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Monday, June 29, 2020


First, don’t buy a car now unless you must. New and used cars are in increasingly short supply, and this results in increased prices. Availability of models, options and color you prefer are limited and growing fewer. Favorable financing is increasingly difficult, because banks and credit unions are tightening due to the worsening economy. If you lease your car, the bank will probably extend your lease for a few months. Auto production is increasing, but it will be while before auto inventories rise to pre-pandemic levels.

If you feel you must buy a car, these are some rules you should follow:

Research your purchase online from the comfort and safety of your home before you venture out. The only reason to leave your home is to test drive the vehicle you’ve chosen.,,, are some very reputable sources of information for pricing, safety, reliability, and cost of maintenance. Communicate with the dealerships solely by phone, email, or text. When you select the dealership with the lowest price, (via competitive bidding) verify that this is the OUT-THE-DOOR price. The definition of an OUT-THE-DOOR price is the number you can write your check out for, get into your new car, and drive it home. DO NOT LET A CAR DEALER SURPRISE YOU BY ADDING HIDDEN FEES AND DEALER INSTALLED ACCESSORIES. 

If you’re going to finance your vehicle, pre-arrange this with your bank or credit union. Dealer financing is almost always more costly. The exception can be manufacturer’s financing, but their low rates (0% is not uncommon) requires excellent credit. Also, if you do have excellent credit, the manufacturer’s financing usually offers an alternative cash rebate which might be better than the 0%.
If you have a trade-in, get bids to buy it from several sources before you ask the dealer what he will,,, and are three reliable sources. Competing dealers selling the make of car you’ve chosen to buy will also make offers. Used cars are scarce now and dealers are actively buying cars directly from owners to stock their used car lots. If your dealer will match the best price you received, you should trade it in to him. Especially if your state (like Florida) allows you to reduce the sales taxed price by the trade-in allowance. 

Insist that the dealer bring the exact vehicle you’ve chosen to your home so that you can test-drive itbefore signing a finance contract or buyer’s order. The dealership should assure you that the person bringing the car to you is wearing a face mask, and that the vehicle has been RECENTLY DISINFECTED. You should make it an extensive test drive, not just “around the block”. Drive the car where and how you normally drive everyday…lower speeds and higher speeds on the same roads you normally travel on.

When you’re completely satisfied that the vehicle you’ve chosen drives the way you expected it to, arranged the best financing, received the highest price for your trade in, you’re almost reading to sign and present your check for the OUT-THE-DOOR price. The final step is to ask the dealer what the conditionsare that allow you to return the vehicle and get all of your money back, should you change your mind after you’ve signed the papers and/or given him your check? Some people believe that you have 72 hours to change your mind. THIS IS UNTRUE. Legally, when you sign on the dotted line you own the car and cannot return it for any reason. However, some dealers do offer you the right to return the vehicle for a period of days with certain CONDITIONS. More dealers have begun doing this during the pandemic, but be very sure you carefully read and understand all the CONDITIONS. Some typical conditions are “not a cash refund, but the right to exchange it for another vehicle”, mileage limitation, time limitation, and the car must be in same condition as when you took delivery. Most dealers offer no guarantee, but you should at least try to get something in writing before you take delivery. Some guarantee is better than none. The depreciation on a new car, once you’ve taken delivery, is ENORMOUS…thousands of dollars. If something happened that made it necessary for you to return a new car, it would cost you THOUSANDS.

I began this article by saying “don’t buy a car during this pandemic unless you have to. This is not something you should reveal to the dealers you’re getting prices some. You’ll always get a better price when the dealer thinks you don’t have to buy a car and could easily postpose your purchase.

Monday, June 15, 2020



Regular readers of this column know that I mystery shop a South Florida car dealer every week. I’ve been doing this for over 17 years. You can access the archive of all my mystery shopping reports at I send my mystery shopper into a different car dealership each week and he or she pretends to buy or lease a new or used car. We report exactly what happened in the sales process, naming the dealership and the salespeople. From these reports we comprise two lists…” Recommended Car Dealerships” and NOT Recommended Car Dealerships.

In Florida and most states, car dealerships were ruled as “essential businesses” like grocery stores and pharmacies. They’re allowed to remain open during this pandemic. We continued the mystery shops during most of the pandemic with a brief hiatus when we quarantined ourselves, the “Earl on Cars” team, for 3 weeks. We’ve shoppednine car dealerships in just over the last two months and the salespeople in TWO THIRDS of the dealerships are NOT WEARING FACEMASKS.

The following 3 car dealership’s salespeople ARE wearing masks…Ed Morse Honda in Riviera Beach, Bev Smith Toyota in Ft. Pierce, Braman Honda in Greenacres/Lake Worth.

The following 6 car dealerships salespeople were NOT WEARING MASKS…HGreg Nissan in Delray, Sutherlin Nissan in Ft. Pierce, Advantage Ford in Stuart, Wallace Nissan in Stuart, Napleton Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge in North Palm Beach, and AutoNation Chevrolet in Greenacres/Lake Worth.
None of the 9 car dealerships we shopped required, or even asked or recommended, that their customers wear masks.

As of today, June 15, 2020, Florida is one of 5 RED STATES that has seen the Covid19 virus surge, after pandemic controls were relaxed. In Palm Beach County, today was another record day for Corona virus cases. The total grew by 391 to 8,833 as deaths reached 439.

You don’t see this lack of caring and disrespect for the lives of employees and customers in any other retail business except car dealerships. All grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, Walmart, Costco, Target, Apple…virtually all retailers require all employees to wear masks and many are requiring their customers too.
I know there’re those that believe they don’t need to wear masks during the Covid19 pandemic. There’re are also those that believe they don’t need to wear a motorcycle helmet when riding, abstain from drinking while driving, or quit smoking cigarettes. We cherish our freedoms in America and our laws and constitution allow us the freedom to even do stupid things if we don’t harm other Americans by our actions. We all know that the right of free speech ends when you “shout FIRE in a crowded theatre”. When you don’t wear a mask while you’re close to others during a pandemic, you’re infringing on their rights for LIFE, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I strongly recommend that you not patronize a car dealership or any other retail business that doesn’t require all employees to wear facemasks and ENFORCES the rule. I also urge you to wear your facemask, even if the retailer does not require it. A boycott of car dealerships and any retail store that doesn’t require face masks will quickly get their attention and likely bring about change.

Monday, June 08, 2020


Top 10 Rules Protecting You from Predatory Car Dealers
This article is for those prospective car buyers that are the least prepared to safely navigate the “mine field” known as the car dealership. You may be very young and are purchasing your first car; or you may be an elderly widow whose husband had purchased all your cars. You might be an immigrant, new to our country and not proficient in the English language. You may have had to leave school and gone to work to support your family before you received as complete an education as you would have liked. Whether or not you fall into any of these categories, you can still benefit from these 10 rules. I promise you that, if you rigorously follow them, you will buy your next new car at a low price, and will not be taken advantage of by a car dealer. 
  • Never, never, never buy a new vehicle in response to a car dealer’s or manufacturer’s advertisement. All auto advertisements are lies designed to get you “in the door” and sell you a car at a price much higher than the advertised price. To skeptics of this statement, I challenge anyone to show me a new car advertisement that they responded to and bought (paid in full for) the same car at the advertised price. 
  • Spend several days, preferably weeks, searching for and studying which is the best vehicle for you and your budget. Online sources are vast and excellent. My personal favorites are, (Kelly Bluebook), and
  • Begin price-shopping only when you’ve identified the specific vehicle you will buy. You must know the year, make, model, included options, and the MSRP. The MSRP (Federally required Monroney Label), the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, allows you to compare discounts between competing dealers. This way you’re comparing “apples and apples”. Dealers will try anything to switch you to a different vehicle so that you cannot accurately compare their price with their competitors’.
  • You must test-drive the specific vehicle you plan to buy. This is the only time you’ll physically visit the car dealership. Don’t go in alone. Two heads are better than one, and there’s less likelihood that you’re later involved in a “He said…she said argument”. Do not let the salesman know that you’re planning to buy soon; he’ll turn up the pressure to sell you a car TODAY. Tell him that you’ve just begin to look around and want to take a test drive. Be sure you allow yourself a long test drive, not just around the block. Once you take delivery of your new car, there’s no bringing it back.
  • Now the fun begins! From the safety and comfort of your home, you can shop and compare prices with as many car dealers as you want. Do your shopping online via email. Create a separate free email address with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, or Apple so that you’re not deluged by car salesmen. Withhold your real phone number. If the online template requires a phone number, make one up (or give them the number of somebody you don’t like…just kidding. 😊
  • Make it clear in your online communications, that the price you’re asking for is the OUT-THE-DOOR price. This is the most difficult and necessary part of this “primer”. Car dealers almost NEVER give their prospective customers out-the-door prices; In fact, car salesmen can be FIRED for doing this because they’ve armed the prospective customer with a price that can be shown to their competition. If the competitor offers a lower price, the first dealer loses the sale. So, why would they give YOU an out-the-door price? You make it clear that, if they don’t, they’ll never hear from you again and they will definitely lose the sale; but if they do give you their out-the-door price, you’ll show their competition, and if they don’t beat it, you will buy from this dealer. With “no out-the-door price”, they have NO chance; with an out-the-door price, they have some chance. “Half a loaf is better than none.
  • Definition of the Out-The-Door Price: The amount of money you can write a check out for, present it to the salesman, and then drive your new car home. Most of the profit car dealers make is added to the price you saw advertised or were quoted by the salesman. It’s added in the form of hidden fees and dealer-installed accessories. The only legitimate fees that can legally be added are government fees like sales tax and license/registration. The reason you must insist that ALL charges be included in the out-the-door price is that car dealers are experts at disguising dealer-hidden-fees as legitimate government fees with names like tag agency fee, electronic filing fee, notary fee and doc fee. These are simply added price/profit to the dealer.
  • Don’t play the dealers’ game by arguing about hidden fees and dealer installed accessories. Car salesmen are trained to overcome all objections, including those raised against hidden fees and dealer installed accessories. Virtually all dealers charge hidden fees and add unwanted accessories to the car after you’ve committed to the sale. By insisting on a TRUE out-the-door price which you will compare to their competition, you’ve taken away all the value to the dealer of hidden fees and accessories. That value to the dealer is sneaking those price increases, in and making you believe its “Standard Operating Procedure”, or maybe you just don’t even notice. When they include their hidden profit in their out-the-door price, who cares? Their competition will keep them honest by beating their price if they can.
  • Get financing quotes from your bank and/or your credit union. The interest rate, terms and down payment will probably be better than what the dealer offers. Also, you won’t be subject to being sold a lot of overpriced products in the dealer’s F&I department.
  • If you have a trade-in, get bids from, CarMax,, or from the used car departments of dealers that carry the make of new car your buying. Only trade your old car in if the dealer can offer you a competitive price. Keep in mind that most states allow you a sales tax deduction on a new car equal to the sales tax percent of the value of the trade-in.