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Friday, December 20, 2019

2020 New Year’s Resolutions for Florida Car Dealers

This blog is addressed to Florida’s car dealers, as well as those in the other 49 states. I don’t expect most of you to take these suggested resolutions in the spirit in which they’re intended, but I hope some of you will.

I’m a car dealer and I’ve been in business longer that most of you, since 1968. I began as a Pontiac dealer in West Palm Beach, and I did business back then just about the same way you do business today. I advertised cars for less than I knew I could, or would, sell them for. I added hidden fees to the prices I quoted my customers. I added overpriced accessories to my cars like undercoating and paint sealant. I negotiated the highest prices I could with those least capable of understanding how to get the best price. I even rewarded my salesmen when they made a profit of $4,000 or more on some unsuspecting, defenseless customer…a $500 bonus in addition to a $1,000 commission and his name on our revered SLAM DUNK BOARD. Bear in mind that I would also sell cars to smart, sophisticated negotiators for $100 profit of even less. This way of selling cars is unfair, immoral, and unethical. It took me a long time to figure this out.

When the Internet and World Wide Web became a reality in 1990, who could have guessed that it would change the world more than any invention in the past. What has transpired from this spark at the end of the 20th century, is the KNOWLEDGE EXPL0SION of the 21st century. With Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Quantum Computing giving us tools like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Netflix, the sum-total of human knowledge is doubling in less than every 12 hours. I was born in 1940 when human knowledge was estimated to be doubling every 12 years. The bottom line is that everybody is getting a lot smarter, especially the consumer. If car dealers want to survive, you must begin dealing intelligently with their customers. Before you know it, you won’t have any more customers you can deceive into buying cars they don’t want and paying higher prices than they should. 

1. Display your lowest price on every new and used vehicle you sell.

2. Add no hidden, bogus fees to your quoted or advertised price.

3. Never pre-install dealer accessories to your vehicles, especially if they’re not included in the advertised or quoted price.

4. Don’t deprive your prospective customers of their American, inalienable right to shop and compare your lowest price with the competition. Capitalism, competition, and the free market place are American attributes which make our country the greatest on the Planet.

5. Do not switch a customer that wants to buy a car to leasing because you can make a lot more money leasing. If leasing is the best alternative for your customer, your profit should be equal on the buy or the lease.

6. If your customer wants to finance his car with you, offer him a fair, competitive interest rate. Offer to sell him “products” like extended warranties, maintenance contracts, GAP insurance, road hazard insurance, and emergency road service only with thorough disclosure of real cost and benefits. Never add anything to the finance contract that the customer does not know about or understand. Never say or imply that the lender requires that he buy an extended warranty or any other product.

7. Never sell a used vehicle with an unfixed dangerous recall. Most car dealers are doing this today, wantonly, and in most cases not even disclosing the recall. Some of these recalls have no fix available.

8. Never display conditions that increase the real price of the advertised vehicle in the unreadable fine print of your advertisements. All car dealers do this and so do their manufacturers. Where is the honesty and transparency in advertising a new car that you can supposedly lease for $299 per month when the unreadable fine print requires a $5,000 down payment?

9. Don’t falsely give hope to prospective customers with bad credit by understating the conditions that they must meet to obtain financing. For example: “ANY CREDIT APPLICATION ACCEPTED” or “WE FINANCE GOOD PEOPLE WITH BAD CREDIT”.

10. Don’t trick customers into believing that you will pay off all the money owed on their current purchased or leased car and sell or lease them a new one…” WE’LL PAY OFF THE MONEY YOU OWE ON YOUR PRESENT CAR, NO MATTER HOW MUCH IT IS”. More and more car drivers owe more on their cars than they’re worth…often many thousands of dollars. You’re tricking them into thinking you are paying off their old loans, when the truth is, you’re adding what you paid the bank to the price of the new car you sell or lease them.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Open Letter To: Governor Ron Desantis, Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva, Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, Attorney General Ashley Moody

Subject: Enforce Florida Statute 501.976 (16);

Dear Ron, Jose, Bill, and Ashley,

You may know of me, I’ve been an auto dealer in Palm Beach County for over half a century. I currently own a Toyota dealership in North Palm Beach/Lake Park, but I’m more known for my activities as a consumer advocate for car buyers. You can Google me and learn about my platforms…radio show, blog, newspaper columns, book, and public speaking.

I’ve been mystery shopping car dealers weekly for more than 17 years. I’ve learned that very few car dealers in Florida are abiding by the Florida law requiring them to include all profits and costs to the dealers in their advertised prices. Last week, for example, I mystery shopped H Greg in West Palm Beach, part of a 20-dealership chain. Their online advertised price excluded $1,298 in hidden fees. You can access this shopping report and hundreds more just like it by going to my I estimate that the dealers in Florida that abide by this law to be less than 1%.

Because of the lack of enforcement of this law, dealers have been emboldened, and they have become more aggressive and ingenious in their ways to profit by deceiving the car-buyers in their advertising. You should know that Florida has the least regulated hidden fee laws in the USA. No other state allows car dealers to charge as much as they want, NO CAP, in hidden fees, name the hidden fee anything they want (tag agency fee, electronic filing fee, doc fee), and Florida dealers can charge as many different hidden fees as they like. Two or three fees is common place.

Governor Desantis, Speaker Oliva, President Galvano, and General Moody, you were elected by the voters (who are also the car-buyers) of Florida because they believed that you would uphold your oath of office and enforce our laws. When they voted you in office, they believed that you would be concerned about their ability and right to respond to car dealers’ advertising without fear of being tricked into paying car dealers thousands of dollars more than the advertised price.

I’m very much aware that car dealers are an important part of Florida’s economy and employ thousands of Floridians. Dealers’ profitability is a valid concern and I know that the Florida Auto Dealers Association and most individual car dealers supported your elections. However, the good things that car dealers do for Florida’s economy and providing jobs don’t grant them immunity from its laws.

I’m inviting each of you to appear on, or call into my radio show, Earl on Cars, any Saturday morning, 8-10 am. You may call me anytime on my persona cell phone 561 358-1474 to set up a date and time.


Earl Stewart

Recovering Car Dealer

Monday, December 09, 2019

How to Get the Lowest Price on Any New Toyota from Any Toyota Dealer

My Toyota dealership in North Palm Beach, Florida may be the only car dealership on the Planet that posts online its lowest out-the-door price, on all new and used cars.

If you doubt my word on this, ask yourself when a car dealer has quoted you a price that you can take home and shop and compare with other car dealers’ prices that represents the total out-the-door price of the car you want to buy . By the way, the definition of an out the door price is one that you can write a check for, hand it to the salesman, and get in your car and drive home. There can be no extra charges for dealer installed accessories or hidden fees, also known as Dealer Fee‘s. My guess is that your answer to this question is you’ve never had an out the door price quoted you by a car dealer (that he would honor).

FYI, this article is not an advertisement or commercial to try to sell you a new reaches readers all over the United States and the world, as do my newspaper columns, podcasts, Twitter and YouTubes. The odds that you live close enough to my dealership to be able to buy a car from me are very slim.

What I’m giving you in this article is the way to find a very low, out-the-door price on any new Toyota that you might want to purchase from any Toyota dealer anywhere. Here’s a link to the out-the-door price on a new Toyota RAV4, The out-the-door price is $27,927. You write me a check for that price and take the car home. There are no hidden fees and dealer installed accessories (like nitrogen in tires and paint sealant). You can click on my website,, and get out the door prices on every new Toyota model (and all used cars too).

Remember, I’M NOT TRYING TO SELL YOU A TOYOTA. This article is to empower you with something you already have for buying all other retail products, except cars. By showing another Toyota dealership my lowest price on the new Toyota of your choice, he has no honest choice (if he wants your business) but to match or beat my price. However, he has lots of dishonest choices and PLEASE EXPECT THE DEALER TO TRY THEM. The most obvious choice is to lie about matching my out-the-door price and add hidden fees and dealer installed accessories. The dealer can also attempt to undervalue your trade-in allowance. If you’re financing the car with the dealer (usually a bad idea), he’ll make over $1,000 in the financing. If none of these tricks work, he’ll try desperately to switch you to a different vehicle so that you can’t compare prices. If all the above fails, he may, in total frustration, tell you that “Earl Stewart won’t really sell you the car at that price”. Or, another favorite is “Earl Stewart really charges hidden fees, but he hides them in the price of the car!”. I laugh every time I hear that one. 😊

I’ll not only sell you any car at my out-the-door price, but I’ll sell everyone (even the dealer that’s saying I won’t) at that price. The most important thing is that the prices are my lowest prices and I will not sell any car for 1 penny less to anybody…not the Governor of Florida, President of the USA, or Queen of England. If did cut my price for certain people, I wouldn’t be true to my word that my prices are my LOWEST prices. Just because the prices are my lowest prices doesn’t mean another dealer can’t sell you the same car for less. They can, but they just don’t want to. I’ve never advertised (like most other dealers) “Nobody will sell you a new Toyota for less!”. Of course, they will! If you force them to, they don’t have a choice. All car dealers are insanely competitive and they’d rather make a small profit (or even no profit) instead of lose a deal to Earl Stewart or any other Toyota dealer.

If the Toyota dealership that you’re buying from doubts my claim, please ask the dealer (or salesman) to feel free to call me on my personal cell phone, 561 358-1474. I’m sure I’ll be able to convince them; if not, I’ll put it in writing and have it notarized.

Good luck and I’d love to hear back from any Toyota buyers in the USA* that give this a try.

*If you’re buying a new Toyota outside of the Southeast USA (Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina), take into consideration that all other Toyotas have an average cost of about $775 less. This is because Toyotas in the Southeast USA have an average of $775 added to the cost by the independent Toyota Distributor that resells new Toyotas to me and all other Southeast Toyota dealerships.

Monday, December 02, 2019

COMPETITION: Car Dealers’ Achilles’ Heal

The retail and wholesale auto industries are highly competitive. Toyota desperately wants to outsell Honda, Chevy desperately wants to outsell Ford, and Mercedes desperately wants to outsell BMW. The auto manufacturers “live and die on the 30-day sales cycle, month to month. This desperation is passed along to the retailers of their products, the car dealers. Car dealers have short term contracts (franchises) with their manufacturers, typically 6 years. If a car dealer doesn’t meet his performance goal in the number of new vehicle sales, his franchise can be canceled. This literally puts him out of business and the millions of dollars he has invested in his buildings, land, equipment, and inventories can virtually vanish.

The auto manufactures assign quotas to their dealers. These quotas are based on intensive market studies of the geographic areas surrounding each of their dealers. The manufacturer tells each of their dealers the minimum number of new cars he must sell each month. If he falls short, his existence as a car dealer is in danger. The dealer must sell his assigned number and percent of vehicles sold within his market area. These market areas vary but are typically about a 20-mile radius from the dealership. Within that radius are representatives of most other makes of cars and the same make as the dealer’s, because markets usually overlap.

The major competition to the auto manufacturer is different from the major competition to the auto dealer. A Mercedes dealer is far more likely to lose a sale to another Mercedes dealer than to a BMW dealer. The Mercedes manufacturer doesn’t care which Mercedes dealer sells the customer; the manufacturer is worried about BMW, Infinity, and Audi dealers. Thanks to the Internet and the information explosion, most car buyers today have decided which make car they’re going to buy before they enter a car dealership. When the customer visits Mercedes dealership A and leaves without buying, that customer is probably going to buy a Mercedes from Mercedes dealership B or C.

Now you’re beginning to understand why car dealers’ desperate competitiveness is your friend when buying a new vehicle. Car dealers pass along the quota assigned to him to his sales managers and salespeople. A manager that doesn’t hit his quota loses his job just as does a salesman that doesn’t sell a certain minimum number of cars per month. Adding to this desperation is that EVERYBODY in the auto industry is paid on commission. Mercedes management, from the CEO all the way down is paid on performance. The car dealer is paid by profits, not salary, and sales managers and salespeople are paid a commission based on profit on each car.

As hard as this may be to understand or believe, car dealers will sometimes sell cars at a loss in order to not lose a sale. Your awareness of this desperation is your “ace in the hole” when buying a new vehicle. By “working” at least 3 car dealerships against each other, you can buy your new car at the lowest possible price. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. It’s not for the timid or faint of heart. You’re going up against seasoned professional salespeople and their managers. You’re playing in their “game” that they play day in and day out.

Here are a few simple rules that, if followed to the letter, will result in your buying your next new vehicles at the lowest price possible:
  1. Choose the exact make-year-model vehicle you will buy and the exact accessories. Do not change your mind after you begin gathering competivive prices. Car dealers’ favorite tactic is to “switch” you to a different vehicle from the one you initially planned to buy.                           
  2. Make your lease or buy decision before you begin shopping and stick with your choice. Car dealers’ second favorite tactic is to switch buyers to leasing. This greatly enhances their profits and makes it more difficult to be compared to their competition.                                                   
  3. Insist on an out-the-door price from each dealership. This will be your most difficult task. An out-the-door price, strictly speaking, is the amount of money you pay the dealer permitting you to drive the new vehicle home. It’s acceptable to be quoted the full price with only government fees of sales tax and license and registration added. Be clear that you will not pay for any dealer installed accessories not installed and included in the current price. Also you will not pay for non-government fees aka “taxable fees”. Here are links to my two blogs that will assist you in this most difficult task. and