Car Dealership

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‘I know what I want’: 5 tips to avoid getting scammed at the car dealership 

‘This is just ridiculous. Stay safe out there guys.’

 

Ljeonida Mulabazi

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Car salesmen and dealerships do not have the best reputation among customers in the U.S. Complaints for these operations vary from bait-and-switch tactics, hidden fees, poor customer service, and more.

This is precisely why the Federal Trade Commission introduced a new initiative called CARS (Combating Auto Retail Scams) last year—which is meant to protect buyers by blocking dealerships from employing their most common tricks to swindle consumers. 

However, despite the introduction of the initiative, CARS still hasn’t come into effect and is currently in judicial review. Consequently, individual reports of dealership scams persist. 

As a PSA for anyone who might have to deal with a car dealership soon, we’ve listed five instances of blatant dealership scams, along with lessons on how to avoid them if they happen to you.

Always read the fine print

Car buyer catches Dodge dealership tacking-on thousands of dollars in random fees
@q.ed1tz/TikTok mino21/Adobe Stock (Licensed)

A finance influencer, Hoodrich Credit, vlogged his experience with a Chevrolet dealership that, according to him, tried to scam him out of thousands of dollars. 

A small clip from his full vlog was reposted to TikTok by user @q.ed1tz, who says the video is “hands down one of the most absurd dealership scam attempts” he’s ever seen in his life.

In Hoodrich Credit’s original vlog, we can see him going to a Chevrolet dealership with a friend to trade in his Dodge Charger for a used Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

Initially, the car was listed at $57,000, but after finalizing the deal, the total cost ballooned to $72,500. This significant increase came from dubious fees such as a $2,495 “Tropical Advantage” plan, a $1,199 used vehicle inspection, a hefty $2,781.68 for used vehicle conditioning, and other similar fees.

It’s in cases like these where you should pay close attention to the fine print. Make sure to read through all charges associated with the purchase, and question whatever fee you find unreasonable. 

As @q.ed1tz puts it, “This is just ridiculous. Stay safe out there guys. Geez.” 

Save all your records

Man talking(l+r), Car dealership(c)
KELENY/Shutterstock @lyndan99/Tiktok (Licensed)

TikTok user Lyndan (@lyndan99), who says he is a former car industry worker, recently exposed a deceitful tactic in a viral video.

Lyndan shares a friend’s story who, after negotiating a car price, discovered the dealership had secretly added a warranty he didn’t want. According to Lyndan, when the friend asked for the warranty to be removed, the dealership raised his interest rate by half a percentage point.

Lyndan then advised him, “That’s absolutely illegal. Call him back and have him lower that interest rate.”

After threatening legal action, his friend got the original deal. Lyndan’s key message is, “If they do it to you, they’re doing it to others.” Always secure copies of all documents to protect yourself when making big purchases like these.

Do your research beforehand

Woman catches car dealership lying to her about her own credit report
@thelolafabiolaa/TikTok David Gyung/ShutterStock (Licensed)

In a TikTok video, user Lola (@thelolafabiolaa), says two different car dealerships were trying to “finesse” her, but she had done too much research to be fooled. 

After her Mercedes was totaled in an accident, she visited a dealership to buy a new car—only to face shady sales tactics.

Despite telling the salesman she didn’t want to put money down, they pushed a $4,000 down payment, then dropped it to $2,000, only to raise it to $6,000 again.

She also caught the finance manager lying about her own credit report. Lola said she walked out, stating, “You’re not going to upsell me. I know what I want.”

At another dealership, they tried to say her Mercedes wasn’t on her credit report, but she insisted and eventually drove off with her desired car.

Lola’s advice is to do your research and stand your ground. Before heading to the dealership, secure financing from your bank or credit union to prevent dealerships from manipulating interest rates. Lola also advises viewers to always get copies of all documents and not to hesitate to walk away if something feels off.

Don’t fall for the ‘T Sheet trick’

Man talking(l+r), Honda sign(c)
Colin Temple/Shutterstock @tomislavmikula/Tiktok (Licensed)

Buying a car can be tricky, but car-buying expert Tomi Mikula (@tomislavmikula) shared a particularly shady experience in a viral TikTok video.

In his video, Mikula detailed how a dealership tried to scam one of his clients during a negotiation.

“I don’t use the word shady lightly,” Mikula says. 

He explains how a signed T sheet, which he says should be “good as gold,” was manipulated to inflate the car price by $1,200 while falsely adjusting the taxes. When confronted, the manager blamed a “new” employee but refused to correct the price.

Tomi’s advice: “Make sure you know whether you’re talking about the ‘out-the-door’ price, which includes all taxes and fees, or just the sale price of the car.” 

Don’t fall for trade-in traps

Car buyer catches Buick GMC dealership costing customer thousands of dollars on trade-in truck
@loading.ny/TikTok Bill/Adobe Stock (Licensed)

TikToker @loading.ny shared another case of a dealership’s shady tactics. 

He reposted a clip from Youtuber C.W Lemoine’s video, who filmed his experience with a Buick-GMC dealership.

During negotiations, Lemoine had agreed on a trade-in value for his truck and assumed he was simply arriving to sign some documents and finalize the purchase.

But when he arrived to finalize the deal, the dealership boss, Luke, claimed unexpected issues with the truck’s tires, attempting to lower the trade-in value.

Lemoine, who had text messages proving he never claimed the tires were perfect, confronted the boss saying, “Are we doing this deal or not?” When the boss wouldn’t honor the agreed price, Lemoine walked out.

This example teaches us to keep trade-in details until the end to avoid such pitfalls. Always get everything in writing and be prepared to walk away if the deal turns shady.

 
The Daily Dot