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, May 30, 2022

Full Disclosure & Transparency or Digital Deception & Opaqueness

Recently, a woman and a mother called into my weekly radio talk-show, "Earl on Cars”, and told us of a bad experience her young son had in purchasing a new car. He purchased a new Kia and brought it home for his mother to see. She asked him how much he’d paid for the Kia, but he was “kind of vague” about the numbers. She asked him to show her the “paperwork” from the purchase, vehicle buyer’s order and instalment sales contract. He reached into his pocket and handed her a “thumb drive”. In case you’re not familiar with a “thumb drive” (many people aren’t), it’s a device about 2” X .5” X .25” that stores digital data. You can only read this data if you insert the thumb drive into your PC (assuming your PC has a slot to do this; some don’t). This also assumes that you were savvy enough to accomplish the technical steps to insert the thumb drive in the right place and make the proper keystrokes on the PC to bring up the information. The son didn’t even own a PC and the mother didn’t know how to read the thumb drive on hers.
They went to the Kia dealer and learned that her son had paid $6,000 more for the new Kia than he’d been led to believe he was paying. When they both strongly objected, the sales manager told them that his son had signed the vehicle buyer’s order and installment sales contract and taken delivery of the new Kia. He told them that there’s nothing he could do because the sale was legally consummated.
When I first heard this on my radio show, I didn’t believe that this was a legal sales transaction because there hadn’t been FULL DISCLOSURE. Full disclosure is the most important part of contract law. It simply means that before a transaction can be legally consummated between a buyer and seller, both parties must have totally and transparently disclosed all the terms of the sale. My son, Stu Stewart, who is a member of the Earl on Cars team (along with Nancy Stewart and Rick Kearney) told me that other car dealers were also handing customers thumb drives. He said that this is all just part of the digital revolution and online buying.
After the radio show, I called an attorney that represents the Florida Auto Dealers Association, FADA, named Alex Kurkin. He told me, much to my chagrin and disappointment, that a thumb drive is considered full disclosure when purchasing anything, including a car. I was very surprised and disappointed.
There is the “letter of the law” and there’s the “spirit of the law”. In my opinion, giving a buyer a “thumb drive” violates the spirit of the law, because many people today can’t see and read what the seller has given them to describe all the terms of the transaction, especially the full out-the-door PRICE.
It's hard enough to understand all the terms and conditions of buying a car when full disclosure is in writing on paper. When the seller makes this information “invisible” on a thumb drive that can be seen only by someone who is digitally savvy about thumb drives and PC’s.
Humans are caught up in a whirlwind of technology unlike anything seen before in our history. With the Internet, Google, PC’s, smartphones, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, the Cloud, and the Metaverse, many humans were left behind in the twentieth century. The law must not allow these older, perhaps less educated people to be victimized (accidentally or on purpose) by car dealers or any other businesses. All buyers should be given a paper copy of all details of every purchase transaction.

Monday, May 23, 2022

WPLG, Channel 10 in Ft. Lauderdale, Upholds the Meaning of the Fourth Estate

In 2009 my wife, Nancy, and I were fortunate enough to have lunch at the Capital Grill in Washington D.C. with the famous journalist, Bob Woodward, of “Watergate” fame. We and nine other dealers were invited by Toyota as a way thanking us for our performance in sales and customer satisfaction. Bob Woodward said something at lunch that I’ve never forgotten…He told us his greatest fear affecting the USA and the world was that the media is failing to fulfill its vital role to report all the news fearlessly, completely, honestly, and ethically.

The media in America is unlike that anyplace else in the world. You might dislike the media because you don’t agree with their political leanings or their dwelling on the bad news vs. good, but there’s one thing we can say good about the American media…they can be, and are often highly critical of our political leaders, powerful companies, and most anybody they choose to target. Freedom of the press is very real and powerful in the USA. Today we talk a lot about “fake news”, exaggerated news, and focusing on the sensational and worst news. But we all know that our media is “head and shoulders” above what we see in Russia, China, and many other countries.
When our forefathers wrote the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, they wanted to guarantee freedom of the press against tyrants, meaning our government and its leaders. Maybe they didn’t foresee what the elements of capitalism, which also set America apart from most other countries, would have on honesty and transparency in the media.
The media in America are made up of digital, print, audio, and video generating companies that are part of our capitalistic society dependent on earning a profit by selling a product or service. If a newspaper, radio station or a TV channel is to survive they need to sell advertising and/or subscriptions. This means that large advertisers wield heavy influence on the media in which they advertise, whether it be Facebook, Google, local newspapers, radio stations or TV channels.
I personally experienced this phenomenon a few years ago when my radio show, Earl Stewart on Cars, on Seaview radio in North Palm Beach was canceled because the local car dealers threatened to boycott advertising on the station if Seaview continued to broadcast my show on “how not to get ripped off by a car dealer.”
This is especially true of local media. For example, in South Florida if you turn on your TV to a broadcast channel, you’ll likely see a car dealer, lawyer, or a pharmaceutical company advertisement. Without this advertising revenue, these TV channels might go broke.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a call from investigative reporter, Jeff Weinsier, of WPLG, Channel 10 in Ft. Lauderdale. He’d read some of my blogs and seen some of my YouTubes on how not to be taken advantage of by car dealers and asked if I would agree to be interviewed on WPLG, Channel 10. I agreed, did so, and the TV spot aired a short time ago. The subjects were “Why are car dealerships adding extra fees to those buying out their leases and Did you pay a dealer fee when buying out your lease” If so, you’re entitled to a refund, attorney says."

I told the WPLG reporter, Jeff Weinsier, at the time of the interview, how much I respected and admired WPLG for having the courage to go after dishonest car dealers. I told him that I’d been interviewed often by reporters on this subject only to have the story quashed by the TV station or newspaper’s editors. In fact, this happened a few years ago at WPLG. I think we were both a little surprised and relieved when our interview was allowed to air.
If you’re driving a leased car today (about one-third of all drivers are), you can purchase your leased car back from the leasing company at the end of the lease for a very low price, thousands below the actual value. You have an option to purchase the car at the price the leasing company anticipated before the covid pandemic and resulting spike in used and new car prices. The Consumer Leasing Act of 1976 by the Federal Trade Commission guarantees that you can buy your leased car at the option price and that the dealer cannot add any additional charges to the option price. You do have to pay the state’s government fees for sales tax and license plate.
There are two lawyers now in the process of suing a lot of South Florida dealerships for violating the Consumer Leasing Act. Almost all car dealers are breaking this law too and if you are being victimized, you can call either of these two lawyers to help you: Joshua Feygen at 954 697-0357 or Jonathan Kane at 954 523-5123.
Hopefully more TV channels and other media will have the courage to follow the lead of WPLG Channel 10 in Ft. Lauderdale. Virtually every car dealer in Florida including Palm Beach county, all the way north to Duval county, Jacksonville, are violating the Consumer Leasing Act and many other laws on unfair and deceptive trade practices.

Monday, May 16, 2022

If You’re Driving a Leased Car, You May Have a “Happy Ending” Surprise

Leasing has become more and more popular, and today about a third of the cars on the road are leased. If you leased your car two or more years ago, the leasing company didn’t know what was going to happen to the price of new and used cars as the result of the COVID pandemic.
The main variable that determines the size of your monthly lease payment is the depreciation of the vehicle you’re leasing. The total depreciation is calculated by subtracting the estimated value of the leased car at the end of the lease from the cost of the new vehicle. To some extent, leasing companies must “look into their crystal balls” and estimate what the market value of the new car they lease you will be worth as a used car in 3 or 4 years. There are guidebooks for residual values based on historical supply and demand for different makes and models of vehicles. But these studies didn’t anticipate the Covid pandemic and resulting surge in demand and supply chain stoppage that sharply reduced supplies, especially of vehicles.

Consequently, depending on when you leased your vehicle and what make and model you leased, the actual market value may be thousands of dollars higher that your option to purchase it. Many people who lease cars never knew they have an option to purchase it at the anticipated residual value. Most people, if they did know, don’t exercise this option. People generally lease new vehicles because they like to drive a new car every 3 or 4 years and aren’t used car buyers.
Today, you should check the residual value of your lease that is on your lease contract. It’s not prominently displayed and will require some searching on your part. You should then compare this amount with the current market wholesale value of your leased vehicle. It’s easy to get this today because of the huge demand and low supply of used cars. All car dealers are frantically looking for and buying used cars. New companies have sprung up during the pandemic to exploit the high demand and low supply of used vehicles. Some of the new ones are,, and has always been a good place to sell your used car. Include the used car lot for the dealer that sells the make you’re leasing. Get at least three bids to maximize the price you’ll get. You might be able to buy your leased car for thousands of dollars less than what you can immediately resell it for.
The biggest problem you’ll encounter is buying your leased car back from the leasing company at the promised option price. This is because you must go through a franchised dealer for the make of car you leased even though you’re buying it back from the leasing company. There are some leasing companies that will sell you your car back directly, but most require you go through a franchise car dealer for that make.
Almost without exception, the car dealer will try to add profit for himself to your purchase option price, amounting to thousands dollars. You should object strongly, check with other dealers of your make to see if they will be honest with you and call the leasing company directly. The leasing company, even if they won’t buy it directly, can direct you to a dealer who won’t take advantage of you.
Recently, lessees in South Florida have sued two dealers, Gunther Volkswagen, and Brickell Motors for adding profit for themselves to the purchase option prices in their lease contracts. This was reported last month by investigative reporter, Jeff Weinsier, for WPLG, Channel 10 in Ft. Lauderdale. The attorney representing the two lessees is asserting the law that states you cannot charge anything extra for an off-lease car that’s not in the initial lease agreement. The two attorneys suing these dealers are Josh Feygin and Jonathan Kane in case you have a problem with your option to purchase.
Thousands of unwary lessees are returning lease cars to dealers and leasing companies daily and losing the large profit opportunity, thousands of dollars, because they didn’t know or remember they have an option to purchase their lease vehicles at the end of the lease. Please spread the word if you have a friend who’s leasing.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Your Advocate Alliance

Helping You Buy a Car Without Being Ripped Off

I’ve been writing this column and doing a weekly radio show for about 20 years. I often wonder why more people and groups don’t join in to help car buyers buy, lease, and maintain their cars without being taken advantage of. Whenever someone new comes along, I welcome them with open arms, and I congratulate Ray and Zack Shefska for co-founding this group in 2019. Their timing couldn’t have been better…pre-covid and the onset of the greatest auto dealer feeding frenzy, exploiting their customers in over 100 years.

I stumbled across YAA when a regular viewer and listener to my radio show on, Donavan from West “By God” Virginia contacted me. He’s one of our show’s regular and best-informed callers/posters. He had high praise for YAA and soon I received more emails and posts from educated consumers who were members of YAA.
YAA has a highly educated and competent staff of people including Arash Sohelli, PhD and software developer who was also a cofounder. Other staff members specialize in areas like negotiating and pricing, but most of the expertise comes from input of members, real life experiences. YAA reports on dealer’s pricing, sales, and advertising tactics nationwide. There are helpful videos and you can report your personal experiences with dealerships which appear for all members’ perusals.

There’s a free membership available and a paid one. YAA also sells extended warranties for vehicles. They say they derive all their revenue from these to sources. I checked out their pricing on their new car warranty for a new Camry and compared it with the warranty from my warranty company. It was considerably lower than mine, but at the time I’m writing this column, I haven’t had a chance to fairly compare the coverages of these two extended warranties. I will do this and report back to you.

I have a good feeling about YAA and I’m hoping we can work together and grow together to help you, the car buyers of America. You’ll be hearing more about YAA this Saturday morning on my radio show between 8 and 10am EST. You can view it at,, or You can listen on radio at TuneIn radio.
I’m inviting Ray and/or Zack Shefska to call my show this Saturday. The show's number is 877-960-9960, so please give us a call to discuss!

Monday, May 02, 2022

Open Letter to Auto Manufacturers:

I Feel Your Pain

I’m sure you read the April 11 Op-Ed in our auto industry trade journal, Automotive News. You were probably as shocked as I, when you read it. However, you were shocked by the fact that the Automotive News dared to reveal our industry’s dirty little secret in writing, not about the facts of the article, entitled No room for predatory fees, racism in retail, but about the fact that our trade journal dared speak the truth. In the highly unlikely event that you didn’t read this op-ed, just click on this link,
Kudos to Keith E. and K.C. Crain, Auto News editor emeritus and publisher. You’re shining examples of what journalism should be, speaking the truth no matter what the consequences. The Automotive News derives virtually all its revenue, advertising, and subscriptions, from auto manufacturers, auto suppliers, and auto dealers. You “bit the hands that feed you”.
I’m unsure of how many of you know me. I’ve been a car dealer since 1968, including franchises for Pontiac, Mazda, Toyota, Peugeot, Fiat, and even Checker. I currently have only one dealership, Toyota in North Palm Beach, FL. In addition to my dealer hat, I wear the hat of consumer advocate for car-buyers. You can check out my credentials at or read my book, Confessions of a Recovering Car Dealer (available on Amazon). If you Google Earl Stewart, you’ll find I’m quoted often by media, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Auto News, CNN, CBS, NBC, FOX, etc. I’m pretty sure that I’m quoted so often because I’m easily reachable by cell phone and not afraid to speak my mind (like the recent Auto News Op-Ed).
I understand why auto manufacturers have not been more proactive in pushing their dealers to “clean up their act”, but I’m sure that most folks outside our industry don’t understand. As auto manufacturers know, car dealers have actively lobbied in laws through their state legislatures protecting them against you, their manufacturer. When the auto franchise system began, car dealers existed at the whim of the manufacturer. The manufacturer said “jump” and the dealer said, “how high?” You could cancel a dealer’s franchise and replace him or eliminate the franchise entirely for almost any reason. Now, it’s virtually impossible for you to replace or cancel a dealership franchise. The verbiage you use is, “we can’t tell our dealers what to do because they’re independent businessmen”.
There’s another reason why your dealers treat their customers so badly that they rank last in the Gallup annual poll on Honesty and Ethics in Professions. Many of your largest volume dealers are also some of the most dishonest and deceptive. Most auto executives’ compensation and promotions are tied to auto sales volume. There are few industries that are more competitive. All auto makers fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders is higher sales volume and profits. You rely heavier on your big volume dealers to make this happen. You’re afraid to “bite the hands that feed you”.
There’s a third reason why you auto manufacturers have “sat on your hands”, watching your franchised dealers embarrass themselves and the entire auto industry. That reason is that the retail auto business has become so dominated by dealers that employ unethical, deceptive, and even dishonest advertising and sales practices that most want-to-be honest dealers feel compelled to compromise their integrity to survive. A franchised dealer selling Fords or Hondas in his marketplace believes that he cannot advertise prices that are substantially higher than his competitors. His competitor is advertising Fords or Hondas for thousands of dollars less than you (and he) can afford to sell one for. Customers attracted by his advertisements pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in addendums to the MSRP, hidden fees, and junk dealer-installed accessories. The educated consumers who catch this deception, can’t even get a final, official lowest price unless they buy the car then. There’s no other retail product that refuses to give their potential buyers a firm, out-the-door price. This deprives car buyers of their basic, American, economic right to shop and compare product prices.
The final reason that your dealers are out of control and invulnerable is their enormous lobbying power. We hear a lot about “Big Insurance” and the NRA, but car dealers (17,968 as of 2022, most of whom are millionaires), their PAC’s, and their state and national associations pack enormous financial clout. Elected and appointed state regulators and legislators know better that do go after franchised car dealers.
So, here’s my suggestion to you auto manufacturers. You’re all very smart men and women and you know that your industry is going through enormous changes like EV’s and autonomous vehicles. But the biggest change that doesn’t get as much press is the cultural and educationalchanges in your customers. Tie this to the information explosion with the Internet, the Cloud, quantum computing and AI. I know you’ve sensed this which has accelerated in the past 2 ½ years with the COVID pandemic and soaring demand and affluence of your customers. Yes, your profits and your dealers’ profits have NEVER been greater, but the buyers’ ire over being taken advantage of has never been greater either. We’re hearing a lot more about bad car dealers than ever before. Some of you have publicly spoken out and I salute you for that. I’ll bet a lot of you watch the financial news on CNBC. I’ve seen Jim Farley, Bob Carter and other top auto executives apologetically commenting about the behavior of their dealers. You won’t admit this, but most of you have wondered if auto manufacturers will one day sell directly to the consumers like Tesla does. All fifty states have laws against this that were lobbied in by your dealers, and that’s why you haven’t done it a long time ago. If Elon Musk figured out a way to sell direct, I’m betting that you’re working on a plan of action now. Elon was telling the truth when he was quoted as saying he “never had a pleasant experience buying a car”.

Earl Stewart