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Monday, December 27, 2021

Earl On Cars Predictions

Buying, Leasing, and Repairing Cars in 2022

When immersed in a watershed moment of history, those living it often don’t appreciate the magnitude of change on the World. WWI, the Great Depression, and WWII were watershed moments. My father, Earl Stewart Sr., was born in 1892 and was a young man during all three of those watershed moments in history. I don’t think he ever fully appreciated how much the world changed from those 3 events.
We’ve been experiencing the COVID-19 Pandemic for about 2 years. Coinciding with this is the knowledge explosion from quantum computing the “Cloud”, and Artificial Intelligence. The Internet (unheard of before 1990) offers answers to every question that a human being can conceive of. As I write this article a giant telescope is speeding toward an orbit around the sun that will show us “pictures” of the beginning of the universe, 13.7 billion years ago.
Lots of people make forecasts, but few put them in writing. I’m going out on a limb and asking that you save this article and let me know in year how many of my forecasts I got right and wrong. 😊
  • Prices of new and used cars will drop substantially. As I write this article the average price paid for a new car in November 2021 was $45,872, up from $39,984 one year ago…about a $6,000 increase which is several thousands of dollars above MSRP. I predict that by the end of 2022 car prices will average MSRP, manufacturer’s suggested retail price. This will be significantly less than today, but significantly more than prices pre-covid. The average price paid for a used car now is above $29,000 up from $22,679 in 2020. Used car price will come down to about $26,000 by the end of 2022.
  • Car dealers’ bait and switch advertising and deceptive sales practices will be reduced significantly. The quantum leap in consumers knowledge because of the Internet via Google et al in 2022, has increased the percentage of educated buyers as never before. With a PC and the “click of mouse”, any car buyer can learn the average, and even the lowest price charged by a dealer. Consumers can learn the dealer cost and which dealers have the better reputations for fairness and lower prices. Manufacturers who have been very reluctant to “control” their dealers are “seeing the handwriting on the wall”. With smart buyers, the dealers with the best reputations for honesty and transparency will out-sell the high pressure, bait, and switch style dealers.
  • Some auto manufacturers will follow Tesla’s lead and sell cars directly to the consumer, without an independent dealer network. The only reason this didn’t happen a long time ago was due to state franchise laws enacted almost 100 years ago. Dealers have lobbied to have laws passed in all 50 states that allow only a franchised car dealer can sell a new car. It’s illegal in all 50 states for anyone to buy a car, except a Tesla, directly from the manufacturer. These laws will be challenged and overturned by some manufacturers in some states, like New York.
  • Female car buyers will become the most important buyer for both auto manufacturers and car dealers. For nearly 100 years, the auto manufacturers and car dealers have been a “good old boys club”. Most of the advertising has been directed toward men. Most cars are designed and engineered for men. Even the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, NHTSA, designed safety crash tests designed to protect men, not women. Most employees, over 90%, of auto manufacturers and car dealers are men. Automotive dealer training school graduates are almost exclusively men. Thanks to the 21st century knowledge explosion, women have become more educated and capable car buyers than men. Women, by their nature, have been proven to be more careful about the car they buy and the price they pay.
  • Electric cars will surge in popularity beyond everyone’s expectations. This prediction is my most personal one. Some of you know that I’m a Toyota dealer in North Palm Beach, Florida. For the last 47 years I’ve driven only Toyota products, including Lexus. Toyota builds great cars and I never saw myself ever driving anything else. My curiosity overcame my loyalty to Toyota, and I recently bought a 2021 Tesla Plaid. I can only say that driving an all-electric car like a Tesla is all it will take for you to forsake all other combustion engine powered cars. I get 350 miles on one charge when I plug the Tesla into my garage electric outlet overnight. Words can’t describe the pleasure of passing crowded, over-priced gas stations. The electric motor is more powerful, by far, than any combustion engine vehicle. There is no transmission or shifting, only one, smooth continuous acceleration. I rarely ever touch my brakes because I rely on the automatic braking when I take my foot of the accelerator. I haven’t enjoyed driving a car as much since I was sixteen years old and that’s along time ago…I’m 81 years old.
  • Today’s auto manufacturers will decrease in number by 50%. The automobile as we know it today is obsolete. The car of the future is all electric and totally autonomous. The strong manufacturers, like Toyota and Volkswagen will survive but most will perish. There will be mergers, acquisitions, and bankruptcies. The auto manufacturer of 2023 will become a software company. The final phase of this radical change will be the cessation of car ownership. The fastest growing form of transportation in 2025 will be ridesharing of autonomous, all electric vehicles. You’ll summon the vehicle of your choice only when you need it and pay only for that time. The vehicle will arrive in seconds (faster than you can walk to your own garage and back your car out). You’ll arrive at your destination in less than half the time it now takes. There will be no more rush hours because all cars will travel at the same high speed (100 mph or more). Traffic accidents and injuries will be a tiny fraction of what they are today.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Buying a Car During the Omicron Threat

Just When We Thought It Was Safe To Go Back in the Water

You’ve already read or heard this all over the news media. Omicron, the latest mutation of the COVID virus, appears to be setting the world back from an optimistic recovery from Covid to the worst surge ever. Only time will tell, all too soon, just how bad this will be.

My job as a consumer advocate for auto buyers is to make it “safer” for you to buy your next new or used cars. My regular readers know that I been doing weekly “mystery shops” of car dealerships for many years. The information from these has been my primary guide to advise you how to buy or lease a car without being taken advantage of by a car dealer.
One problem that my mystery shopping reports have revealed in the past two years is that the precautions car dealerships take against Covid-19 varies tremendously. My mystery shoppers have visited dealerships where no precautions were taken…nobody in those dealerships was wearing a mask…much less asking their customers to. In those dealerships where some did wear masks, we almost never saw the N95 or KN95 masks which provide much better protection, about twice that of any other. Many of those wearing masks wore them improperly.
In previous articles I wrote that you should not buy a new or used car now because the covid induced microchip shortage has raised all car prices to historically high levels. But, if you must buy a car, these are some precautions that that you should take.
  • If you’re like most people, you find yourself buying almost everything online. My wife, Nancy, and I buy almost everything on Amazon. It’s more difficult to buy a car online, but it can be done. There are a few car dealers that will give you their lowest out-the-door price online, appraise your trade-in online, allow you to electronically sign all the paperwork, and deliver your new car to your home. You should test drive the car you buy before you buy it. Insist that the car dealer bring it to your home and allow you this opportunity. 
  • If you cannot, or choose not to buy online, call the dealerships that you are considering buying from and ask them what their COVID protection protocol is. You should get answers to these questions: a. Do all your salespeople properly wear N95 or KN95 masks? Of course, this should apply to all personnel you may meet like receptionists and sales managers. (b) Also ask what the dealership’s vaccination policy for employees is. Are employees that come face-to-face with customers required to be fully vaccinated. The latest recommendation from scientists is that the definition of “fully” vaccinated should include a booster shot. (c) Does the dealership have a policy of requiring periodic COVID tests of their employees.
  • Some people buy all their cars through an auto-broker. Brokers are often former car salesmen or sales manager who go into business for themselves. Dealing with one auto broker on the phone, or even in person, instead of several people at a car dealership is much safer. You should do your “do diligence” on the price the broker offers you. As I said earlier in the article, all car prices are currently at historic highs. A broker receives a commission from the car dealer and that’s increasing your already high price. These broker commissions can range from $500 to $5,000.
As you may know, I’m not only a consumer advocate for car buyers but I have a Toyota dealership in North Palm Beach. I “walk the talk” when it comes to protecting my customers and employees from COVID. We hire no one who’s not been fully vaccinated. Most of our employees are fully vaccinated and those few who aren’t must wear N95 or KN95 masks. In fact, with the onset of Omicron, we’re going back to all employees wearing KN-95 masks. We even ask our customers to wear masks and furnish masks to those who don’t have one.

Monday, December 13, 2021

How to Get a Better Price on a Car In a High-Priced, Seller’s Market

There’s an old saying about the stock market…” You can never buy at the bottom or sell at the top.” This is because nobody, not even the experts, can predict the absolute tops and bottoms of markets But, if you’re careful, you can predict the best “approximate” time to buy or sell. This same truism holds for buying a car in a seller’s market, where demand exceeds supply.

I’m somewhat of an expert on the auto market because I’ve been a car dealer for more than a half a century, since 1968. I’ve seen a lot of “peaks and valleys”. This current, unprecedented rise in prices peaked about a month ago. Prices are still very high, although they are slowly coming down and will continue to decline for up to six months. If you’re thinking about buying, be prepared to pay more than you’ll pay next month or the month…probably $1,000 to $2,000 more. By June, you’ll save $3,000 to $4,000.

If you must buy today, you’ll have to accept a target price of close to MSRP. I spoke to a woman last week whose current vehicle had been totaled in a car accident, but her insurance company paid her a very good price to replace it. She had to buy a car and I sold her one from my dealership for MSRP, out-the-door plus sales tax and license plate. That’s about $2,000-$3,00 more that I would have sold her the same car in 2 or 3 months. Most dealers are still charging thousands of dollars over MSRP, using addendum labels, hidden fees, and dealer installed accessories. You can read a mystery shopping report that I conducted last week on a large, South Florida Toyota dealership that refused to sell a new Toyota Corolla for MSRP, asking $1,300 above by clicking on this link

Here are some pointers to guide you through this high, stormy new car market:
  • If you must buy a car soon, wait until Saturday, New Year’s Day, 1-1-22 or the Sunday and Monday immediately after. The first 3 or 4 days of January, in the new year is when auto manufacturers and car dealers push to “hit their numbers”. They close their books to sales after 3-4 days of the previous year. The motivation to manufacturers and dealers to sell cars peaks every year on these few days. Prices plummet briefly, relative to prices from the previous year. Auto execs want 2021 to look as good as possible to their board of directors, stockholders, and Wall Street. Car dealers feel the same way, especially the public traded ones like AutoNation. You should have done your due diligence/homework in the weeks before to choose the right car and dealership. The more flexible you are on color, model, trim, and accessories you are, the lower the price you’ll get. Be prepared for a very limited inventory of stock cars, or those in-transit to choose from.
  • Utilize After the first of 2022, the slow downward trend in prices will continue. Consider ordering the exact car you want…color, options, make and model. If you’re not already a Costco member, pay the $65 annual membership fee and contract to buy your car from a Costco Certified Dealer. Stipulate on the official vehicle buyer’s order that the price you pay the dealer will be the Costco member’s price at the time your ordered car arrives at the dealership. Costco certified dealers are contractually obligated to sell you the car at a lower price than they’ve sold that model to any other customer for.
  • Pay no more than MSRP, if you must buy your car at a different time than suggested in items (1) and (2). This may take some searching and flexibility on model, color, and options, but there are a few dealers out there will, reluctantly, sell you a new car near MSRP. The best way to encourage them to do so is by shopping the best out-the-door price you get from one dealer with his closest competitor for the same make. This is much less time-consuming if you do it online. In your communication with each dealer, be sure to define out-the-door price as the price you can write the check out for to buy the car plus state sales tax and license plate. In other words, nothing added to the price except government fees. The test of government fee is that there’s no sales tax charged for a true government fee.

Monday, December 06, 2021

Pandemics, Bad Credit, and Car Buying

Since the Covid-19 pandemic enveloped us, millions of Americans are either unemployed, furloughed, or working fewer hours for less pay. Banks and all lenders are raising their credit standards to buy vehicles. Lending institutions, themselves, are financially threatened by customers unable to make their car and home payments.

Almost counterintuitively, new and used car sales are surging back almost to pre-Covid times. Many car dealers have always taken advantage of buyers with bad credit. With millions more car buyers with bad credit, this danger to you is worse than ever before. People with bad credit can be desperate (and therefore careless) when buying a car. They’re more worried about having their financing approved than buying the right car at the best price. This allows car dealers to overcharge them for the car they want to sell. It also allows dealers to sell them the car that the dealer wants to sell, not the one the customer wants to buy.

Following are six rules to follow if you have low income, bad credit, or too little credit, and you need to buy a car:

  • Never assume that you have bad credit; you should check your own credit score which you can do free. Even if your credit score isn’t good, you should always check with your credit union and/or bank before you opt for dealer financing.
  • Choose the car that you want to buy and negotiate the best price before you let it be known that you have marginal credit. Almost every car dealer will try to get you to fill out a credit application before you even begin discussing the car you want to buy and the price. REFUSE to do this and tell the salesman that you have acceptable credit. By doing this you ensure that the dealer isn’t raising the price and steering you to the wrong car because you have bad credit.
  • Car salesmen and finance managers can falsify your credit application that is sent to the bank. NEVER sign a credit application until it is completely filled out, and you’ve verified its accuracy. Be sure that you have a copy of the credit application before you accept delivery of your car. Falsifying credit is a federal crime, not to mention the fact that you’re probably paying far more for the car than you can afford.
  • Choose the car that’s best for you, not the one the dealer “wants” to sell you. The dealer will choose a car that he “wants to get rid of”, one that he can’t sell to anybody else; and/or he’ll choose one with a higher loan value than the one you really want.
  • Verify that the car described to the lender has the same options and accessories as the one you’re buying. Dealers will sometime falsify additional optional equipment on the car that they’re asking the lender to finance. Adding fictitious options like sunroofs, navigation, sound systems, etc. tricks the lender into advancing more money than they should. This allows the dealer to sell you a higher priced car, increasing his profit.

Lenders that specialize in people with bad credit are called “subprime lenders”. Car dealers even have separate finance people that specialize in subprime buyers. They’re called the “special finance” department. Subprime lenders often charge a fee to the dealer which can be as much as $2,500. This fee is not supposed to be paid by the buyer, because it would effectively increase the interest rate, probably above the usury law limits. Unfortunately, it’s commonly added to the price of the car. This is illegal, but it’s almost impossible to prove. By negotiating the best price on the car you want to buy BEFORE the dealer find out you have credit problems, it becomes obvious if the price is increased.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Only Suckers Pay MSRP for New Vehicles?

Nope! Today, It's the Smart People Paying MSRP!

The most informative and “entertaining” part of my radio show, Earl on Cars, is the Mystery Shopping Report. Every week for about 20 years, I dispatch an undercover, pretend buyer of a new or used car, to a different car dealership. We report the unexpurgated results, live on the air every Saturday morning between 8 and 10 am, EST. [95.9 and 105.9 FM;,]. Dealerships are graded and displayed on our list of good dealers and bad dealers. You can check this out at 

As you know, for almost 2 years, ever since the COVID pandemic induced microchip shortage, new and used car prices have spiked to unprecedented heights.  New and used vehicles that were formerly discounted thousands of dollars below MSRP were marked up thousands of dollars above. New car buyers are, unbelievably, paying as much as $40,000 above sticker for new vehicles like a Toyota RAV4 Prime. Google “Downtown Oakland Toyota” for a recent, specific case. 

I have some good news and bad news for you. The good news is that new car prices have begun to come down; the bad news is that they’ve come down only to MSRP and only at a few dealerships. For the last 2 months my mystery shopper has discovered 4 dealerships offering to sell new cars at very close to MSRP. Interestingly, most of them have Been Ford dealerships; I’m not sure why that is. 

My advice to you is DO NOT BUY A NEW OR USED CAR UNLESS YOU MUST, for the next 30 to 90 days. If you must, insist on paying no more than MSRP. You’ll probably have to shop several car dealerships that sell the brand you want to buy. You can do this very efficiently and quickly online, or by phone if you’re not good with computers. Send the dealership this email, “I will buy the specific car we’ve discussed for its MSRP plus sales tax and license/registration (nontaxable fees only), out-the-door. I will pay you this total amount with my check and drive my new car home with no further payment. If this is agreeable to you, confirm by email and I will come in today to pick up my new car. 

Most car dealers typically add hidden fees (not nontaxable government fees but added profit to the dealer) and dealer installed accessories that are not in the advertised or quoted price. Even If some or all of these are included in the total out-the-door price, no higher than MSRP, it’s OK. You’ve accomplished your goal. 

Monday, November 15, 2021

Dealer Fees Aren’t Bad; Hidden Fees Are

The phrase “dealer fee” has become a generic term for all the hidden fees that car dealers have added to the advertised prices of their cars for the last 50 years. When I started in the car business with my father in 1968, Stewart Pontiac in West Palm Beach, FL charged a $6.50 fee named “doc fee”. I guess my father chose “doc fee” for this hidden profit because it sounds like an amount that would be charged for processing documents. I never gave this a second thought, because the fee was quite small, and all car dealers had similar charges.
Today dealer fees have surged in amount and number of fees charged on a single sale. A few states regulate the fees effectively like California which caps theirs at $80. Most states have NO LIMIT on the amount. Florida’s is one of those and their average dealer fee, according to, is $799. But in South Florida, dealer fees exceed $1,000 on the average and some dealers have as much as $3,000!
The first thing you need to know about dealer fees is that almost no car dealer names their hidden fee “dealer fee”. All dealers have come up with legitimate sounding names designed to make the car buyer believe the fee is a government fee like sales tax or license/registration. A few examples are tag agency fee, electronic filing fee, e-filing fee, administrative fee, doc fee, notary fee, dealer prep fee, etc. In fact, some dealers advertise that they don’t charge a dealer fee, because they can say they named their “hidden fee” something else.
Secondly, you may not even be aware of their hidden fees until you are signing the final documents in the dealer’s business office. In your mind, you’ve already bought the car. The salesman’s job is complete, and you’ve signed some paperwork. The salesman escorts you to the “business office” to finalize the paperwork. This is where the hidden fees often first appear, mired in the rehems of paper and fine print spit out by the highspeed computer/printer. Most car buyers never know that additional dealer profit was added to the price they “thought” they paid for the car.
Hopefully, the above explanation of how difficult it is for you spot all the hidden fees and the total amount is well understood. The purpose of this article is to relieve you of even having to attempt this almost impossible task. Even if you did find all the hidden fees, you’ll never win an argument with the salesman or sales manager on their legitimacy. In fact, many salesmen and manager have been misinformed by their superiors and may believe that these fees are commonplace, legal, and even ethical. When you argue with a salesman about taking off the hidden fees, he knows that his boss won’t allow it, and he can only make you happy by reducing the price of the car by the amount of the hidden fees. Reducing the price, reduces his 25% commission. Taking off an $800 dealer fee off the price of the car costs him $200 in commission.
The solution to the “hidden fee game”, is to refuse to play. Let them give you bottom line price that includes as much in hidden fees as they want to. That’s when you tell the salesman and manager, that you going to take that bottom line price to at least three other car dealers, his competitors, and see if they can offer you a lower one. Their only choice is to decide how high an out-the-door price they can give you and have you come back to buy from them. You must remember that the definition of an out-the-door price is the amount of money you can write out your check for, hand it to the salesman, and drive your new car home.
Don’t fall for the old tricks…” this price is good for today only”, “the car you chose will probably be sold when you come back”, or “I won’t give you my best price in writing”. When you hear these sorts of remarks, simply say “If I leave here without your lowest out-the-door price in writing, you might sell me a car’. If you don’t give me this price, you have zero chance of selling me the car because you’ll never see or hear from me again”. At his point, you turn around, walk out the door, get in your car and drive away. Nine times out of ten, they’ll give you the price you asked for. You might even have to get in your car, start it, and begin driving away. Be sure to check your rear-view mirror for a salesman frantically chasing behind you. 😊

Monday, November 01, 2021

Begin your New Car Buying Process Today... Target Date for Delivery/Payment in 60-90 Days

It’s time to decide which 2022 new vehicle, make model and accessories, is best for you. You’re fortunate that you don’t have to buy a car today, because you understand that supply and demand conditions brought on by the microchip shortage and other COVID-precipitated factors has driven new car prices to record levels.
Choosing the right new car is relatively easy because there’s one source of accurate, unbiased information that you can bank on…Consumer Reports, the “Bible” of consumer information on automobiles. Go to, and check out any new vehicle that strikes your fancy. Choose the one that you like best esthetically…styling, performance, etc., but then check them out for the less obvious, but important criteria. Safety, fuel economy, maintenance and insurance costs, reliability, and rate of depreciation.
Test drive the vehicle that you choose to order. To avoid a lot of time and sales pressure, make it clear to the salesman that you will not be buying that car today. Finding the exact vehicle in a 2022 model can be a challenge, depending on how soon you begin your buying process. You’re buying a 2022 because a 2021 model is a one-year-old car today…essentially an “undriven used car”. The discount that dealers may give you on a 2021 never offset the extra cost of depreciation when you trade that car in on another. As I write this column, new vehicle inventories are at historic lows, especially 2022’s. If there are no major changes in the 2022 you order vs. the 2021, you can settle for driving the older model. Test driving a new car isn’t just “driving it around the block”. Take it out on the highways and the same roads that you routinely drive on. Drive it at all the various speeds you drive, back it up, and park it. Ideally, you should take a car home overnight and park it in your garage.
Locate the Costco certified auto dealers in your region. Go to this web address, If you’re not a member of Costco, you should buy an annual membership for only $65. The Costco auto buying program requires their certified dealers to sell Costco members a new car at a lower price than they have sold that car to any other buyer for. Costco will initially offer you only one certified dealership…the one closest to your zip code. You can obtain more certified Costco dealers by calling Costco directly. As you probably know, car dealers charge different prices to each of their customers for the same car, including Costco dealers. What sets Costco dealers apart is that the price you pay is the lowest price they will sell anybody that car for.
Be sure the Costco certified dealers will agree to sell you the car at their Costco price on the date you are prepared to take delivery of your new car. Eliminate any Costco dealer that refuses to do this. Contract with those that do agree and the one from whom you choose to buy your new car at the Costco price in effect at your expected time of delivery.
Choose a delivery date no sooner than December 2021 and, optimally, closer to March 2022. New car prices will begin coming down slowly this month (October 2021). They’ll continue to decline through the first quarter of 2022. Once you’ve finalized this purchase agreement, you can monitor the Costco price on the car you’ve chosen as often as you like. You may find that the price has come down enough to buy the car sooner than your planned delivery date. You might have to choose from a color or equipment of a car in stock that’s a little different than the one you have on order.
Buy low and sell high is the title to this article. You’re buying your new car low, and you CAN sell your used car very high today. I devoted little of that to this article because you probably need your current car. This morning, before I started writing this article, CNBC announced that the average used car is selling today for 56% higher than two years ago. That’s a record increase in used car prices. If you can get along without your current car, sell it today. But don’t trade it in on your new car, sell it directly to a dealer after shopping for the highest price. Also, check with these online companies,,, and

Monday, October 18, 2021

It Was the Best of Times (for Car Dealers), It Was the Worst of Times (for Car Buyers)

Did you hear the one about the 6-foot man who drowned while trying to wade across a river with an AVERAGE depth of 3 feet?

A recent Consumer Reports article reported that the average price (MSRP) of a new car has risen over $45,000 for the first time ever. The average transaction price has risen 7.7%. The interesting thing is that this 7.7% increase in the average price you pay represents more than a 300% PROFIT increase for the car dealer.

Of course, that $3,465 price increase (7.7% of $45,000) is a huge increase in profit to the dealer. The interesting thing is that this 7.7% average price increase represents more than a 300% profit increase to the dealer.

The average dealer margin on new cars was about $1,000 before the microchip shortage. Most car dealers, pre-covid, made relatively little net profit in their new car departments. In fact, quite a few lost money. They relied heavily on the large profits they made in the finance and service departments. The covid pandemic with its subsequent worldwide microchip shortage has brought unprecedented, record profits to car dealers. Car dealers are making so much profit on each car they sell, they can sell far fewer cars and make far more money than ever before.

What make this even worse for the car buyer is that the highest prices are being paid by those that can least afford it. These are the car buyers I often refer to in my articles as the “victims” …the less sophisticated, educated, English language impaired, the very young and the very old. Remember that AVERAGE big price increase of $3,465 is made up of lower prices by the sophisticated, educated buyers and higher prices by the victims. Unlike all other retail products sold, only automobiles are sold at a different price to each buyer…based on their ability to search out and negotiate the lowest price.

A shrewd buyer can buy a car for thousands of dollars less than a typical victim. I estimate that the average price increase to victims approaches $7,000 compared to the $3,465 average price for everybody. Sadly, these are also the people that are most likely to need a car. They are also the people that will pay very high interest rates in the dealer’s finance department.

If you’re interested in helping potential victims from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous car dealers, please consider volunteering for “Earl’s Vigilantes”. Please click on If you qualify, I’ll even send you a free “Earl’s Vigilante” hat. 😊

Monday, October 11, 2021

My Personal Cell Phone Number

This column was prompted by a Facebook friend who reminded me yesterday that I’d sent her a post with my cell phone number included. She warned me not to display this in the social media. Certainly, conventional wisdom and most people feel the same way. I fully understand that I “march to the beat of a different drummer”.

I’ve had this cell phone number, 561 358-1474 before I formed “Stewart Cellular Communications Inc” in 1993, the first agent for Bell South Mobility in South Florida. I’ve been sharing this number with my customers for many years; it’s on my personal business card which I freely pass out to all my customers and prospective customers. The switchboard operator at my dealership passes my business card out to anyone who asks. When someone calls the business number, 561 844-3461, and asks for me, the call is automatically passed directly to my cell phone.

I must confess that I was nervous about this when I first began doing it, but my fears were never realized. Sure, I get a few unwanted solicitations and crank calls, but far fewer than I thought. People are a lot more respectful of my time than I ever dreamed. Since I began opening myself to all my thousands of customers, I’ve learned more ways to improve my business than ever before. The negatives to this openness are dwarfed by the positives.

I share this with you, not only to brag because I’m the only car dealer in the World that dares to do this, but to advise car buyers to make it a point to get the cell phone numbers of those they deal with when buying or servicing their car. The salesmen and service advisors always ask for your cell number, don’t they? Before you give them yours, insist on getting theirs. If you have a problem, they can’t “disappear”. But, don’t stop there. Ask for the cell phone number for their manager. If he refuses, that will tell you something right away about his sincerity, transparency, and honesty. It tells you that he wants you to trust him, but he doesn’t trust you. Now, if you really want fewer problems after your purchase or service, ask for the personal cell phone number of the “manager’s manager”. If you can get all three of these numbers, each of those individuals is far more likely to honor their promises and be more transparent, especially the salesman or service advisor that know his bosses also gave you their cell number.

If you don’t believe that I do what I just said I did, give me a call at 561 358-1474. If I don’t answer right away, please leave a message and I promise I’ll call you back. I’ll admit that I don’t always return calls from folks who call, hang up and don’t leave a message. But I always get back to those who leave a message and are customers, prospective customers, or others who are not solicitors or cranks.

Monday, October 04, 2021


I’ve been a car dealer since 1968 and never dreamed that one day I’d be advising potential customers not to buy a new or used car right away. But, as you know, the COVID 19 Pandemic has changed everything in our lives, worldwide…most of it for the worst, but, counterintuitively, made a lot of money for some businesses…including auto manufacturers and car dealers.

This is the second column I’ve written on this subject and I’ve added a few more pointers for those people that believe they must buy a new or used car today. The good news is that car prices have peaked and can only come down from here. Next month, November, will offer lower prices and December will be even lower. The first quarter of 2022 will see prices back to normal, Pre-Covid. The longer you can postpone your purchase of a new or used car, the lower the price you will pay.

Here are some more tips for those that can’t wait to buy:
Whether you want to buy a late model new or a brand-new car today, price the “other” too. Some used cars are selling today at higher prices than the new ones. Car dealers know you can easily compare new car prices with other dealers, but it’s much more difficult to compare used car prices…no two used cars are identical, like new ones.
  • Don’t buy a new car from the dealer’s on-the-ground inventory, because he will charge you much more than if you order the car through that dealer from the manufacturer. The dealer knows that if you refuse to pay the exorbitantly high price for the new car on his showroom somebodywill come in soon and agree to it. He has only one or two of that particular model, and if he sells it for less, he can’t make up that lost profit.
  • Late model used cars are selling, as I stated in (1) above, at, and even higher, than the new equivalent. Reliable older cars are priced much fairer than late models. Therefore, they’ll retain their value more and make it less expensive for you to trade it in on late model or new car later.
  • Before you “take the plunge” and buy that new or used car today, ask yourself “Are the thousands of dollars I’m overpaying to buy a car today vs 90 days hence, worth it? How expensive and inconvenient will it be for me to repair my current car, use public transportation, take Uber or Lyft, or carpool?
  • Paying Costco $65, if you’re not already a Costco member, and utilizing the Costco auto buying program is, by far the single best solution to this problem, If you do buy a new or used car today (against my advice), the Costco price is the “lowest high price” you can get. The smartest move you can possibly make is to contract with the selling Costco Certified Dealer that they will honor the Costco member price on your ordered new car when it arrives from the manufacturer. It’s imperative that you get this in writing. If you don’t, the dealer will sell your car to somebody else at a much higher price.

Monday, September 13, 2021

How to Buy Another Key-fob for Your Car Without Having to Take Out a Loan

The modern, high-tech remote keys for our vehicles are amazing. They can, not only start your car, but lock and unlock the doors, open the trunk, and help you find your car at the mall by flashing lights or blowing the horn. Some of us didn’t really want or need the extra “bells and whistles”, but you can’t buy a car today with an old-fashioned, inexpensive key that will “only” start your car.

The auto manufacturer executives must have been thrilled when they discovered a minicomputer, they named a “keyless remote”, aka key fob, with so many bells and whistles. The design and manufacturing engineers must have “joyously” met with the marketing people to come up with a “big fat” price to maximize this new source of profits in their new vehicles. We may never know what it costs an auto manufacturer to make a key fob. This sort of thing is top secret, but we do know that a key fob is far less complex to design and far less costly to manufacturer than a smart phone; however, you can buy smartphones today for less than $200 which is on the low end of what many key fobs cost. Remember that prices are set by supply and demand, not what it costs to manufacture. The best way to bring down your cost of buying a key fob, is to shop and compare prices with what the car dealers charges you with other retailers. Dealers pay their manufacturers too much for key fobs too, and then their dealers mark them up even more, charging you “an arm and a leg”.

My motivation for writing this column is to offer you several sources, rather than just your car dealer, to buy another key fob at a significantly lower price. In full disclosure, I’m taking this information from October 2021 edition of Consumer Reports, the very best of source of information to consumers of every product.
1. If you would prefer, or must, buy an OEM key fob made by the manufacturer of your car, you don’t necessarily have to buy it from the car dealer. My favorite source for buying almost anything is Amazon. www.CarAndTruckRemotes and are two more good online sources. Or, you can “Google” key fob for your particular year-make-model car and find other online sources. Consumer Reports found a genuine Hyundai key fob for a 2017 for $93 including shipping, $208 less than the Hyundai dealer charges.
2. Or, buy an aftermarket key fob online. Consumer Reports was able to save $208 by buying a key fob for a 2008 Chrysler Town G Country minivan through Amazon.
3. You can buy a key fob from your local locksmith. Consumer Reports paid $95 less for key fob for a 2009 Honda than the Honda dealer would have charged.
4. Ace Hardware and Batteries Plus are two national chains that offer significant saving over car dealers.

When more and more car owners boycott car dealerships in buying replacement and second keyless remotes/key fobs, the auto manufacturers will lower their prices to their dealers, and you will be able to buy one at a fair price.

Monday, August 02, 2021

Have Your “New Car Cake” And Eat It Too

Regular readers of my column know I recommend that you don’t buy a new or used car until the last quarter of this year unless you must. This is because of the extreme, but temporary, spike in new and used car prices. This record increase in all vehicle prices emanates from the extreme shortage from the microchip shortage with simultaneous extreme demand from the booming economy. Of course, no one anticipated that such a thing would occur because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve been a cars dealer since 1968 and I never recall a time when most new cars were being sold above sticker, MSRP.

I came up with a solution to this temporary hyper-inflation problem. Simply and succinctly stated, you can buy your new car today, but pay the price that it will sell for after prices drop sharply in October, November, and December. The caveat is that you cannot buy a new car from dealer’s stock and take delivery

today or even soon. You must order your new vehicle from the dealer’s manufacturer. It typically takes 2 to 3 months to receive a custom ordered car. By the time you’ve done your homework selecting the right vehicle, shopping for the best price, and placed your order with the manufacturer, your new vehicle will arrive in the last quarter of this year. The price will be several thousands of dollars lower than you’ll pay today.

You accomplish this by making it part of your new car purchase contract that you pay the best price you can get in October-November-December than the price you’d have to pay today. I caution you that you’ll have to talk to a dealership manager, maybe a general manager or the dealer himself, to finalize this agreement. A salesman is highly unlikely to agree to this because he’s not authorized, and he’s mainly interested in selling a car today from stock at MSRP+ to earn a huge commission.

Yes, you’ll have to wait for your new car, but you’ll get exactly the car you want…model, color, and options. Buying a car from dealer stock today, you’re almost sure to make lots of compromises, not to mention the highest markup you’ll ever pay again on a new car.

How can you be certain that you will pay a very low and fair price in October-November-December? Buy your new car through or I recommend that you use Costco. If you’re not a Costco member, pay the $65 annual membership fee just for the privilege of buying your new car through a Costco approved dealer. Costco dealers are contractually obligated to sell their members cars at a lower price than they sell anybody else that same car. Today, because Costco dealers are selling all their cars at highly inflated prices, the Costco price is still too high, even though it’s lower that all their other prices.

If you plan on trading in your current car, you have a problem because used car prices are also at record high prices. Your trade in value will drop, but not enough to entirely offset the savings on your new car. This is how you can “have your new car cake and eat it too.” Sell your trade-in to the highest bidder today. You’ll get a record high price for your trade. Now you’ll save thousands on buying your new car and almost as much on selling your trade-in…a “twofer”. Be sure to shop your used car with at least three buyers…the dealership you bought your new car from, CarMax,,, and

You’ll ask, how am I going to get along without my old car for three months? The answer can be carpooling, Uber or Lyft, or doubling up on another car in your family. Renting a car is very expensive today, but you have ask, will the thousand or more dollars I get on my car today vs. three months from now offset my substitute transportation costs?Have Your “New Car Cake”

Monday, July 26, 2021

Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know About How Not to Be Ripped Off by a Car Dealer

If you’re a regular reader of this column and/or a listener to my radio show, thank you very much. Did you know that everything I’ve ever said  for the past 20 years on my radio show and this column is available at 

If you go to, you can click on links or search for virtually everything we’ve ever explained or discussed on the radio show,  written in newspaper columns, and posted on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.  

These are just a few of the resources you’ll find at 

  • You can listen to podcasts of all our past radio shows. Just click on the Apple Podcast app, TuneIn Radio, Google Podcasts or whatever your favorite podcast app is.  
  • We’ve archived our past mystery shopping Reports. Every week for years we’ve dispatched an undercover, mystery shopper to pretend to buy or lease a car at different car dealerships. We read the report on the air. We name names…car dealerships, salesmen, and sales managers. We vote to “grade” each car dealership on a scale of A to F. Passing dealerships are listed on our “Recommended Dealer List” with their grades and those who get an F are on the “Do Not Buy” list. The proof of our honesty and accuracy is in the fact that WE’VE NEVER BEEN SUED BY ANY CAR DEALER WE’VE MYSTERY SHOPPED since we began mystery shopping weekly 20 years ago. Why? Any lawyer will tell you that the perfect defense against libel and slander is the TRUTH 

  • You can file a formal complaint with government agencies when you click on our link that lists the car dealer complaint contact information for the Attorney General, Department of Motor Vehicles, and Department of Consumer Affairs.  

  • You can Search for any subject pertaining to buying, leasing, maintaining or repairing your car. There are lots of article on leasing, financing, negotiating, deceptive advertising, and third-party sources to get the lowest, honest prices on cars.  

  • Contact information (phone numbers, emails, and text numbers for every member of the Earl On Cars team…Nancy Stewart (my co-host), Stu Stewart (my son and mystery shopping spymaster), and Rick Kearney, Certified Diagnostic Master Auto Technician.  

  • Join “Earl’s Vigilantes” or locate a vigilante in your area. We’ve formed a team of volunteers around the country and are recruiting more weekly. If you’re a knowledgeable person on buying, leasing, repairing and maintaining cars and comfortable with online, digital shopping, please sign up. The information application is available at This is particularly important for seniors who are not digitally skilled to shop online.  

Monday, July 12, 2021

Common Hazards of Servicing the Vehicle You Purchased from your Car Dealership

  • You DON’T have to have your car serviced by the selling dealer. But you must have new car warranty work performed by a franchised dealer of the make car you own…it doesn’t have to be the dealer that sold you your car. Your warranty requires that you maintain your car according to your car manufacturer’sowner’s manual. Most car dealers will have an “enhanced” list of recommended maintenance which is designed to enhance their service department’s profits. A good rule of thumb is to ignore any service recommended by your dealer that’s not listed in the manufacturer’s owner manual. You should always keep receipts of all service you have done by whomever maintains your car. It might be necessary to prove to your car’s manufacturer that their recommended maintenance was performed in the event of a warranty claim.
  • Car dealers make a lot more money servicing cars than selling them. AutoNation, the largest new car dealership group in the USA, made over seven times as much money from their service and parts operations than their new car sales last year. The person that greets you in the dealership service drive is a commissioned salesperson even though their nametag might say “Service Advisor” or “Assistant Sales Manager”. The more service this salesman sells you, the more money he makes. The mechanic that works on your car and the service manager are also paid on commission.
  • Most car dealerships charge hidden fees in addition to the service you thought you were paying. These fees are disguised with names that make them look legitimate. Some examples are “Sundry or miscellaneous supplies”, “Hazardous Waste Disposal Fee”, and “Nuts, bolts, screws and other fasteners”. These may, or may not be costs to the service department, but they’re costs of doing business and should have been included in the price quoted to you. Typically, they’re calculated by a percent of the total invoice, usually 10%. These fees are always added at the bottom of your service invoice. There’s a good chance that the service cashier or service manager will remove this bogus charge if you complain. Most people never notice.
  • Car dealers advertise low prices on common maintenance items like oil changes, tire rotations, wheel balances, and tires. They know they must do this to “get you in the door”. Where they make their big money is on major repairs like transmissions, air-conditioners and water pumps. These expensive items are negotiable, and you should always get competitive bids from other service departments.
  • Always get a written estimate for your total charges before signing the repair order. Many states, including Florida, require the repairer to provide a written estimate if asked. In Florida, the repairer cannot exceed that written estimate by more than 10%.
  • In most states, the repairer can hold your car until you pay for your service. The legal term is a “mechanic’s lien”. If you don’t pay your bill, the repairer can sell your car and keep the portion of the proceeds to cover what you owe. A mechanics lien takes precedent over bank’s lien if your car is financed.