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 Since this law has been written, much of it is obsolete and irrelevant, but no other Florida attorney general or legislator would dare to modernize it, much less toughen the law.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.

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