Do you know these tricks?
The following is a field guide to prepare you for what you’ll experience in most car dealerships.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, there’s a game being played around you.
Unfortunately, if you want to get a fair deal and drive away with the car you really want, you need to be ready for the tricks that are waiting for you at many car dealerships.
This is not a comprehensive list, but a highlight reel of the car-buying horror stories and big reasons why our customers prefer the way we do business over places they’ve bought in the past.
These tips alone could save you a lot of money, time, and stress that most people experience when shopping for cars.
Trick #1: The “Doc-Fee” And Other Made Up Charges
If you’ve ever bought a vehicle somewhere besides Pettijohn Auto, you’ve probably seen added fees on your paperwork. They come in all shapes and sizes and by different names, but they all exist to “sneak” in a few extra hundred dollars onto every deal.
Some dealers call it a Documentation Fee, but due to legal limitations (dealers can only charge up to $199.99 for a “doc fee” in the state of Missouri) they’ve started calling the fee by other names. Administration fee, restocking fee, service fee, sales consultant fee, and the dozens of others. And while some dealers won’t charge you any “fees” per say, they’ll penalize you to the tune of $1,200 or more if you choose not to finance or if you don’t have a trade in.
*image used for illustration purposes only – Pettijohn Auto Center does not charge admin or documentation fees or force customers to forfeit any discounts
How To Avoid It:
This is a tough trick to avoid because 99% of dealers have some sort of hidden fee or penalty baked into their sales process. And while some will have disclaimers on their website listing out the dollar amount of the fees, but most dealers won’t mention any fees until you’ve decided to buy and you’re signing the papers…
Trick #2: The Super-Low Monthly Payment
How many times have you been listening to the radio or watching tv and watched an ad peddling a new vehicle for just $99 a month?
*This is NOT an offer from Pettijohn Auto Center – image used for illustration purposes only
At first glance this sounds like an awesome deal. For just $99 a month you can be behind the wheel of a brand new car. But here’s the catch. First, these offers are almost always for leasing the vehicle, not buying it outright. Second, to bring your monthly payment to that figure you’ll likely have to pay up to $5,000 cash up front plus the additional fees and charges for the lease. The problem is, the only way you’ll hear about these catches is if you relentlessly read the fine print, if it’s even posted, on the website (which in the example above, it is.) Just remember this, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
How To Avoid It:
Do your research and read the fine print. 90% of the time you’ll find fine print on a tv ad or website that explains the details of the deal. However, sometimes you’ll never know for sure until you’re signing the papers.
The best way to avoid this confusion is to find a salesperson you trust and ask them to explain the deal. Ask them how much is due up front and what the terms of the deal are. If they can’t give you a straight-forward answer, then you’ll know there’s more to the story and you’re probably going pay more than it appears at first glance.
Trick #3: Mark ‘em Up To Mark ‘em Down
I cringe every time I see a tv ad or hear a commercial on the radio promising $10 THOUSAND OFF EVERYTHING ON THE LOT. Here’s why…
Many dealers will do everything they can to make the “discount” look huge. The “before” price is almost always thousands above market price or what any customer would even think about paying for it. On new vehicles they’ll look at the window sticker and use the “top” price on the sticker before all the “discounts” taken off to arrive at Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). Oftentimes these markdowns are for options not included on the current model.
The Second, and biggest reason you need to beware of giant discounts is this; if you read the fine print, the $10 THOUSAND off can assume a trade allowance of $5,000 or more. They actually include the estimated value of a trade in the discount posted. If you don’t have a trade in, the $10 grand discount all of a sudden becomes a $5 grand discount.
Next, they’ll include every possible rebate under the sun (even if most people don’t have a chance to qualify for them) and stack them all together. For example, some dealers include military, supplier, and employee discounts that most customers won’t qualify for but it helps them show a bigger discount on the final price.
How to avoid it:
Read the fine print and do some back-of-the-napkin math.
Let’s say the tv commercial promises a $10,000 discount. First we need to figure out what “original price” they’re using before applying the discount. A quick Google search reveals the MSRP of almost any vehicle.
If you go to pettijohnauto.com and you’ll see the MSRP listed on the top line.
If the price they’re starting out with is above MSRP, then you know they’re artificially marking up the price of the vehicle just to show a bigger discount.
Now, take that MSRP minus Manufacturer Incentives. This will give you a baseline price to work with.
Finally, we’re going to find out what the true price you’ll pay (before any hidden fees that may show up when you go to sign the papers). Take that number and add to that price any rebates included in the fine print that you might not qualify for (military discounts, supplier pricing, employee discounts, etc.).
Go back and compare what you’re at to the original price they’re offering. If it’s more then you know they’re artificially marking it up to show a bigger discount or stacking rebates that many people just won’t qualify for. If it’s still less, then it’s either a good deal or there’s more to the story and you might not find out about the added fees or forfeited discounts until you’re in the dealership signing papers…
As you can see there’s a lot of work involved when you’re trying to figure the true price of a car! We decided it’s easier to just post the real prices on our website that you’ll actually end up paying for the vehicle. It’s easier for us to be up front about it and it’s better for you because you actually end up paying the price you think you’ll pay.
How To Get The Most Out Of This Guide And Avoid These Tricks Altogether
Print this guide and keep it handy for the next time you’re thinking about buying a vehicle. If you want to avoid the needless costs, stress, and time that come from being unprepared for these selling tricks, then you’ll want to know these 3 tricks by heart.
If you have any questions about the 3 tricks above, leave your question at pettijohnauto.com/contact or call 660-425-2244 and we’ll be glad to help you avoid these dirty tricks and help you find the vehicle you want at a fair price.