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Protect yourself from car buying predatory practices

car buying
Posted at 4:58 PM, Sep 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-08 16:58:43-04

John Mobley is no amateur at buying vehicles. The Air Force veteran, now a technical college instructor, was in the market for a new vehicle this year, and his heart was set on a new Toyota Supra.

He started his search online near his hometown of Augusta, Georgia.

“I found some places that were saying they had them, but then they really didn’t have them,” he recalled.

Mobley kept researching the car and found a dealership in nearby South Carolina that had the vehicle he was looking for. Mobley got pre-approved through his credit union for a loan. The dealership website had the car price listed online but he says it later disappeared. At the dealership, Mobley started reviewing the paperwork on the vehicle and saw a fee he didn’t recognize at first.

“I was like ADM; what is ADM? Then as it hit me. The guy said, ‘That’s the adjusted dealer markup’ I’m like, ‘Over $8,000?”

Mobley says the staff told him the car was hot and that’s why they were charging more than the MSRP, the manufacturer suggested retail price. He says they also tried to re-arrange the financing to make the payments different, but the price was the same. He walked away from that deal and ended up finding the same new car in New Jersey.

“From beginning to end, they were professional and they said we don’t do dealer markups,” he said of the New Jersey dealership.

So, Mobley bought a one-way plane ticket to New Jersey and drove home in his new car.

Mobley is one of hundreds of people that sent their auto buying experience stories to Consumer Reports.

Chuck Bell with Consumer Reports says it’s not uncommon to see vehicle markups as high as $20,000. The advocacy organization is drawing attention to the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed rule changes to better protect car buyers.

It would do things like ban bait-and-switch claims by auto sellers. It would also ban fraudulent and surprise junk fees. It would require full upfront disclosure of costs and conditions of vehicle sales.

The FTC estimates the rule would save consumers more than $29 billion over a decade.

For now, Bell and other consumer advocates suggest consumers get a price in writing before going to a dealership. Watch out for any add-ons in vehicle features but also in financing and services, and most of all, be patient and be prepared to walk away from a deal if things aren’t adding up.

“If I can pass the knowledge onto somebody to help them better their situation, I’m more than willing to do so,” Mobley said.

You have until Monday, Sept. 12 to comment on the proposed rule change by the FTC.

You can submit comments here online.