We have until January 8th, 2024 to submit comments to the FTC about proposed rules to BAN CAR DEALER JUNK FEES. Please visit to be heard!

Monday, March 28, 2022

Shine the “Cold Light of Day” on Your Car Dealer

“I’m Mad as Hell and Not Going to Take it Anymore!”

I think you’ll agree with me when I say that bad things mostly happen when the perpetrators don’t think others will find out about it. We’re lucky we live in a country which makes a “thing” out of freedom of speech. Our media is free to say whatever they like and so are we. Some think we err on the side of too much freedom of speech and too much media. Even though I might agree, I’d rather have too much than too little.

I’ve been a car dealer for over half a century, and I can tell you that dealers’ lack of ethics and their preponderance of dishonesty hasn’t changed much since 1968. The Gallup Annual Poll on Honesty and Ethics in Professions backs me up on this, Car dealers have ranked at the bottom of this list since the first survey in 1977!

Sadly, bad behavior by car dealers isn’t trending any better for a variety of reasons. When bad behavior is readily allowed and unregulated for a long period of time it becomes the status quo. It has inertia…the tendency of an object in motion, to remain in motion. Think of driving on the typical expressway. No matter what the posted speed, the actual flow of traffic is at least 10 mph faster. Why? That’s for two reasons. The first is that every driver knows that they can “get away with” driving 10 mph over the speed limit. The second is that it’s somewhat dangerous to drive at or below the speed limit. All the other drivers will pass you, blow their horn, or nearly “rear-end” you. How many cars have you bought in your lifetime? How many of those purchases were a pleasant experience? If the Gallup poll is accurate, probably none of them.

This happens because our laws against false advertising and unfair and deceptive trade practices aren’t enforced. They’re not enforced because of the powerful lobbying influence of car dealers. It’s no coincidence that “lobbyists” sit at the bottom of the Gallup poll with car dealers. Almost all dealers are guilty of this bad behavior for the same reason that almost all motorist’s speed. If a car dealer did obey the laws when his competitors didn’t, he couldn’t effectively compete and eventually he’d be forced out of business.

The only way I know to change things is get the attention of our legislators and regulators by arousing the car-buyers who are also VOTERS. There’s only one thing that can influence a politician or a regulator more than a lobbyist with fat pockets for supporting their reelection. That’s you, the voter. Almost all voters have bought cars and most likely had nothing but bad experiences. We need to begin talking about this more. Here are some suggestions:

  • File your complaints against car dealers with your state’s attorney general or department of motor vehicles.
  • Contact your local media, especially those who feature consumers’ advocate journalists.
  • Check out this website, This is a new website that allows you to report your car dealers’ markups above MSRP and post a picture of their addendum label. I just learned about this and posted a $5,000 window sticker addendum used by Wallace Cadillac in Stuart, FL,

I think another reason why car dealers have been able to operate for so long “in the shadows” is that many car buyers don’t like to admit that they’ve been taken advantage of. We all want to believe that we made a good buy and, maybe even more importantly, we want our friends and neighbors to think so. By “shining the cold light of day” on car dealers’ bad behavior, more people will realize their friends and neighbors were also “screwed” and are also remaining silent.

Please help me end the silence.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Car Dealers Don’t Finance Purchased Vehicles

They’re Middlemen that Broker Finance Contracts to Banks

Some readers of my column may already know this, but it’s surprising to me that many don’t: Car dealers lead their buyers to believe that they’re financing your purchase. After you buy your car, you’re led to the finance office. The inside vernacular term for the finance office amongst dealers is “THE BOX” (my illustration above is from the classic film “Cool Hand Luke” as Paul Newman is led into "The Box"). They take your credit statement and ask you to sign finance contracts. 

(To be totally accurate, there is a very small percentage of car dealers, typically used car lots that sell lower priced cars to buyers with poor credit that do finance the cars.)

What they don’t tell you is that they sell that finance contracts to the real bank at large markup. They also sell you services like pre-paid maintenance, GAP insurance, and extended service agreements, which they add to the finance contract that they sell to the bank. Normally the profit from their markup to the bank is far more than their profit on the car they just sold you. AutoNation, the largest auto retailer in the USA, averages over $2,000 per vehicle sold on brokering their customers’ finance contracts to banks.

My advice to you is to eliminate the dealer-broker, the middleman, and finance your car directly with the bank or credit union. You can pocket that average $2,000 kick-back your dealer receives from the bank by getting a much lower interest rate and not being sold overpriced warranties and maintenance contracts. Also, remember that $2,000 is an average profit on all cars sold. Some buyers (too few) are savvy enough to finance their purchase with their bank or credit union and others pay cash. In reality, the profit per dealer brokered sale closer to $4,000.

You should check with your bank or credit union before you buy your next vehicle. This way you can shop banks just like you shop for your car. You can get preapproved for the amount you intend to finance. Knowing your interest rate and terms before you buy your car arms you against the pressure from the salesman and dealer finance manager who will try to persuade you to finance your through the dealer. Telling the salesman and finance manager that you have a low interest rate from your bank or credit union will save you a lot of time and aggravation. Be aware that most dealers don’t refer to their “finance offices” as such, they tell you it’s the “business office” where you need to “complete your paperwork”.

There’s an exception to choosing to not financing your next purchase through the dealer. That’s for a new vehicles when the manufacturer offers an unusually low interest rate…as low as zero percent. Usually, the manufacturer offers either a cash discount or the low rate. You should do the math, and calculate which is best. Financing for a longer term with less money down skews your decision toward the low rate vs. cash discount.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Gas Prices to $6.00+ Per Gallon?


I wrote a column on May 24, 2008, entitled “Stop Complaining about Gas Prices”. As you know, here we go again…soaring gas prices but for some different reasons. The good news is all vehicles’ gas mileage has improved considerably in the last 14 years, and we have a lot more hybrid vehicles, and even a few all-electric. I’ve made a few changes and updated my first column, but it’s still essentially the same advice. 

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. Whether you think our gas prices are soaring because of a conspiracy of the giant oil companies, speculators on Wall Street, OPEC, the war in Ukraine, President Biden, ex-President Trump, or Vladimir Putin (or all the above), there’s not much you can do about it. I thought it might be useful to suggest some things you can do about lowering your total cost of fuel even if you can’t lower oil and gas prices. 

  1. Burn the lowest grade octane fuel in your car without causing a ping or knock. Even if your car’s owner’s manual recommends high test, there’s a good chance you can drop down one or two grades of octane and your engine will run just fine. Today’s engines are so sophisticated that they can automatically alter the way the engine runs to accommodate different octane fuels. There are lots of factors that affect how your car runs on a particular grade of fuel like ambient temperature and ethanol content. You can even experiment with mixing octanes. Buying a lower octane will save you several cents per gallon. 
  2. Keep your tires inflated about halfway between the recommended inflations by the auto manufacturer and the tire manufacturer. The higher number is stamped on the tire by the tire manufacturer and the lower inflation number can be found in your owner’s manual. The auto manufacturer number is very low, because he wants the car to drive smoothly. The auto manufacturer doesn’t worry about tire life because that’s guaranteed by the tire manufacturer. The tire manufacturer’s number is the maximum inflation you should use. 
  3. There’s a great app you can download,, that will show you the gas stations nearest your zip code with the lowest gas prices. I just checked my Gas Buddy app for my zip code, 33403, for price of mid-premium gasoline. The lowest price was $3.99, and the highest was $5.42. Buying the lower one would save me $8.60 on 20 gallons of gas!
  4. Drive slower! Some of you may remember how some states lowered speed limits on highways during an earlier energy crunch. You burn far less gas at 50 mph than 75 or 80. I’ll be the first one to admit that driving slower than the traffic flow can be “hazardous to your health”. Be sure to drive in the right lane and drive near the the speed limit. 
  5. Learn how to drive your car for maximum fuel efficiency. It’s not uncommon for one of my customers to complain that they aren’t getting the gas mileage on their model Toyota that the EPA sticker on their car when they bought it says they should. We always check the mileage by having one of our technicians drive the car and measure the mileage. Usually, the technician gets as good or better gas mileage than the EPA estimate. This is simply because he understands how to drive a car for maximum fuel efficiency. One of my technicians, Rick Kearney, tells our customers that the best thing they can do to improve their gas mileage is to “reach down and take the brick out of their shoe”. 😊 He also suggests that you imagine there is an “egg” between your foot and the gas pedal. Anticipate stops and curves so that you don’t have to brake, but just take your foot off the gas pedal. For longer stops like waiting for a bridge to go up or down, or a train going by, turn off your engine. 
  6. Check your wheel alignment and rotate and balance your tires every time you bring your car in for your car’s factory recommended service. Also, check your tire inflation that mention in #2. 
  7. Many cars today have an “Eco Mode” alert light, typically green, on the dash which tells you that your speed is maximizing your fuel economy. Watch this and you can save lots of fuel. 
  8. Lastly, if you own a hybrid vehicle (lucky you), you need to drive it differently than you would an all-gas-powered car. A hybrid gets better fuel economy in city driving than highway. This is because your hybrid automatically recharges its battery whenever you take your foot off the gas and decelerate. Stop and go driving causes poor gas mileage in a totally gas powered car, but increases fuel economy in a hybrid. When driving your hybrid on long highway trips, try to maintain a steady speed around 55 or 60 mph. Driving 70 or 80 will cost your fuel economy. 

If you follow all these tips, don’t be surprised if you find yourself spending no more on fuel than you did before gas prices skyrocketed. You’ll also be driving a lot safer and feel less aggravation.