shop and compare prices so that you can choose the lowest one. There are some countries where the prices are dictated by the government or giant cartels. We have anti-trust laws in America that prohibit price fixing, monopolies, or collusion between companies which keep prices artificially high.
In fact, there’s even a federal law that says auto manufacturers must put a sticker on all vehicles that discloses the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, MSRP. This law was written by Senator Mike Monroney back in 1958. Senator Monroney felt there was a need for this law because, before then, car dealers could ask any price they wanted for car. They could put their own price sticker on their cars and mark their cost up any amount they chose. A car-buyer, pre-1958, had absolutely no basis for comparing prices between competing car dealers. The MSRP gave every car shopper a common basis for comparing discounts from MSRP. All dealers pay their manufacturers the same price for a car and all MSRP’s for a specific year-make-model have the same percentage markup. The Monroney label was a great idea and it worked well for a while, but it wasn’t too long before the car dealers figured out ways around this “handicap” to their profit margins.
The easiest way around an MSRP is simply to refuse to give the customer a firm discount unless they agree to buy the car, and therefore you can’t get a real price from a car dealer until then. Another way is to give you a firm discount but later add hidden charges like dealer fees, doc fees, electronic filing fees, or dealer installed accessories after you agree on the discount from MSRP. “Bait and switch” is a popular tactic which simply brings you in to buy a specific car only to find out that “It’s just been sold” …but here’s another one almost like it”. Another popular tactic is to advertise discounts from “list price”, “dealer list price”, or “sticker price”. Dealers even havecounterfeit Monroney labels printed that they display alongside of the real Monroney label. These counterfeit price stickers I’ve named “Phony Monroney’s”. I’ve seen advertisements from car dealers for “$10,500 Discounts on Every Vehicle in Stock”. The discounts aren’t from the MSRP but from “dealer list” which is clearly thousands of dollars above MSRP.
The best defense against all of this is to insist on an out-the-door price. Explain the following to the sales manager at the car dealership. “If you give me an honest out-the-door price, I will compare it with the two prices I already have from two other car dealerships. I will buy from the dealer with the lowest price. If you agree to give me your lowest out-the-door price, you have a 33% chance of selling me a car. If you refuse to give me a price right now, you have 0% chance of selling me a car, because I will walk out that front door and you will never see me or hear from me again.” You can accomplish the same thing over the telephone or via email.
I also recommend that you try www.TrueCar.com or www.CostcoAutoBuying.com, in addition to the tactic I just described. By way of full disclosure, I’m a TrueCar dealer, I own stock in TrueCar, and I was a member of the TrueCar national dealer council. If you give TrueCar a try, be sure to navigate to the page on their website that gives you the final price certificate. Do not rely on the estimated TrueCar prices on the previous page. To get the TrueCar certificate you must enter a name, email address, and phone number. If you would rather not be contacted by a car salesman, enter a different phone number and name. You can even get a different free email address from Yahoo, Microsoft, or Google. The TrueCar dealers are required to give you an out-the-door price on their price certificate (plus only government fees like license, sales tax, and registration). This means they should disclose all dealer fees and dealer-installed options. If they do not do this, you can call contact TrueCar and they will intervene on your behalf. Also, be sure to check the TrueCar or Costco out-the-door price with two other dealers. "Total Transparency Pledge: As a TrueCar Certified Dealer, this car dealer is committed to total price transparency. This means that this car dealer discloses its dealer fees and commonly installed dealer accessories in its pricing estimates. Call 1-888-TRUECAR if you have questions or concerns.”
Monday, March 18, 2019
A POORLY WRITTEN FLORIDA LAW INEFFECTIVELY “REGULATING” DEALER FEES - by Earl Stewart
The Florida statute addressing the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act clearly states (and I quote), “The advertised price must include all fees or charges that the customer must pay, including freight or destination charge, dealer preparation charge, and charges for undercoating or rustproofing. State and local taxes, tags, registration fees, and title fees, unless otherwise required by local law or standard, need not be disclosed in the advertisement.” I’ll translate that confusing, redundant, lengthy, outdated, and inaccurate paragraph. All vehicles advertised for retail sale must include all charges to the customer except government fees for sales tax and license and registration.
Almost no car dealership in Florida complies with this law. Some ignore it entirely, some disclose in the fine print only one, not all, of their non-government fees. Some state that there are fees added to the advertised price but don’t state the amount, some state the amount of one of their hidden fees in the fine print, but don’t INCLUDE it in the price.
Florida law does not regulate the amount of the dealer fee, allowing dealers to charge different amounts ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Florida law does not regulate the name of the dealer fee so that the buyer can readily identify it. Few car dealers call their hidden fees “dealer fees”; Dealer Fee has become a generic term for the imaginative names chosen by dealers such as tag agency fee, e-filing fee, electronic filing fee, documentary or doc fee, dealer prep fee, notary fee, dealer services fee, administrative fee, etc...
Florida law does not limit the number of dealer fees a dealer may charge. Rather than having one huge fee, most dealers today have several large fees by different names.
These hidden fees are often not revealed in the paperwork seen by the customer when the vehicle sale is consummated. Dealers often use documents labeled “worksheets” or “Internal documents” with fine print indicating that it is not a legal document of the sale. The official document, vehicle buyer’s order, is printed out in the Finance office along with “reems” of other documents like the installment sale or lease contract, odometer form, power of attorney, extended warranty, maintenance contract, GAP insurance, etc. No customer has the time or inclination to read all the fine print on all the documents. A high percentage of Florida car buyers are unaware they were charged these hidden fees.
This statute states, (and I quote) A dealer shall not “charge a customer for any predelivery service required by the manufacturer, distributor, or importer for which the dealer is reimbursed by the manufacturer, distributor, or importer.” Also, the Florida statute states (and I quote) “Must not charge a customer for any predelivery service without having printed on all documents that include a line item for predelivery service the following disclosure: This charge represents costs and profit to the dealer for items such as inspecting, cleaning, and adjusting vehicles, and preparing documents related to the sale.” The language of the Florida statute is confusing and contradictory. First it says dealers can’t charge for predelivery service if they’re reimbursed (plus paid a profit) by the manufacturer for this. Then, in the same paragraph, the statute requires that the dealer disclose their fee represents costs and profits for inspecting, cleaning and adjusting vehicles. All new car dealers are reimbursed for their costs and a dealer profit by their manufacturer for all predelivery service to the new car.
Finally, almost no car dealers disclose in an addendum alongside the federally mandated Monroney Label (MSRP) their additional fees. This law which became effective in 1958 was to give car buyers a consistent basis for comparison of prices for the same year-make-model-accessorized car between different car dealers. Before the Monroney Label, all car dealers would price their cars differently. The higher they priced their cars, the higher they could advertise their discounts or offer in trade-in allowance. With the Monroney label MSRP, car buyers were supposed to be able to fairly compare discounts and trade-in allowances. The hidden fees from several hundred to several thousand dollars make this impossible and violate the spirit and intent of the federal Monroney MSRP sticker.
501.976 Para. 16-18
Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act
(16) Advertise the price of a vehicle unless the vehicle is identified by year, make, model, and a commonly accepted trade, brand, or style name. The advertised price must include all fees or charges that the customer must pay, including freight or destination charge, dealer preparation charge, and charges for undercoating or rustproofing. State and local taxes, tags, registration fees, and title fees, unless otherwise required by local law or standard, need not be disclosed in the advertisement. When two or more dealers advertise jointly, with or without participation of the franchisor, the advertised price need not include fees and charges that are variable among the individual dealers cooperating in the advertisement, but the nature of all charges that are not included in the advertised price must be disclosed in the advertisement.
(17) Charge a customer for any predelivery service required by the manufacturer, distributor, or importer for which the dealer is reimbursed by the manufacturer, distributor, or importer.
(18) Charge a customer for any predelivery service without having printed on all documents that include a line item for predelivery service the following disclosure: “This charge represents costs and profit to the dealer for items such as inspecting, cleaning, and adjusting vehicles, and preparing documents related to the sale.”
Monday, March 11, 2019
DON’T FALL FOR CAR DEALERS’ NITROGEN-IN-TIRES CON GAME
I don’t recommend that you even accept free nitrogen for this reason. It’s widely accepted and recommended that you should have your tire pressure checked in your tires at least monthly. We do this free for our customers and automatically do it at every service visit. When you are sold or even given nitrogen, it comes with a sales pitch that nitrogen will remain in your tires for a much longer time than air which is not true. Click on this link to Consumer Reports article,www.NitrogenInTiresWastesYourMoney.com. If you believe the sales pitch, you’re less likely to check your tires inflation every 30 days. You may have a slow leak in one tire from a nail or screw, uneven wear from misalignment, or even a defective tire. Being “over confident” because you paid money for nitrogen may cause these problems to go undetected. Consumer Reports estimates that 1 lb. of nitrogen will escape from your tires every 3 months vs. 1 month for air. Remember that air is 78% nitrogen. I’ll bet the salesman that sells you nitrogen “forgot” to tell you that.
Be prepared for a great sales pitch on nitrogen. You’ll be told that NASCAR uses nitrogen in the tires of their race cars, NASA used nitrogen in the tires of their space shuttle, and that airlines uses nitrogen in airplane tires. All of this is true, but so what? A race car going 200 mph for hours and hours around an oval track subjects its tires to extremely high temperatures. 100% nitrogen gas does expand less under extreme heat condition than 78% nitrogen gas (air). The space shuttle tires go from zero atmospheric pressure in outer space to regular pressure at sea level. Airliners also have extreme pressure variations from 30,000 feet to the ground.
To be perfectly fair, I must say that some car dealers that are selling nitrogen have “drunk the Kool Ade” from the nitrogen generation equipment industry. Some car dealers believe that nitrogen is good for your tires. But those who do know must know how much they’re marking up that 25 cents worth of nitrogen they’re selling you! The argument for nitrogen can be persuasive. In fact, when the concept was first introduced, before the Consumer Reports study, I considered adding nitrogen to my customers’ tires. But, in an abundance of caution, I decided to test the claims about nitrogen myself. Over a six-month period I used pure nitrogen in 50% of my rental car fleet and regular air (78% nitrogen) in the other half. Guess what! There was no measurable difference between the pure nitrogen and air-filled tires in the fuel economy, tire wear, or inflation pressure after 6 months. We did check the tires every 30 days for slow leaks from road hazards, uneven wear from misalignment or other reasons, and we rotated and balanced the tires every 5,000 miles.
Finally, I’ll tell you why I was so careful to be sure there was no advantage to nitrogen. My dealership has a “free tire program”. Everybody who buys a Toyota from me, new or certified used, receives free tires (maximum of $700 per set) for as long as they own their car. The one requirement is that they bring their car back to me for the factory recommended service and we replace only tires from normal wear, not road hazards, underinflating or misalignment. I give away in excess of $100,000 worth of tires every month, well over a million dollars per year. BELIEVE ME, if I thought I could get longer wear from a tire for “25 cents” worth of nitrogen, I would! I look at the tires on my customers’ cars as “belonging to me” because I incur the cost of replacing them when they wear out.
Monday, March 04, 2019
Seniors: Think Twice Before Leasing a Car - by Earl Stewart
It’s possible to have your lease assigned to another person, but this must be approved by the leasing company. There are companies that, for a fee, specialize in finding people to assume lease payments, but these people have to have the approval of the leasing company.
You may have noticed that most new car advertising is for leasing, not buying. This is because car dealers average a much higher profit from a leased car than a purchased car. Also, the car dealer has a much better chance of keeping you as a customer if you lease. You must return the car to the dealer at the end of the lease. The car dealer and leasing company (usually the manufacturer) have monthly contact with you, because your making lease payments. Leasing companies penalize you with a “lease disposition fee” if you opt not to buy or lease another car of that make.
For all the above reasons, the car dealers and manufacturers will encourage you to lease rather than buy. Be forewarned that unscrupulous salesmen will give you bad advice to persuade you to change your mind about buying and leasing instead. They earn much higher commissions on leases, and they’re more likely to lease or sell you another car. The expression used by car salesmen when they attempt to do this is called the “Lease Flip”. The sales manager will instruct his salesman who is having difficulty making a big profit on a car purchase to “Flip her to a lease”. The salesman will try to focus your attention on the lower monthly payment of a lease and not mention the fact that you are building no equity when you lease like you do when you purchase. He won’t mention the higher cost of insurance, excess mileage charge, lease inception fee, lease disposition fee, or the charge at the end of the lease for excessive wear and tear. Some sales people will imply, or say, that you can return a lease early without any penalty. Too often your trade-in is undervalued or not valued at all on the lease contract. Lease contracts are very complicated compared to purchase contracts. There’s lots of fine print and variables that affect the total cost. The main numbers you have be aware of are the lease factor (interest rate), residual value (estimated value at the end of the lease) and the capitalized cost. The capitalized cost should reflect the fair credit for your trade-in and should represent the discounted price if you were buying the car.
With all that said, a lease can be just as good a value as a purchase, but leases are far more complicated. This gives the car dealer, manufacturer, and car salesman more of an upper hand. There’s an old joke that goes like this…” If you sit down at a poker table, look at all the other players, and can’t figure out who the sucker is…it’s probably you. Always be extra careful when you’re playing somebody else’s game.
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