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Monday, September 25, 2023


How long will it take to get the year-make-model car I want?

Answer: The length of time it takes is inversely proportional to the price you're willing to pay and how particular you are about the color and accessories. This has always been true, but it's more pronounced today due to the scarcity of higher demand cars. A clue is that if a dealer has none, or very few, cars with the year, make, model, and accessories you want, the price, including junk fees, addendums, and dealer-installed accessories, will be significantly above the MSRP. Some manufacturers are building inventories, but the top-selling vehicles are still in short supply. Cars are less expensive now than they were a year ago and are likely to be cheaper next year.

Should I lease or buy?

Answer: My rule of thumb is to buy, though there are exceptions. I advocate buying because leasing typically costs more. Leasing can be more complicated than buying, and complex transactions often favor the seller. Leasing involves numerous variables like lease factor, residual value, inception fee, termination fee, capitalized cost, lease term, and purchase option price. Dealers can exploit any of these to increase their profit, often without the buyer realizing. In contrast, when you buy a car, the primary variable is the price. Once you ascertain the true out-the-door price, you can compare and opt for the best deal. Electric vehicles are an exception. Those that qualify for the government's investment tax credits can be cheaper to lease.

Should I buy a combustion engine, hybrid, or EV vehicle?

Answer: I'd recommend a hybrid. Hybrid technology is mature, efficient, and reliable. Toyota introduced the Prius, the pioneering hybrid, in December 1997. Other manufacturers eventually adopted the technology, leading to increased production and reduced prices. Unless I had a strong preference for a combustion-only vehicle, I'd opt for the hybrid. It may cost more upfront, but the operational costs are lower, and the performance is often better.

Should I buy an extended service contract (warranty)?

Answer: Generally, no. From a cost/benefit perspective, it often doesn't add up. If you pick a reliable car, the maintenance and repair costs are relatively low by historical standards. If you're concerned about a potential expensive repair, instead of buying an extended warranty ($1,000-$3,000+), consider investing that sum in bonds or equities. It's likely you'll use little to none of that investment for car repairs. If you feel the need for an extended warranty, review what's covered and, crucially, what isn't. REMEMBER, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A TRUE BUMPER-TO-BUMPER WARRANTY.

Should I finance my car or pay cash?

Answer: There's no definitive answer. But if you opt to finance, AVOID FINANCING THROUGH THE DEALER. Dealers often earn more from financing than from car sales. Secure a loan through your bank or credit union. The exception is if a car manufacturer offers special low rates as an alternative to a cash discount; you'll have to choose one. Another strategy: during negotiations, don't disclose to the dealer your intention to pay cash. Instead, imply you're considering dealer financing; this may help you secure a better deal, as the dealer might anticipate more profit through the financing.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Open Letter to Florida Attorneys That Represent Aggrieved Auto Buyers

Dear Ms. or Mr. Attorney,

First, allow me to commend you for representing one of the most unprotected groups of consumers in Florida. While buyers of insurance, real estate, food, pharmaceuticals, and almost any other product enjoy considerable protection from attorneys and local, state, and federal agencies, automobile buyers often find themselves without such safeguards. There are myriad reasons for this oversight: a dearth of government agencies, politicians, and attorneys ready to counter car dealers who flagrantly use bait-and-switch advertising tactics and partake in unfair and deceptive trade practices.

It's no secret that Florida is home to a vast number of lawyers. A simple Google search reveals that over 107,000 individuals are members of the Florida Bar. However, few among them are willing to challenge car dealers who exploit their customers. Alarmingly, there’s scarcely a mention of this concern by media outlets, the office of Attorney General Ashley Moody, or politicians ranging from Governor DeSantis down to local representatives. The disproportionate influence of the Big Auto lobby, which operates with significant clout yet remains less conspicuous than groups like the NRA or Big Insurance, is a likely culprit. Their ability to "fly under the radar" makes them even more formidable.

For over two decades, I've authored blog posts, penned newspaper columns, and hosted a weekly radio segment on "Earl on Cars" at True Oldie stations every Saturday from 8-10 am EST. Each week, an undercover "mystery shopper" visits various Florida car dealerships on my behalf. Posing as a prospective buyer, this agent then reports their findings on my live talk show, where I openly share the names of the salespeople, managers, and dealerships involved. My ethos is to "tell it like it is." Whenever a state or federal law has been violated, I don't hesitate to mention it. Regrettably, in approximately half of these numerous mystery shops, a law has been breached. Even more disconcertingly, around 90% of these visits uncover unethical, unfair, and deceptive behavior in both dealer actions and advertisements. As a legal professional, you might find this revelation intriguing: despite my candid exposés of car dealers on live radio, I’ve yet to face a lawsuit. I've certainly received threats, but as you well know, the truth stands as an impeccable defense against accusations of libel and slander.

Every week, distressed car buyers share their experiences on my show, narrating tales of exploitation at the hands of Florida dealers. Often, when I inquire if they’ve sought legal counsel, they express the challenges of finding an attorney to champion their cause. This is the impetus behind my letter. If you're willing to address the grievances of car buyers who reach out to me, please get in touch. I promise to connect you with numerous aggrieved individuals and feature your contact details on You can reach me directly at 561-358-1474.

Warm regards,

Earl Stewart