Monday, January 24, 2022

Leasing or Owning a Vehicle Today

Is a Valuable Hedge when Buying or Leasing Another

You probably know that new and used car prices are at historic highs. In previous columns I’ve recommended that you don’t buy a new or used vehicle today, because waiting until the microchip shortage abates and supplies of vehicles rise will see prices drop by thousands of dollars. This advice is particularly aimed at those who don’t have another car to trade in. This is because the car you trade in is worth about as much more as the vehicle you’re buying increased. In other words, the value of your trade-in largely offsets the increased cost of the car you’re buying.

About a third of new cars on the road today are leased. A lease contract includes a clause giving you the legal right (option) to purchase that vehicle at a price that was fixed when you leased it, about 3 years ago. This amount is the “residual” and was forecasted (guessed at) by the leasing company. Oftentimes those forecasted prices are inaccurate because markets change. Over the last 2+ years with the Covid pandemic, rampant inflation, and the microchip shortage precipitating the vehicle shortage has caused those lease residuals to be much much lower than today’s market value of your leased vehicle. Many are unaware of their option to buy their leased vehicle, and the leasing company or the car dealer takes the vehicle back, sells it at the auto auction, and makes a huge profit above your option price.

To take advantage of the increased value, you must first establish today’s market value. You can do this by shopping your vehicle to several potential buyers. The used car departments at franchised dealers for the same make you drive will make offers. Go online to used car companies like,,,, and many more. Google “Used Car Buyers” and you’ll find many more. It’s a “seller’s market” and the more you shop your leased car, the higher the price you’ll get. Of course, technically you don’t own the car; the leasing company does. But that won’t deter you from hearing the offers. You’ll have to exercise your purchase option before you can sell it.

Different leasing companies have different policies on exercising your option to buy. GM, Honda, Toyota, and Ally Leasing will sell you the lease car at the residual and this is the safest, easiest way. Your leasing company, if they won’t buy your off-lease car, will require you to return it through one of their dealers. Unfortunately, most dealers will add bogus fees, often over a thousand dollar to your option price. If you must go through a dealer, shop the dealers to find the one that charges the lowest extra fees.

If you don’t want to buy and then sell, your off-lease car, you may be able to get an extension on driving the lease for up to six months. The longer you can wait to make another purchase or lease, the lower the prices will be when you do have to commit.

If you own a car now, you can realize all the advantages described above without all the hassle. Just be sure you shop your trade-in to as many of the used car buying sources as you can.

Monday, January 10, 2022

How to Know if a Florida Car Dealer is Breaking the Law

Most of the “skullduggery” Florida car dealers use to trick you into overpaying for the vehicles they sell are illegal. Florida Statute Title XXXIII, REGULATION OF TRADE, COMMERCE, INVESTMENTS, AND SOLICITATIONS, 501.976 regulates "actionable, unfair, or deceptive acts or practices" in trade and commerce.If you want to read the whole text, just visit

When you click on this link, you’ll have too much information and legal gobbledygook. Unfortunately, this is the way all our laws and regulations are written. They’re in a language that can only be interpreted by lawyers. You must hire a lawyer to explain the laws. If you break a law (that was written by lawyer), you’ll be prosecuted by a lawyer and you’ll have to hire another lawyer to defend you. Politicians (mostly lawyers) and regulators (mostly lawyers appointed by politicians) are supposed to fairly enforce the laws!

This law is decades old and was passed during the reign of Bob Butterworth, Florida’s longest serving Attorney General, elected in 1987, serving 15 years as AG. This law would have never been passed had not a Bob’s wife been taken advantage of by a car dealer in Tampa who charged her for “undercoat” on her new car, adding the price to the advertised price she thought she was paying. Since this law has been written, much of it is obsolete and irrelevant, but no other Florida attorney general or legislator would dare to modernize it, much less toughen the law. If they did, they would suffer the ire of the powerful car dealer lobbying groups and PACs, like the Florida and National auto dealers associations.

However, there’s still some “teeth” in this law that can protect you against unscrupulous car dealers. Most car dealers in Florida don’t know or understand the law. Even if they do, they ignore it because our regulators and legislators are afraid to enforce it. This column will point out some small sections of this law which can protect you from dealers adding hidden fees to the prices they advertise, quote you, and are illegally charging you.

It is illegal under Title XXXIII 501.976 (11) to “add to the cash price of a vehicle defined in s. 520.02 (02) any fee or charge other than those provided in that section and in rule 69V-50.001, Florida Administrative Code. All fees or charges permitted to be added to the cash price by rule 69V-50.001, Florida Administrative Code. All fees or charges permitted to be added to the cash price by rule 69V-50.001, Florida Administrative Code, must be fully disclosed to customers in all binding contracts concerning the vehicles selling price.” The translation of the above paragraph is simply, the advertised and quoted price must include everything you must pay, plus government fees only (sales tax and license).

It is illegal under Title XXXIII 501.976 (16) to….” 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. …” The freight/destination charge is charged in the dealer’s invoice and in the MSRP. If a dealer charges you for that, he’s “double-dipping…getting paid twice.

It is illegal under Title XXXIII 501.976 (17) to….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. All new car dealers are reimbursed by their manufacturers for preparing the car for delivery. Charging you for that is also “double dipping” getting paid for the same service twice.
It is illegal under Title XXXIII 501.976 (18) to “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.’”

“Knowledge is power” (Nancy Stewart’s favorite phrase) and letting the car dealer know that you’re familiar with this Florida statute will often motivate him to remove these illegal charges.

Monday, January 03, 2022

Earl On Cars, Weekly Live Talk Radio


Current Advice on Buying, Leasing, & Servicing Your Car

Many readers of my weekly articles appearing on my blog (, Florida Weekly, and Hometown News may not know about my weekly radio show which has been on the air for nearly 20 years.
Earl on Cars airs every Saturday morning from 8-10 EST. You can access this show in South Florida at True Oldies Radio, 95.9 and 105.9 FM (WIRK-HD3). You can stream it directly at You can also stream it at and at; or access Earl on Cars via the app, TuneIn Radio.
Why listen to a live radio show when you have all these other resources of information? The number one reason is that conditions change rapidly with respect to buying, leasing, and maintaining your vehicle. In the past two years (Covid pandemic) these conditions have radically changed, I’ve been a car dealer for over 50 years, and I’ve never seen such change…both for the good and the bad. Listening to Earl on Cars weekly keeps you on top of the car-buying and repairing/servicing market.

Our live-talk radio show thrives on callers’ input…questions, personal anecdotes for their buying and servicing experiences, as well as suggestions and constructive criticisms. There are multiple channels for you to covey your input. Primarily is our telephone 877 959-9960. You can text us at 772 497-6530. Post your input on Facebook and YouTube as indicated in the second paragraph of this article. We even have a unique form of communication to those who prefer to remain ANONYMOUS. Click on this line, Who you are and where you’re located is completely anonymous. We generally can respond to all input during the 2-hour show. If we miss one, we address it in the following week’s show.
The Earl on Cars team consists of me, Earl Stewart, currently a car dealer in North Palm Beach Florida. This radio show, my blog, newspaper columns and my book, Confessions of a Recovering Car Dealer are part of my role as an advocate for you, the consumer. I stress that my radio show is not an “infomercial” attempting to sell you a car. In fact, I currently recommend that you don’t buy a car unless you must because of historically high prices.
Nancy Stewart is my co-host, wife, and co-founder of the show 15 years ago. Nancy’s primary role is to act as an advocate for the women buyers of vehicles and service. Since the inception of the show, Nancy has built the female listening audience from near “zero” to about half. Car selling and buying is evolving (too slowly) from a “good old boys club” to the enlightenment of dealers and manufacturers that women are arguably even more important than the male market. Every week, Nancy pays the first two, new women callers $50 cash…no strings attached. If you’re female and reading this, that’s something to think about.
Rick Kearney is a Certified Diagnostic Master Technician for Toyota and has all the current qualifications from ASE, the national organization, American Service Excellence. He can answer any question about servicing, maintaining, and repairing your vehicle. Contact the show any Saturday morning and get a free diagnosis on a problem you’re experiencing with your vehicle.
Stu Stewart (Earl Stewart III) is my son and the general manager of my Toyota dealership in North Palm Beach, FL. He has real-time, hands-on experience of how cars are being sold and serviced TODAY and every day. Stu directs our weekly MYSTERY SHOPPING REPORT.
The Mystery Shopping Report is the highlight of our show, both from an information and entertainment perspective. Every week we send a person into a different car dealership to pretend to buy, lease, or maintain/repair their car. We name the dealership, the individuals dealt with, and the events exactly as they happen. When we see a violation of the law occur, we say so. When we observe unethical, deceptive advertising and sales practices we say so. When we see honest, ethical practices in place at a dealership we say so. Each week the dealership is given a grade from A to F, and we list the grades on two lists accessible at How do you know that we’re telling the truth and being accurate? The answer is this: In the nearly 20 years we’ve been mystery shopping car dealers, we’ve never been sued. Car dealers know (and their lawyers know) that the perfect defense against Libel and Slander is TRUTH.

Jonathan Kantor is the “behind the scenes guy” whose technical, digital prowess enables Earl on Cars to be heard and seen around the world. He also preserves the best parts of our show, categorized by topic, and makes them available on YouTube, accessible at any time. All the past shows are archived and easily accessible. The camerawork during the show includes aiming the cameras at the right person at the right time and providing all the other visual effects, like the background and video clips.
Tune in some Saturday morning between 8 and 10 eastern time and give us a shout…or just listen for a few minutes. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.