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AutoBuyology 101©

An Arts & Sciences Crash Ph.D. Course in Carlessnessology 101©
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"If you want to control people, promise them freedom..." - L. Ron Hubbard

The Consumer Driven Car Deal
(Defensively) A Hard Bargain"

Fixing The Dings In The "Great" American Car Deal & Paving the Consumer's Toll Free Lane on the Car Deal Highway

Mobilizing Auto Consumers in the Marketplace

Deal Negotiating Strategies
Dinging the Manufacturer and Dealer

Very long page follows (Print?)

Driving A Hard Bargain

Climb behind the wheel of
the consumer driven car deal...
and swerve to avoid the
highway robbe
DING the Dealer and
Ding the Manufacturer
on Negotiated Profits

  • The following is a listing of some car deal related considerations for empowering, motivating, & mobilizing consumers in consumerizing (jump-start it, or give it a push, but don't wait for the auto or banking and loan-lending industry or your government to help) the Great American Car Deal.
  • You may wish to consider and pass along these thoughts to friends and relatives for further discussion, consideration, reflection, improvement and adjustment or tailoring to individual personal circumstances, politics and tastes and "market forces." Before negotiating car sales, lease or service deals, pick up a book or two or three (they all have some new twist or angle on evening up the car deal score) on car buying and negotiating and spend some quality time with these books.
  • Find as much information and wisdom as you can about car dealer "dealing by the numbers" techniques which are referred to collectively as "System Selling." These dealing tricks have inflated profits for the auto industry and ripped-off our friends and families for decades. Oh, the automobile and dealing industry recently "celebrated" its 100th birthday. So, why do you suppose they are called "dealers"?
  • Before dealing with an automobile dealer or manufacturer, obtain a certified copy of the manufacturer's and the dealer's AUTO CONSUMER'S BILL (Invoice) OF RIGHTS (dealers and manufacturers will not know what you are talking about, but demand it anyway until the dealer fakes one or provides the genuine article), and keep in mind that anything in writing from the dealer or manufacturer will have to be enforced by the consumer after sale. Some dealers may fake a few hoop jumps to move a unit off the lot, and stall out on follow-up and compliance after sale. Its the oldest trick in and out of the book (owner's manual). What are warranties for, anyway? To move units off the lot at inflated prices. Its a moving unit...!
    • Beware of turbo-charged industry lip service (salespersonship and advertising) being paid to lure consumers down to the dealer (trolling for suckers). Such manufacturer advertisements and material fake an earnest attempt to make dealing and service fairer and cleaner. Remember that manufacturers have said that they have no control over their authorized dealers, and you will hear this especially loudly after a deal turns sour. These ads and materials, some cleverly pandering to consumer angst by spoofing the classic car deal shams are an acknowledgment of the deep traditions of sham in the industry, and do not represent any substantive difference in the treatment of consumers. Trust your instincts and the general public reputation of the automobile industry.

    If the dealer promises you the moon during deal and price negotiations, get it in writing, and do not be surprised if you get mooned after buying it... nothing personal, just business = the economics of capitalist relationships...(:-)

      Car dealing remains a shabby anti-consumer business. This industry will say and do anything to lure and milk more consumers -- even try to sell itself as honest and fair in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Things must be awfully competitive out there in dealer land, that this industry would acknowledge in its ads its shameful "past" practices. Don't buy it, the industry is no cleaner or fairer today than it was fifty or a hundred years ago. Ding the dealer and ding the manufacturer on every new car deal or lease. This industry has earned the public's ire and wrath.

    • Pick up Remar Sutton's books at the library or bookstore and read what he says about "System Selling," the dealer's major weapon against consumers in car dealing. Shift "System Selling" into reverse and engage the dealer in "System Buying" where you keep in mind and keep reminding the dealer that the dealer wants and needs your money more than you want or need the trouble of another expensive, over-priced, and potentially problematic new or used car. Avoid over-valuing an inanimate, shiny thin tin, plastic and glass object which has been designed to become obsolete with next year's new models.

    The proof in this is the depths dealers and manufacturers go to lure consumers with worthless advertising and sham sales tactics labeled as customer service bromides. As the dealer tries to make you feel uncomfortable (guilt manipulation) about not accepting an unreasonably high price--asking you what you are going to do to make the deal happen, remind the dealer that you are offering a fair price for an overpriced product of mediocre quality and potentially endless and expensive problems regardless of warranty or lemon law, and ask the dealer what he or she is going to do to provide you the vehicle your want at a fair price. Most lemon laws are themselves lemons. Consumers are on their own in enforcing lemon laws and warranties after purchase.

    • Develop self-respect as a consumer. Stop expecting this industry or your government to clean up the auto industry unless forced to do so by enough consumers demanding fairness in automobile sales and service practices. Australia has comprehensive consumer protection laws and enforcement in car sales and service practices, including training, testing and licensing of dealers and including full documentation and disclosures of defects and hidden damage repairs. Why don't we? Because we have let the automobile industry puppet our government in watering down, postponing or killing real consumer, safety and environmental protection.

    Fair consumer protection laws would protect consumers, honest dealers and manufacturers and our economy by boosting consumer confidence. Dealers who cannot compete fairly shouldn't be in the business. A country or society that would continue to permit an industry to run roughshod over it like the automobile industry has done for decades shows little in the way of collective intelligence or cultural self respect. This can be changed. Until now the auto industry has bought off government with consumer money. Its time consumers demanded a fair return on their investment in this industry and their government.

  • Unfair, manipulative, and fraudulent auto sales and service practices represent a hidden tax on consumers -- cleaning up (professionalizing) the industry would be far less expensive and would benefit consumers, the industry and our economy.
  • Be wary of lease deals (do not lease a car as lease deals generally favor the dealer over the consumer--know what you are doing before leasing) as dealers are failing or refusing to disclose lease rates (dealers are required to disclose purchase loan interest rates, but are not required to disclose the costs of leasing or lease rates which is essentially the lease interest rate or costs for leasing a car), inflating lease deal capitalization costs (the total cost of leasing the car) by the value of trade-ins, and other unsavory and anti-consumer practices.
    • A Toyota Dealer was reported in a major daily newspaper to have lease-sell dealt a $12,000 Toyota for $26,000 to an unsuspecting and overly trusting consumer. 2000 auto consumers in Florida who thought they were buying cars outright were leased vehicles instead. Heads-up and CARveat Emptor.
    • Consider obtaining a business function calculator (borrow the dealer's) and learn how to use it before negotiating for a car purchase or lease deal. Such calculators have programs for calculating the costs and percentages of interest rates and other important business factors. Remember to toggle the ding dong dealer factor on your calculator before settling on price. Every car sold in American is priced thousands more than its intrinsic and consumer value. Do not pay a dime over what the vehicle is worth, which is somewhere around the cost of making the product plus a small or token profit to the manufacturer for its troubles. Consider that most retailers mark up their products 50% to 100% of its wholesale costs. The auto manufacturer merely pads the window sticker price similarly, which includes a sales incentive or "hold back" in most cases of between 3% to 5% or more which is paid to or kept by the dealer upon sale of the vehicle (in addition to the dealer's markup you negotiate as a fair market price of the vehicle). Keep these issues in mind when negotiating price. Hold the dealer and manufacturer's take on every vehicle to the absolute minimum over the cost of making and delivering the vehicle. The gross profit on some of the new super Sport Utility Vehicles is reported to be $20,000.
    • One business or economic philosophy increasingly espoused by business schools and consultants (gurus) has it that the main purpose of any business enterprise is to make as large a profit as possible for their stockholders. Of course this is not true, but it is true that the main function of consumers in the marketplace is to check profit creep and gouging by negotiating fair profits on car deals and leases. Once was when our economic system was sold by business schools as a means for the equitable distribution of goods and services in society. This has evolved to the hyper-profits first theory... most likely from an MBA candidate with too much time on its hands.
  • Consider obtaining a voice activated pocket tape recorder which may inadvertently be left on in a purse or inside jacket or breast pocket during deal discussions. Recorded representations discovered after the fact may assist in reminding sales staff about promises or representations made prior to, during or after sale. Some recorders can be fitted to a phone for recording phone conversations as well. Recorders and miniature video cameras may be velcroed to the inside of the hood or engine compartment or wheel well of vehicles being left for repairs to pick up repair shop talk, too. Please check your local, state and federal regulations on the legality of recording and using taped private conversations, and proceed accordingly in your own best interests. Sometimes it may be found that playing back a recorded discussion may help in resolving a dealer problem before unresolved legitimate issues escalate into a more serious collision, although even this may not persuade the more jaded of dealers or mechanics. CARveat Emptor - increasingly the truth is used to bamboozle sales and service customers...Bring along Morley Safer of 60 Minutes if he's game, or Leslie Stahl if she's available. Get it all on video if possible.
  • Compartmentalize, break-up or segment the deal. Keep the deal simple. Break the deal up into its several separate aspects to more easily manage the deal and to avoid confusion--dealers are good at creating confusion and exploiting it to their profitability. Negotiate price separately on, (1) the new or used vehicle, (2) on the trade in (if you trade in you old car -- you likely will do better by selling the vehicle yourself through private sale on the open market than by trading it in on a deal to a dealer), (3) on the interest rate of your loan (if you borrow from the manufacturer or seller), (4) on lease deals, negotiate the Cap Costs which is the total cost of the vehicle and options and the lease fees. Also negotiate and obtain commitments and representations in writing for the responsibility for maintenance and the purchase option price or residual value of the vehicle at the end of the lease.

    Negotiate the total price of any deal, and avoid being suckered into buying based on what you can afford for monthly payments. Under no circumstances tell a car dealer your budget or what you can afford to spend -- a common, critical and stupid consumer mistake. Beware of the dealer's natural tendency to sell-up; to try to sell you a larger, different or more expensive car then the one which you feel meets your personal needs and budget, or to sell you down from the vehicle you want. Don't be sold-up. Buy what you want for your price.
    • Recall the consumer who paid $26,000 for that $12,000 Toyota, and avoid the same mistake. Usually, low advertised interest rates require purchasing the vehicle at the dealer's or manufacturer's window sticker price and may be limited by a time period. Shop vehicle pricing, and loan interest rates around between several sources and if you decide to buy, consider opting for the best total price including interest rate or loan costs, make as large a down payment as you can budget to keep payments and interest lower. The typical dealer forms which include spaces for the new car price, loan and interest rates and trade-in allowances are often confusing and may be used by a "sharp" salesperson to milk a deal by hiding trade-in allowances, interest rates and etc. The confusing auto contract forms must be another customer service feature. Service in the rear, read the small print on the back of the form... with a magnifying glass?
  • Paying cash only saves consumers the interest costs of a loan. Dealers and manufacturers get the equivalent of cash regardless of whether you pay cash or obtain a loan. Try to obtain a loan from a third party such as a credit union or bank after shopping and negotiating interest rates, rather than financing vehicles with dealers or manufactures, as typically you will end up paying more in buying and financing with the dealer. Consider the full total price of the car purchase with all costs included, including loan interest costs, insurance, warranty maintenance service charges, etc. Compare total "out the door", "off the lot", or "in traffic" costs. If you cannot understand what the final cost is, do not sign the contract or buy the vehicle until you do. If the dealer's contract is confusing, have the dealer write out the final and total costs of the vehicle and spell out each credit, and have this checked by an independent third party knowledgeable in auto buying.

    Would you like fries with that... or how about our value meal?

    • Avoid being sold redundant or unnecessary dealer applied or installed clear-coating, rust proofing or other dealer applied or supplied extras unless you feel particularly charitable. Generally these items are unnecessary and are expensive far beyond their worth, garnering huge profit margins for the dealer. Beware the fancy label trick. Clear-coating may be called by some fancy name. If its applied at all, and often it isn't even applied, its usually invisible, and more importantly, its unnecessary.

      A good way to avoid being surprised with last minute sales pressures and add-ons or dealer remembered extras (surprises) is to
      obtain a copy of all deal related paperwork and a written disclosure of all services or dealer applied or supplied extras the dealer will try to sell you at deal closing or signing of the contract. Obtaining this information well in advance of closing the deal, giving you plenty of time to read the fine print away from the dealership, will better prepare you for dealing with the dealer when completing the deal, and it establishes you as a consumer in charge of the deal. Be ready for the last minute sale add-ons where the dealer tries to milk the deal (the consumer) by taking advantage of your "emotional momentum or investment" after you have made up your mind to purchase. One secret to selling is to ask yes only answer questions. Beware the "yes" answer momentum and the pressure to be agreeable and to answer questions with a positive response... be polite and sociable, but firm... be parsimonious with personal consumer information, as agreement and disclosure can become a communicable disease in car dealing.

      If a dealer tries to load-up a deal with lots of extras, either walk, or inquire whether the manufacturer didn't supply a fully completed product. Before paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for often unneeded dealer add-ons or extras, take a break, and leave the dealership to evaluate the sales pitch, and research the suggested extra[s]. Why would you pay extra for dealer installed clear-coating when the manufacturer has already lacquered or clear-coated the vehicle at the factory? Was the vehicle damaged in transit or on the dealer's lot? Many are, including high-end luxury models. If so, make sure to negotiate a much lower price for the vehicle or ask for a new and defect free vehicle. Remember, dealer installed air-conditioning (vs., factory installed air conditioning) is commonly problematic and subject to maintenance problems. If you want air conditioning, its generally better to buy it factory installed.
  • Before dealing, obtain a copy of a list of all dealer products or services which will be pitched to you after you have committed to the deal and are ready to sign the final contract paperwork. This is the time when a consumer's "emotional momentum or commitment" or desire to "get it over with" can lead to huge deal add-ons. Note specifically how the dealer deals the cards (presents the forms), including the order in which the forms presented ? Consider turning the stacked deck over or shuffling up the dealers cards if they are not presented in a logical order or as you are otherwise comfortable with. Typically a deal is not considered fully executed until the contract is signed and the consumer takes possession of the vehicle, which usually means driving it off the lot.

    Check with your local District Attorney to determine the auto deal "drop dead-its your's" point in your area. Use the knowledge of this point to your advantage in negotiating (milking) the deal. Sign some of the preliminary forms and hold back on the actual contract. As you get closer to the contract, demand (politely) a few extra extras as the salesperson salivates over his or her commission -- if you leave any for him or her on the table.
  • Nope, no bringing it back within three days (some manufacturers are luring consumers with 30 day bring back deals--read the fine print). This only counts in horseshoes and mortgage lending, if at all. You bought it, you own it, its your's sucker! Now, go find your own road or pathfinder...? Finally, some dealers are having to compete by offering three day return offers. Check out the fine print, and evaluate the entire deal against other alternatives, including the, "Don't Have A CAR, Man!" auto-motive alternative deal.
  • New car consumers may be able to negotiate the car manufacturer and the dealer on price, profit and quality, before being dinged by the long-held traditions of ding-dong factors in new and used car deals. These ding-dong factors are what make car buying an experience considered by most consumers to be something to be avoided "at all cost" when possible (many people prefer going to the dentist than buying a car). Wearing a clothespin on one's nose is an apt metaphor for how many consumers feel and talk about the Great American Car Deal. However, it will not fix sour deals, nor stem the stench of some deals, nor repair the reputation car dealers and manufacturers have earned for themselves from the general public and car consumers over the decades for the questionable sales and service practices of unscrupulous industry practitioners. The industry could be doing itself a favor by policing itself up of sham auto dealers and mechanics. Unfortunately, this will not happen, unless and until consumers decide that enough is enough and haul the Great American Car Deal in to the repair shop for a major overhaul. Removing the screws in car deals is a long term process.

    Smooshed consumers, road kill on the car deal highway)

    • Graciously expect parking lots full of resistance from dealers and manufacturers on negotiated profit deals. Dealers and sales staff will do or say nearly anything to pay the rent, keep the overhead overhead, and maintain their Gucci lifestyles. Be very watchful of dealers trying to pass off damaged goods or products of less value on negotiated deals. Many consumers believing and expecting to get defect-free new cars, found out later that the new car they paid a premium price for came with undisclosed options of hidden damage repairs or undisclosed damage or defects. Not all new cars of the same make are the same. Shift changes at the factory may result in differences in the quality of vehicle production runs. It has been known to happen that wrong parts, including major drive train features have been installed in unintended vehicle models and shipped and sold. Customer service and satisfaction is merely a goal of varying degrees of commitment, not a promise or guarantee, although it may be promised (sight unseen) to induce consumers to frog onto "such a deal..."

      Remember, dealers treat customers like numbers (usually with a smile and firm handshake -- count your fingers) through what is known as System Selling techniques. It pays for them to do this, because they don't know how much a consumer knows until they try everything in their arsenal of car deal tricks to inflate the price of the vehicle and milk the deal with add-ons or forgotten, er., remembered extras after a customer has been low-balled back to the dealer with a fantastically low price, only to find the price increased with each new service or extra the salesperson includes in the final price. Without good consumer protection laws, car buying and dealing is "whatever traffic allows," (smooshed consumers, road kill on the car deal highway) and until the laws are enacted and enforced to take the industry to task for its shortcomings, this situation will remain. Even with good laws, there will continue to be sham in automobile sales and service. But, strong customer protection laws would give the industry a fairness target to shoot at (in addition to consumers) and would hold sham artists to account when caught red-handed with the exhaust.
  • Become a Guerrilla Car Consumer. Check out "Guerrilla Marketing," and "Guerrilla Selling," by Jay Conrad Levison, at your library or leaf through them at your local book store, and see who is targeting whom in the cross-haired jungle warfare in the "free"-for-all marketplace, and note the caliber of weapons and volume of ammunition deployed to target and exploit markets (read: consumers). Target back by shifting the consumer / merchant roles into reverse... ding back, first!

    Become a Guerrilla Car Consumer and employ Guerrilla Selling techniques to sell your service as a consumer in the automobile marketplace. Work the consumer guerrilla agenda and learn ways to avoid being manipulated or picked-off by the dealer's or manufacturer's sales or marketing agendas and staff (snipers). Beware of dealer manipulations to make consumers feel guilty (guilt manipulation) or pressure to settle for less than the consumer's best deal. Be aware of the tendency of dealers to exploit the anxiety factor in car buying (which they have helped to cultivate)... be aware of your time investment in dealing...and avoid the tendency to settle for less value in order to be done with it. Discount everything the dealer discloses about the deal and the vehicle and keep all dealer representations in perspective--its only a car, don't pay too much for it regardless of it size, cache or shine factor, or how much you "gotstahaveitz". OK, so you want it real bad, you still don't have to pay too much for it, and you certainly don't have to be cheated on undisclosed defects or hidden damage repairs. CARveat Emptor. Rehearse your take-it-or-leave-it guerrilla consumer demeanor (firm and always friendly) on a few dealers before settling in for the kill, er., deal.
  • An Unexamined Life Isn't Worth Consuming...(Yum, yummy, crunchy human)

    A recent University Extension School class schedule featured "Psychology of Buying"...[This is a misnomer, as this class teaches merchandisers and salespeople how to "read" or psyche out customers in order to manipulate their values and create needs or to make connections between a product and some illusionary relationship to fulfill manufactured and real human needs... not to provide a service, but rather to affect sales and ring up record profits... service is merely the straw-middleman to the end-game of record profits... the best way not to bet ripped off in the increasingly manipulative marketplace is to "know thyself", and the methodologies of sales manipulation.

    • Stages of development, personality factors
    • Social conformity, individuality and other needs
    • The importance of ego
    • Types of customers / consumers and methods of communications
    • Cognitive and social role styles
    • Hierarchy of values
    • Perception
    • Risk vs. safety needs
    • Methods of learning, training and changing. Participants can gain a sophisticated awareness of customer motivations including the importance of building long-term positive customer relationships and the real meaning of providing total quality and service [ostensibly as opposed to the faked variety...?]
    • Also see "Servicing Marketing"

    Check out similar classes at your local university extension program or obtaining the course textbook may be just the ticket for not getting "sold" on a product or service based on trumped up needs or wants... as long as merchandisers and retailers are going to push your buttons, you may as well learn where they are...

    • Are you being Freuded or Skinnered? Freuding is marketing by using psychological needs for social acceptance and group association, personal identity, safety, personal values, etc. Skinnering is using operant conditioning or (pseudo) rewards psychology... sometimes know as "good doggie" marketing or sales tricks. The membership discounts cards used by some grocery chains or other stores are a good example of Skinnering (named after B.F. Skinner, the famous Harvard behaviorist who wrote, "Without Marx or Jesus."). Rebates are another form of operant conditioning or skinnering. This is designed to make you think or feel as though you are getting a good deal or a rebate when in fact you are still paying an inflated price for the vehicle. The rebate is the dog biscuit tossed to consumers for performing stupid consumer tricks. Don't buy it... Don't be Freuded or Skinnered. Work your personal values and needs agenda, and don't let the dealer or manufacturer play chickenshit games with your needs and wants to affect a sale or rip you and your family off for an inflated profit.

    Buzz Off...

    • Be aware of the new car "buzz" factor and don't rush a deal or pay too much merely to have it over with -- that's not service, its being "serviced". Beware the new car "feel good factor" to the extent this may unduly sway your objective consumer skills. Avoid becoming emotionally attached to any inanimate object, especially a new automobile, no matter how pretty or expensive it may be. Request written documentation of all dealer or sales representations, and keep in mind that anything in writing from this industry is doubtful to be worth the paper its written on, as such information may depreciate the value of otherwise good paper. The consumer's agenda is to get the most value/best vehicle with as many options and extras for the lowest cost. While the manufacturer and dealer are free to ask any price they wish, and consumers are free to pay any price they wish, the prudent guerrilla consumer pays only as much as any product, especially "large ticket" items are worth, which is seldom much more than it costs to make and deliver it. In some cases this is less than the cost to make and deliver the product. This is often thousands less than the asking, expected or inflated price of most automobiles.

      Yep, that's right, we all have paid way too much for the average automobile, way too much, far more than most cars are worth. This we have done due to so called market forces (real, imagined and concocted), which in many cases merely means we have passively "bought" the inflationary pricing schemes, advertising and sales pitches (values manipulation) of an industry at war with America's individuals, families and villages -- consumers. The dealer's and manufacturer's agenda is to maximize after-loophole profits from sales to consumers by hook or crook.

    Avoid being drawn down to a purchasing decision from television ads promising low prices or interest rates, and especially if these are promised conditioned on you arriving by or before a specified time. Remember, every time you hear "limited offer," that you will hear the same thing again the next time you turn on the TV or read the newspaper. Buy, if at all, on the consumer's, on your schedule, not the schedule of the dealer or the manufacturer. Maximize your consumer profits in all retail transactions.

    Who's buying this mistake, you or me...?

      Don't be sold on any deal. Guerrilla Car Consumers control the deal. Any worthy or credible offer should not be unreasonably limited by time. If the deal isn't good in thirty days to sixty days, its probably not such a good deal. With some research, effort and patience, and a willingness to wait, walk or "fly" (this really depresses car sales staff), car consumers likely can drive a better deal home. As always, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it likely is -- watch out for dealer and manufacturer ding factors. And, be particularly watchful of the "lure low, hard sell" or lease up tactics where dealers advertise or quote low prices to get you off the couch, and jack you around on price or extras, and hard sell you up on higher priced vehicles, or lease/purchase deals which are anti-consumer and pro-dealer.

  • Understand the natural human pressures to buy up and be aware of the sales tactic known as "price lining", which merely means stocking three or more levels of products of gradually increasing prices (with or without regard to a corresponding increase in quality). The natural cultural pressure and apparent human instinct is to buy up in such situations. Where one might be lured down to the dealer by a low introductory price for a stripped down or very limited number of models which may not be available when you get there, the tendency is to "reward" oneself with better goods upon prodding with the intermediate or higher priced product. After all, aren't you worth it... may actually be the sales pitch. And, if you're paying "this much," what's little more....? You'll know soon enough when your happy smile wears off, and your 48, 60 or 72 month premium booklet shows up in the mail. Keep the "buy-low or down and rent up" auto consumer option in mind in such situations. Be aware of the natural dealer's tendencies toward the hard-sell for higher priced models with higher profit margins for the dealer and the manufacturer. Hard-sell and guilt manipulation or dealer pressure should be a cue to get up and leave or to proceed with extra caution. Push your way past sales staff that may rise to physically or psychologically block a doorway or exit if necessary. Avoid falling for the "another cup of coffee" "grounding" trick which is traditionally used to wear down consumers. Call the police if they lock the door on you. Do not go to another dealer or retail outlet until you know what a "loss-leader" is.
    • Consider obtaining the title of a current Introduction to Business textbook at a nearby college or school and purchasing or obtaining such a book at your library, and bone up on some of the con-ventional sales and marketing strategies used to induce sales and move inventory. Check out pricing strategies commonly understood to manipulate consumer purchasing decisions. This information, used properly from a guerrilla consumer perspective can be very helpful in avoiding "selling" techniques which favor merchants and business at the expense of consumers. Such beginner's textbooks are worth their weight in gold (actually hard unbacked cash), and should be standard learning materials in every public high school in any capitalistic economy or culture. Ask that your school board consider incorporating basic business practices training in your high school as soon as possible -- and we're not merely talking word processing and dictation here folks. These classes are commonly understood as "business" education at the secondary education level in America.

    Dinging the manufacturer...

    • Consider respectfully offering 1/4 (.25) to 1/3 (.33) or more off (less than) the manufacturer's invoice price or what is known as the dealer's costs (not the window sticker price, which is the MSRP or manufacturer's suggested retail price, which has affectionately become known as the 'manufacturer's suggested rip-off price') (the manufacturer's invoice or dealer's cost invoice is available from Consumer Reports, AAA, USAA or other car pricing service for a nominal fee) to the dealer for the vehicle and its options and walk away ("fly") if necessary until the dealer calls begging you to come and take one of the over-priced inanimate shiny thin tin, plastic and glass objects piling up in inventory on the dealer's lot. Yes, unfortunately that $20,000 vehicle is likely worth only $14,000 or $15,000 or less, at most. Deduct more from over-priced (aren't they all?) luxury models, especially those "hand made" Rolls and Jags.

      Car makers are posting record profits and building up huge cash reserves at the expense of our friends and families through so called non-negotiable "value pricing" schemes and no-dicker deals. Don't buy value price deals. Record profits are evidence that auto consumers are being fleeced and not doing their job of checking unchecked profit creep in the automobile markets!

      Negotiate every car deal. Do your pricing research. Make your best offer and walk. If you like, ask the dealer for his or her lowest, most competitive price for the vehicle. Don't fall for the suggestion that the dealer will match or beat any offer you get from a competitor. This is a classic dealer agenda tactic which is intended to get you to return for the hard-sell or softening-up treatment. Make it understood that you are seriously shopping for the most competitive price for the specific model you are looking for with specific options, and that you need to know his best price and for how long the price is good. Get it in writing. Start over if the dealer sells the vehicle, switches vehicles, or otherwise tries to increase the price when you are ready to buy. Keep in mind that the dealer's best price will be thousands more than the vehicle is worth, and thousands more than it costs to make and deliver the vehicle. This is why the preferable consumer driven car deal is the one where the consumer researches the pricing and includes all of the relevant ding factors and makes an offer and walks. When enough consumers do this, auto prices will fall to their intrinsic or consumer value level, instead of the inflated "market force" level which is inflated with advertising hype and social (peer or the Jones') pressures.
  • When manufacturers post record profits, this is evidence that consumers are not doing their job of controlling profit creep in the marketplace. Ding the dealer and manufacturer on price before you get dinged on price, quality, or product.
    • Why do you think its called the "Blue Book" price? Keep in mind that the blue book represents prices inflated by the concerted efforts of an industry whose interests are best served by inflated resale costs. The Blue Book price of vehicles will naturally go lower when consumers in enough numbers begin asserting their responsibility for checking profit creep and inflated vehicle pricing in the marketplace. Say, why is it that the dealer never buys or credits a trade-in at Blue Book price?

      The rule of thumb is that a dealer pays 30% less for used vehicles then they are worth and sells them for 15% to 30% more than they are worth. This rule of thumb is generally true for new cars too. So at the least, whatever you negotiated for your last vehicle was likely "at least" 15% to 30% more than it was worth. At least! Actually, 30% to 50% or more is perhaps more like it.

    • Another excessive consumer cost is the so called new car depreciation costs, affectionately known as the shine or new car buzz cost. This has been reported to be on average $3500 or more of the price of new cars. The new car depreciation cost is the dollar value of the vehicle lost when you merely drive it off the lot new and try to resell it. This is the "shine", "new car smell" or buzz factor cost in new car prices -- try to negotiate this out of the cost of new cars, just deduct it from your final offer and walk. Ask for semi-gloss or matte finish instead of the more expensive super factory or dealer detailed shine. Make your offer, in writing and leave a contact phone number where you can be reached, and walk until the dealer talks. Expect trunk space loads of dealer and manufacturer resistance here as well. Resistance and denial are the dealer's expertise.

      Change is difficult, especially for many of the "old dog" dealers and manufacturers. Consider whether new car depreciation (shine) costs aren't another good reason to go carless or to acquire a mildly pre-used vehicle...? and / or to demand efficient mass transit facilities...? Last year's new models should be obtainable at a reduced new car depreciation cost.

      Consider this: if the vehicle has been test driven half a dozen or more times and has left the dealer's lot at least that number of times, why didn't it lose its depreciation inflated costs during one of those test drives, instead of when you merely purchased it and drove it off the lot?
      Consumers should stop paying the so called new car depreciation costs. Make this industry appreciate you rather than depreciate you as a customer. Make the industry live up to its advertised and represented claims of customer satisfaction and customer service. Help the industry meet its often claimed customer service goals and priorities.

    • "Value priced", "no-haggle" or "no-dicker sticker" deals are designed to control pricing and limit consumer rights (free market responsibilities) to negotiate a fair dealer and manufacturer profit on the deal to check profit creep (creeps?) and price gouging, except as a take it or leave it deal--leave it--leave your written offer and walk or fly until the dealer talks. "Value Priced" simply means that everyone ends up paying too much "equally" for the same make and model of over-priced vehicle within a market: "Such a deal?".

      The new so-called value priced deals are an unintended admission by the industry that it has been ripping consumers off on optional equipment for decades. So do you really want to pay extra for this so-called customer service? Value priced deals are the industry's answer to the increasingly prevalent practice of consumers negotiating fairer dealer profits, up from the manufacturer's invoice (so-called dealer's cost) price. It took awhile, but consumers (too few really) slowly and steadily woke up to the negotiated deal and increasingly refused to pay the inflated window sticker price. Although however, too many consumers till pay the window sticker price for new cars. Unfortunately. The "free" in free market when it comes to the automobile deal industry seems to mean that dealers and manufacturers are free to lie, cheat and steal to make a killing on new car deals and service--whatever traffic or the market allows. Moreover, this situation will continue until consumers demand that the industry changes its practices or makes it do so through government regulations, or both.

    • It's now time to take the successful dealer profit negotiating concept one step further, and ding the manufacturer on profit as well. A fair price for any new car is a few dollars perhaps over what it costs to make and deliver the vehicle. This assumes that the manufacturer is efficient and prudent in its manufacturing operations, and most are not. This means that a fair price for new cars may actually be less than what it costs to make and deliver them. Negotiate down from the manufacturer's invoice (dealer's costs) price (not the window sticker or MSRP price). Make your offer and walk until the dealer talks--begs you to take one of the shiny thin tin, plastic and glass inanimate objects piling up in inventory on his or her lot. Of course, lemons at any price, unless you're into driving sour citrus, when (if) it runs, are way over priced.

    The free market depends on informed participants. Indeed, contract laws assume the parties to an agreement are informed as to the nature of the product and services and agreement specifics. If you are not informed and do not have the necessary information to determine a fair price for the vehicle, hold out until the dealer and manufacturer provide notarized certifications of all data necessary to inform you adequately.

  • Request a certified, detailed and meaningfully itemized audit of vehicle production costs to help determine how much profit the manufacturer has "built" into or hidden in its invoice price to the dealer (so-called "dealer's cost"). Expect resistance, as this will be nearly impossible, but request (demand) it as a matter of course anyway, and build this request into your lifetime auto purchasing strategies. Consider that you may already have made a recent new car deal mistake, and mistakenly believe that you are not currently buying or are not in the market for a car, but if you own a car and expect to replace it when it wears out, or if you are continuously checking-out the look and feel of other vehicles on the road, or if you are bathed in automobile advertising in the newspapers and on television, you are actively in the process of buying another automobile, or making other conscious or unconscious auto purchase decisions. Furthermore, auto owners may be just one major fender bender or accident away from needing personal transport. Consider the auto-alternatives.
  • Have You Been Serviced by A Factory Authorized Dealer Lately?

    • Remind the dealer and manufacturer about their pledge of customer service and satisfaction when they politely decline to provide the requested certified itemized vehicle production cost inventory. Without this information consumers are at a disadvantage in determining the true consumer or market value of a particular vehicle in comparison with others, unless they buy the dealer's sales pitch--duh?. Expect resistance here, like it'll never happen, until and unless enough consumers walk away or fly until the dealer and manufacturer walk the talk. Make detailed vehicle production and pricing costs a customer satisfaction and customer service issue with the next auto dealer you consider buying from. Make manufacturers and dealers compete against each other in providing accurate, certified accountings of vehicle production and overhead costs and profit margins. Pricing is a customer service or its a disservice.
  • Consumers should demand that pricing information and fairness become a factor in industry pledges of customer service and satisfaction. Do not let the automobile industry define customer service, satisfaction, or price. Request of the dealer all pricing information you need to make an informed pricing and purchasing decision prior to dealing. Dealers and manufacturers who decline or refuse to provide you the information you require are not deserving of the reward of your business. Verify it. Say, are the floor mats, and seat covers, and the dingle balls included in the so-called value price? And don't let the dealer suck the gas tank dry or remove or replace items from the vehicle, or switch vehicles between test drive and drive off. Make sure that factory installed parts and accessories have not been replaced by the dealer with cheaper replacement parts, or that included optional items have not been removed or charged twice or more for by the dealer or seller. Consumers should decide value and price, not this industry which has demonstrated a sad but considerable anti-consumer history and tradition. "Any color, as long as its black." "Any finish, as long as its shiny."
    • Don't Buy It. Consider making your offer (explicitly in writing, including your specification that you are making an offer for a new and defect-free and fully warranted vehicle, or otherwise as the case may be), leaving your phone number and walking away until the dealer walks the talk. Exercise the important function of checking profit creep and price gouging in the marketplace and the historic traditions of sham in the automobile markets by implementing the Consumer Driven Car Deal.
  • Ding the manufacturer and the dealer on profit on every new car purchase or lease, including no-dicker deals and so called "value priced" deals. You'll feel much better if the vehicle or the deal turns out to be a lemon down the road, or you discover the facts are other than as represented to you by the dealership prior to sale on the condition or use of the vehicle, if you don't pay too much up front on the deal. Undisclosed defects and hidden damage repairs on new cars are a very real new car deal risk (trick) to be aware of --ding, ding-dong, ding! Nothing personal folks, just business going on here, come-on down!
    • Beware of the ding-dong factor in new car deals. Deduct a big ding dong factor from your next new car deal offer or the ding dong may be on you. The trick to car deals is to be the dinger not the dingee.
  • Prepare a list of all the information and materials you will request of the dealer on your "fishing trip" or first visit to the dealership. Include all of the deal paperwork that will be presented at the time of closing the deal. Get a list of all dealer products and services that will be pitched at the last minute during dealer paperwork signing. Evaluate these products away from the dealership. If the dealer slips in any other service charges or products, decline them firmly but politely, after faking to leave, or actually walking away. Hey folks, its just a game, you've got to take it more seriously.
    • Request the dealer provide you with a signed copy of his or her membership contract with the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and any other regional, state or local Dealer Group or Association. Obtain a copy of NADA's "Customer Bill of Rights", and Dealer Professional Development program policies. If NADA has no such documents, requirements or polices, request that NADA undertake to "professionalize" the "profession" as real professional associations routinely do. Obtain a copy of the NADA's consumer protection assurances. Then laugh loudly.
  • Another wrinkle to the dealer's "low-ball" sales tactics involves the dealer quoting a low pay-off price on trade-in vehicles for which the consumer still owes another lender.

    The trick looks like this: the sales person leaves the area to phone the bank to find out how much the pay-off balance is on the trade-in so that it can be factored into the price of the new car, which is financed. The dealer quotes a low pay-off price for the trade-in, and says this number may be off "by just a little" and that the customer will have to pay any extra which may actually be owing on the trade-in. It is inadvisable to trade in any car to a dealer on the purchase of a new car, as a private sale usually will get a consumer more return on the "investment." To avoid having to pay hundreds or thousands more than the low-ball quote by the dealer on such deals, cap the amount to a certain acceptable amount and have this agreement put in writing and signed by the dealer, the lending bank and the consumer.
    • Many auto buyers are reporting that after negotiating a price of a vehicle to be ordered by the dealer, the dealer tries to negotiate an increase in the price or to stall delivery to try to shake the customer out of the deal so the vehicle can be sold to someone else at a higher price. Apparently some dealers are saying they have a source for a special order vehicle when in fact they have no idea when or if the vehicle can be found or delivered. This is done to take advantage of and to "set" a customer's "emotional investment" in the product, price or service. Some dealers also come back to the customer after the contract is signed and the vehicle delivered, and try to add on extra costs, with the excuse or plausibly sounding explanation that certain charges or options were not included, forgotten, or overlooked in the original contract. CARveat Emptor. It ain't necessarily over until its over...
  • Another example of deal add-ons occurs after the contract is signed and the customer takes the vehicle home. A few days or a week or two goes by before the dealer calls to say it made a mistake and did not include the costs for an option or calculated something incorrectly, like licensing fees, interest or whatever, and requests you make good the mistake which may amount to hundreds of dollars or more. This is being reported more and more often as a commonplace tactic of milking deals. Threat these situations carefully. Don't be dinged on tricky deal add-ons, especially after your have a signed and binding contract. Additionally, try not to be convinced by such tactics that you got "such a deal."
    • Obtain a copy of a complete set of all deal related paperwork, including a copy of the contract form and all other paperwork that the dealer will expect to be signed at deal closing. Obtain this material in advance of making a purchasing decision in order to review it completely (including the fine print on the reverse) away from the dealership. Just do this!
  • Prepare a complete checklist of all your car deal criteria beforehand and make sure that all important items are checked off or satisfied. By establishing a personal list of deal criteria or categories and ranking or weighting the importance of the various items on a simple scale such as very important, important or mildly important, or high, medium or low in importance can assist you in evaluating or comparing vehicle models and deal particulars. Even a simple "pro" vs., "con" consumer values list can help in determining between a few vehicle model options. Try to distinguish between what you determine to be your deal or vehicle needs and wants and value these according to your personal priorities. By doing this, consumers assert their proper role and demeanor in the dealer/customer relationship. (Pick up a magnifying glass to read the fine print between the lines on contracts and all deal related documents -- deduct its cost from your final offer). Consult an attorney about the rights you give up by signing a car deal contract or make the dealer and manufacturer spell it out in 12pt type size or larger (plain English, please!). Better yet, negotiate your personal consumer contract-- perhaps this is the newest wave in car deals.
    • Consider negotiating a better lemon law for yourself during deal negotiations. Most lemon laws are themselves lemons. Have you test driven or read one lately? Spell out under what circumstances the dealer and manufacturer will replace a defective vehicle in detail and have it signed and notarized by the dealer and the manufacturer. Remember, you may have to engage an attorney to enforce any written agreement or to enforce existing lemon laws. In California the lemon law needs only be considered, not necessarily followed to the letter, by the industry sponsored lemon law mediation board, which places the industry at an advantage over the consumer in lemon law disputes. Some auto sale issues attorneys take cases on contingency, and many attorneys are beginning to specialize in auto deal resolution services (Yellow Pages under Attorneys: "dealer fraud" or "lemon law"). When all else fails, pick up the phone and consider the legal alternatives to a sour deal. Check under Attorneys, Dealer Fraud or Lemon Law in your yellow pages. ( (?)

    Why A FEDERAL LEMON LAW Is Needed:

    • Because State lemon-laws are often unenforceable intra-state let alone across state lines. Moving to a new state? Will your lemony lemon-law migrate with you? Buying a car in a neighboring state? Negotiate a signed lemon-replacement agreement with the manufacturer (dealers don't count) in writing and notarized in triplicate (FROM THE MANUFACTURER !!!).

    • In many lemon law mediation cases, dealers or manufacturers shop for mediators or arbitration "specialists" who routinely rule in favor of the industry. Not a bad deal if you can get it, eh?
  • Avoid signing binding arbitration agreements as part of leasing or purchase deals. In a recent newspaper story in the San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday July 20, 1996), Reynolds Holding disclosed the results of a University of Indiana study due out in January 1997, which demonstrated that businesses may stack the deck against workers, and which apparently shows that with employers who go to arbitration twice or more a year, they win against employees 80% of the time--not bad, eh? The results of this study may be generally applied to arbitration programs in the auto industry as well, where often the industry sponsors the programs (not all manufacturers have arbitration programs). Employers in the story found that they could obtain the repeated services of arbitration masters who routinely found against employees and for employer management. Depending on the specific circumstances of any automobile sales or service arbitration program, the same pro-business bias may be present. Arbitrate carefully, if at all.
    • When the dealer tries to sell you extended warranties during the manufacturer's warranty coverage period, find out how much the dealer intends to charge and deduct this amount from your final offer, and ask why a good product and a good warranty would need supplemental warranty during the manufacturer's warranty period. Don't pay extra for overlapping warranties that cover the same repairs during the same period unless you really enjoy paying too much and don't mind inflating the costs of products unnecessarily for others.

      Do the same for new car depreciation (shine) costs and other deal add-ons and extras which the dealer tries to "sell" near closing the deal if possible when the consumer is most anxious to have the deal done and generally is most receptive to spending "a little" more on extras which should be included in any "value-priced" deal scheme. Expect resistance here too. But, make your offer and demand that floor mats and seat covers be made a part of the basic price of the car. Work with another dealer if the dealer you're working with is too stingy to sell you the whole car at a fair price, and make sure to have someone stay with the car while you are signing the paperwork, to avoid permitting the dealer to drain the gas tank or remove rear bumpers, trim or other items from the vehicle. _--IT HAPPENS! Did the factory authorize this?
  • Make sure things like floor mats and other little extras are included (milked) without additional cost. This is called reverse deal milking or downshifting the traditional dealer deal milking of consumers. No floor mats and seat covers; no deal! What does value priced mean anyway unless it includes all the expensive little extras that make a car complete. Guerrilla car consumers negotiate these little extras as part of the deal, instead of letting the dealer sell the consumer on paying extra for them. Get seat covers thrown in too, if possible. Why pay extra for what should be standard equipment? What's customer service for anyway? Tinted windows? They should be included in any final negotiated deal as well. Feel free to leave a big tip if you want, its a free country, or at least it was until the Fortunate 400 bought it at Uncle Sam's Members-only Discount Factory Outlet. Milk dealers like the dealers milk customers. Grip firmly and from the top down, squeeze firmly while pulling. Sorry, no sucking allowed. (:- )
    • Consider not buying a vehicle, especially one that the dealer or manufacturer will not provide you the opportunity to use for thirty days prior to committing to a purchase or lease agreement. Consider negotiating a thirty day return without question clause in your purchase or lease agreement. Why should you, the dealer or the manufacturer expect you to be able to make an informed major purchasing decision based on a short, one-time test drive with a dealership sales staff member on board pointing to all the new features and leading you away from the vehicle's negatives (every vehicle has negatives!)? Don't buy a car unless you know its the right car for you and your needs and your budget. Repossession and auto-remarketing is a growth industry too!

      The tendency or prevalent auto consumer mistake is to overbuy, overpay, settle too soon on price, and to get dinged on undisclosed hidden damage or repair costs. Avoid overbuying. How can you possibly do that based on a typical fifteen minute test drive? Add this to your car deal checklist. Deduct a huge ding factor for dealers and manufactures that expect you to make a permanent eight year purchasing decision in fifteen minutes.

    Buy down, rent uP!

    • Consider buying only as much vehicle as required to meet 90% of your personal transportation needs. Rent a van or sport utility vehicle when a special occasion requires more vehicle than your normal driving needs require. Beware of the dealer's need to sell-up, to sell you more car then you can afford or need, or want and can afford or which you just "gottahave", for more than its worth. Beware of, expect, and avoid the sell-up.
  • Put a value on your car dealing time and charge the dealer and manufacturer for the value of your time in dealing for the vehicle. Charge the dealer for the "haggle or ding factor" in negotiating a fair dealer and manufacturer profit and closing the deal. Deduct the value of your time in dealing with the dealer from your final offer. And deduct an additional "ding-dong dealer" factor depending on the relative responsiveness of the dealer to your needs as a consumer. This is basic economics 101 folks. Stop rewarding this industry for faking customer service and satisfaction. Make a profit on the value of the service you provide as a consumer to the dealer and manufacturer. The dealers and manufacturers are really the consumers here, you are the service provider. While you may have walked into their showroom, they walked into your living room first with trashy psychologically insulting and obnoxious advertising luring and beckoning you down to their dealerships with veiled promises of greater sex appeal, social acceptance, power, control, happiness and other worthless nonsense.
    • Don't sell the value of your services as a consumer short. Consider marking up your haggle or ding factor 50% to 100% in accordance with typical retail markups. Adjust as needed for market variables and practical realities. Go for more if possible. Remember, highballing up from your bottom line is generally the way this is done. Know and keep your best alternative to a negotiated deal (BAND) in mind. Be willing and able to walk away. Perhaps the best way to do this is to have an acceptable alternative vehicle in mind, or perhaps the more lucrative no-deal option. Walking is the best deal alternative for most people. Perhaps replacing the transmission or engine in an older model is better than sucking on a new car deal mistake. If the dealer says that he can wait you out, that someone else will come along and pay more, make sure the dealer gets the opportunity to do just that, as this suggests that the dealer may not value your consumership.
  • Check out your local library or local book stores under "cars", "automobiles" and "transportation" for books and references on negotiating new and used car deals. Check out books on negotiating, too. Polish-up your negotiating skills, knowledge and abilities ("Getting to Yes," by Harvard University Press is a good general negotiating text, and there are others). Target and practice your negotiating and walking skills, knowledge and abilities civilly (dealers are very sensitive creatures--treat them gently no matter how beguiling they are to you) on a few dealers before making real or committed offers.

    Keep in mind that regardless of what the dealer has cleverly led you to say or commit to, you are free to walk away from any deal until you take possession of the vehicle, which usually means when you drive if off the lot. Before driving off the lot, check the gas tank indicator and other trim items. Is the bumper and engine still there? How about the tires, the spare tire, is it in the trunk? "Oh, we didn't understand that you wanted the windshield, bumpers and the engine too. Why didn't you say so." CARveat Emptor! Car buyer be very wary!
  • WHAT's NEW...?

    Be particularly watchful for undisclosed defects or hidden damage repairs
    on all new (yes, "new") and used car deals, especially negotiated profit deals.
    Be especially careful with vehicles traded between dealers or vehicles represented as being "auto executive" or "brass-hat" vehicles. Carefully inspect new cars, especially along detail and design indention lines or other edges or points or lines or change in materials for over-painting which may indicate prior damage and hidden repairs. Check for uniform clearances and gaps between doors and body panels. Have the dealer raise the vehicle up on a repair shop jack you can inspect the under side of the vehicle. Does there appear to be a clean and neat or planned arrangement of systems and parts? Is the fuel tank protected from side impacts by the chassis frames and the rear and front axles? Are the brake lines protected from being pinched between chassis frame and the axles.

    Shabby or uncoordinated underside arrangements of systems or parts may be an indication of poor design or assembly. Have the vehicle inspected by an independent certified body and repair shop. Improve and share good car buying skills, abilities and knowledge with friends, family and associates. Check carefully beneath detailing lines added to the finish. Sometimes these detail finishes are used to hide repair or repainting work. They often crack and peel after a few years, so don't pay extra for such detailing gimmicks. Look at the entire exterior painted surface. Try to see the surface of the metal and look for uniformity in appearance and texture. One way to check the quality of a paint job is to look at the uniformity and consistency of the reflection of objects in the new surfacing. By inspecting the vehicle carefully, panel by panel, to see the clear-coating layer over the paint, the paint layer (is it uniformly applied over a smooth and dust particle free surface?) and to see the texture and consistency of the metal or plastic under the paint, will help you avoid paying too much for quality problems and mistakes.

    Take a small magnet to check for bondo repairs that may conceal hidden damage or repairs.

    • Car dealing has historically been handled like sex in our society, done but talked little about publicly, or perhaps boasted undeservedly about to boost one's bravado (its easier to boast of a great deal, then admit to having gotten skunked on a car deal). People generally say they got a great deal on their car purchase, but really they spent hundreds or thousands more than the vehicle was worth, and consumers are loathe to admit car dealing mistakes, like no-one makes them...? The metaphor may be apt here as well, as often parents forget to pass along good tips on car deal foreplay or rough car deal sex (getting screwed) and so forth.

      Practice safe CAR DEAL sex. Fifteen minutes with a good book or two on the subject of car buying will give you more guerrilla auto consumer ammunition in dealing with the dealer than 90-95% of consumers going into a dealer's showroom possess. Teach your children and parents well. Pass along good car buying techniques. Share tricks of the deal. Avoid unsafe or rough car sex. Again, "consumer protection is a life-long team sport." Avoid unsafe car deal sex! Unscrew the deal and consider the alternatives before buying.

    • Learn how to complain effectively. Only 4% of aggrieved consumers bother to complain, and many who do complain do so ineffectively.
  • Get a bicycle instead of buying a car, or to supplement your automobile for personal transportation. Consider alternatives to car ownership (much less expensive and better investments) such as B I C Y C L E S (negotiate price and profit here too), public transportation (demand political action and support for good train and light rail service and public transit), rental, buying down (smaller - less expensive vehicles), and renting up for special needs and occasions when you actually need a larger or different vehicle), communal or shared ownership options, donating used vehicles to needy causes, and ride sharing.
    • Use appropriate transport modes for short, medium and long distance travel needs: walking or bicycling or electric cars are perhaps best for short hauls or trips; cars, bicycles, bus or car pooling for medium length hauls or trips, and public or private transit for longer hauls or trips. Develop a lifelong personal transport plan.
  • Support funding, planning, design and construction of alternative public transit facilities, including light rail train and people movers, commuter and recreational bicycle paths, and efficient and convenient bus service. Even if you drive and do not use public transit, you benefit when others do. Others cannot use automobile alternative transportation unless is it available. Public transit is a no-brainer, so why do we do it so poorly in the United States? Clue: the auto industry and other public and private utilities have lobbied local, state and national governments to make sure that good public transportation is not available, and the public has not made it a priority in their voting decisions. Until we run out of petroleum supplies, this unfortunate circumstance will likely continue. But, it does not have to.
    • Be particularly wary of buying so called "sport utility vehicles" (SUVs). Consumers are paying premium prices and loan costs (interest) for sporty mini-vans, pick-ups and sport-utility vehicles which seldom are used for their intended purposes or capacities. These vehicles are in a special "not-a-car", "not-a-truck" category which exempts them from many standard sedan safety and bumper requirements. Some SUV's are reported to be high roll-over or stability risks. Narrow (side to side) and short (front to back) wheel based, high center of gravity and top heavy vehicles may represent a higher instability or roll-over risks, especially in high speed cornering, evasive maneuvers, or when struck by another vehicle from the side. Anyone who tells you otherwise is likely a car dealer or manufacturer.

      Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are notoriously unstable on cornering and subject to flipping or rolling over. (You paid extra for that...?) The Federal Government recently caved in to the industry, failing to require sport utility vehicles be made safer in consideration of the fact that these vehicles are increasingly used by families. These vehicles often exceed environmental standards required for standard sedans which are regulated.

    • Beware of so called All Wheel Drive (AWD) vehicles which many consumers discovered after purchasing are not warranted for off-road use. All Wheel Drive may not mean four wheel drive. The Suburu Outback is one such AWD vehicle which is not a conventional four wheel drive, off-road vehicle. Some AWD vehicles owners have found out too late that they have voided their vehicle warranty by driving off-road.

    • New traffic sign: "Caution, Go Slow, Your auto-consumer friendly government at work again helping auto industry fleece consumers?" Whatever traffic allows. Until push comes to tow, and consumers demand better treatment from the industry and their government, consumers are what's for dinner. Beef: its what's eating us...?
  • Recently two popular and expensive sport utility vehicles received Consumer Reports "thumbs down" unacceptable rating because they flipped or rolled over in emergency maneuvers, say, as one might encounter during normal driving conditions at 35 mph. Buying a SUV? very wary. Why do you think some SUV's contain a warning about roll-overs? At least some do--check behind the sun visor.
  • Consider buying a smaller or more practical vehicle ( do you really need that global blast furnace or would the smaller global warmer meet your real needs?) without sacrificing safety and comfort and renting a van or sport utility vehicle for special occasions and purposes when needed. Larger more expensive cars are not necessarily safer than smaller or mid-sized cars. Verify crash test data to determine general vehicle safety, and remember safety tests do not test for all possible real world accident situations and conditions. Include safety factors in your personal pre-car deal inventory checklist and priority evaluation.
  • Consider a vehicle's safety history in making purchase decisions. Intellichoice of Campbell, California offers consumer value ratings based on several consumer value rating criteria, including: initial price/cost, safety, gas mileage, maintenance costs, trade-in value, etc. Consider comparing Intellichoice's recommended buy against your "ideal" or "gotstahaveits" make and model. Consumers who are smitten by a particular vehicle or option can develop acting skills and pretend what they want most is not that important for the purpose of negotiating the best consumer deal possible. Practice your "take it or leave it" attitude today and rehearse it out your local dealer. Learn and rehearse a believable "flinch" response when the dealer says for the tenth time that his price is the best he can do.
  • Consider a better investment. Instead of paying $20,000 to $40,000 or more for another car deal mistake, do yourself a favor and put that 20 to 40 thousand bucks or more into an interest bearing, socially responsible CD or other responsible investment for education or retirement or for charity, instead of rewarding this industry for its traditions of anti-consumer sloth. The Car Book, by Intellichoice is another publication available at bookstores or libraries which contains consumer choice information based on seven consumer value categories for various makes and models of vehicles. CARveat Emptor! Check your sources and your sources' sources.
  • Have you had an "out of car experience lately?" Demand that your government reward carlessness and people who are able to find ways to avoid car ownership or who drive less than the average annual mileage with tax incentives or advantages as responsible users of private and public transit. Consider demanding tax incentives for reduced use of the private automobile, and larger tax breaks for total carlessness or car-abstinence! Likewise encourage higher taxes (disincentives) for luxury or high gas usage vehicles and the vehicularly addicted.
    • Consider planning your new car purchase well in advance of your needs when possible. Postpone buying as long as you can, but give yourself plenty of time to leverage (wait out) a deal -- six months (minimum) to a year or more... be willing to wait -- its the best negotiating chip a consumer possesses, besides one's two feet. One year old new cars on the dealer's lot should be a better deal, minus new car depreciation, rebates and other manufacturer and dealer ding deductions, of course.
  • Consider that merely accepting a manufacturer's rebate or dealer's incentive reduced price on new year-old models is really not that great of a price incentive, deal, or price break. You can and should do much better than accepting merely the dealer incentive or manufacturer rebate pricing schemes. If not, walk or fly to another dealer until you find one that is willing to honor and respect your service to the industry as a consumer.
    • Target and practice your negotiating and guerrilla car consumer walking and flying skills on a few dealers to get the feel for the deal again if its been a few years between purchases or just to sample the salesmanship of the dealership. You can always buy later, and a "new" year old model is less expensive than a "new" new model just off the assembly line -- don't buy the depreciation costs... A new car is just an old car waiting to happen, waiting to lose its shine or depreciation value. If you are lucky you won't end up with an expensively defective "new" car, and you won't get taken for a ride on warranty or other repair work. If, you are lucky.

      The best warranty or guarantee in the world won't protect consumers from the tricks of the Great American Car Deal, including industry after-deal indifference or avoidance. Many consumers have discovered after purchasing that their concerns are ignored or put-off by dealers or manufacturers. The number one consumer complaint, based on the total number of consumer complaints filed with consumer protection agencies and non-profits involves automobile deal and service issues. Government is supposed to be responsive to such issues, but apparently your government has been studying the tricks of the Great American Car Deal in responding to auto consumer issues, and ignoring it. Make sure your local, state and national representatives know how your feel about the tricks of the Great American Car Deal that costs our friends and families tens of billions in unearned profits and costs every year. Fairness apparently is too much to ask?
  • Milk the useful life out of your old car as long as possible. Keep your vehicle in good working order with regular competent maintenance. Be careful here too. Find a good service mechanic if there is one. Generally, fixing up an "older" car is less expensive than buying a new car and making payments and paying interest on a loan for four, five, six or seven years. Consumers can generally work better deals through private sales and purchases with other non-dealer sellers or buyers, although any car deal is potentially problematic and risky.
    • The technology has existed since the invention of the wheel, but apparently due to the automobile industry's unwavering commitment to customer service, odometers remain tamperable. Useless headlight wipers, but no tamper-proof odometers. Now, we're talking real deep customer service.
  • Get written disclosures of all use, users, owners, and defects, damages, and repairs, IN WRITING, in advance and verify these. Obtain a title search from your state department of motor vehicles and contact former owners to verify prior use, mileage and so-forth. Also get a copy of all repair receipts for any used vehicle purchase before buying. Check it out!
    • Test drive the dealer! Target & practice your Guerrilla Car Consumer skills on a few dealers before deciding to deal or buy. Feel out the dealer's sales strategies and tactics. Listen with a silent but critical ear to the sales pitches. Do a few dry runs to get in shape and to become more accustomed to dealing with the dealer and to build up self-confidence and to sharpen your guerrilla car consumer "walking" skills. Because most car buyers buy a car only once every several years its easy to get out of practice and forget just how much of an ordeal buying a car can be, or how much fun, depending upon your perspective and dealing skills, knowledge and abilities. Auto consumers don't have to get taken for a ride every time.
  • Try to avoid being taken or influenced by the new car buzz. Don't go gaga over any over-priced inanimate shiny thin tin, plastic and glass object, especially one as expensive and impractical as a car-mobile. And, keep in mind that its only a car, so don't pay to much and don't let the dealer trick you on the deal or the product. No matter how nice or helpful a dealer of salesperson seems to be, they are really more interested in how much they can get you to spend on your next car deal, then they are about you as a consumer, human being, or family provider. Nothing personal, its just business, just a simple matter of free market economics.
    • Remember, car salespeople who have practiced their "craft(iness)" for years, ten to fourteen hours a day, seven days a week will be formidable in manipulating a consumer's focus and concentration toward the dealer's agenda and away from the consumer's agenda of highest value for the lowest price. Don't let the dealer lead you to over focus on any aspect of the product, including price unduly to draw your attention away from the value and costs of the entire deal. A common dealer sales trick is to plant sales rhetoric or spin in the subconscious of the consumer. Keep reminding the dealer of your value as a consumer, and keep asking whether the dealer values your business, and if so, why he or she is not more forthcoming in demonstrating it. If the dealer suggests that he can get more from another customers, walk and let him.
  • Merely making an offer on a vehicle places a consumer at a disadvantage because no one makes an offer for something they are not interested in having. Expect the dealer to try to exploit your interest(s) and be particularly aware of your "emotional investment" in a vehicle model, price or service, -- disclose as little as possible about yourself or the things you like about a vehicle, and never, never, never, ever, tell the dealer or salesperson your budget, how much you can afford to spend, or how much you can afford for a monthly payment. Maintain a professional and objective attitude about cars and dealers and have an alternative vehicle or transportation alternative to avoid becoming another dealer victim. And learn ways of exploiting the dealer's need for moving inventory, regardless of profit. Make your low-ball offer and walk until the dealer talks. Don't buy more car than you need or want. Try not to become emotionally involved with an inanimate object. People in love generally exhibit enlarged eye pupils when viewing the object of desire. Trained car sales staff may detect changes in a customer body language to gauge one's interest in a product, price or service. Develop a healthy and professional consumer disinterest in the product before negotiating.
    • Specify that you are (if you are) negotiating for a complete, new and defect-free new car, as if this is not stated (and even in some cases when it is--be car-ful) dealers may assume that a slightly defective car passed off as new and defect free may be permissible (hey, there's no law against it), or things like gasoline, bumpers, trim or other items may be removed between test drive and drive off. (Say, Mr., Mrs., or Ms. Dealer, does the deal include the engine and tires, or are they optional on this deal?).
  • Be keen to your consumer orientation and style. Are you a left or right brained consumer? Do you respond or are you more impressed or manipulated by formal mathematical or charted-graphed data (left brained) or to feelings and emotional (warm and fuzzies) pitches and advertisements (Right brained). The point here is not whether you are left or right brain focused or oriented, its being aware of the methods of manipulation and types of sales pitches being used to create needs and manipulate wants in your conscious and sub-conscious mind. Its easy to remember this, its just the opposite from what you might expect it to be based on left and right political perspectives. Here the left hemisphere of the brain governs the more linear and critical thinking functions, and the right hemisphere governs the emotional or feelings functions. Actually, when you think about it, the Republicans, being more reactionary, are really more emotional, merely appearing to be more logically rational...such is life, politics and car deals, just when you think you've got it figured, someone comes along and explains on forgotten items and misc., additional "remembered extras and charges... (:-), oh yeah, that'll be $??.??? for the bumper and the brakes. Did you want an engine with that...? Fries...?
    • Also, be keen to your interpersonal or consuming style. Are you assertive (not necessarily aggressive) with others or are you passive-aggressive, or what is known as "other people oriented", which means simply that you often agree with others and derive your world view and general demeanor or life focus from others rather than from inside, from yourself? Assertive people tend be less likely to be taken advantage of by dealers or others, but even assertive people can be tricked by savvy car dealering. Yes, Mr. Macho car buyer, you've been cheated on car deals before, even if you were not aware of it. "Other people oriented" people are at greater risk of being taken for the Great American Car Deal Ride.

    • Being aware of your interpersonal style should help you adapt to the degree necessary to avoid being manipulated in a car deal or lease. Studying negotiating strategies and textbooks is a good place to begin assertivizing your interpersonal style. Its worth the effort and time, and will pay dividends in other areas of your life as well as car dealing. Prioritize this, and drop by your library and pick up a book or two on the subject of negotiating soon. An introductory textbook on psychology may also be helpful. Be assured that auto manufacturer advertising agencies have a psychologist on retainer to tweak advertising content to push the inner buttons of your psyche. We're not just talking apples and oranges here. We're talking the many differences between granny smiths and golden deliciouses.
  • Car ownership for the average consumer is a life-long experience of several cumulative expensive mistakes, er...purchases, over fifty or sixty years depending on personal longevity and when one begins owning cars. At best car consumers likely will purchase a new or used car every ten years after the age of twenty (actually every six to eight years on average). This adds up to potentially seven or eight cars or more over a lifetime on average. The lifetime costs of car ownership and operation is considerable,-- over a $100,000 including indirect but associated costs of car ownership and use. How much of your tax dollars support the national, state and local system of highways? The real per gallon cost of gasoline is closer to $8 or $9 when the costs of maintaining the US Navy and Air Force in the Gulf for cheap crude is calculated.
    • It was recently reported by the San Francisco Chronicle in a story about the costs of development and growth, that the average California automobile commuter spent one of every five dollars ($5 : $1 ) of their incomes on car ownership. One in five dollars over a lifetime is a hefty piece of change! 20%.

      Consider that the total annual average costs of owning and operating an automobile is estimated at $7,000. ($7,000 x 60 years = $420,000). Multiply this times the number of years you will own and operate a vehicle for an estimate of your lifetime automobile bill. Add in all of your personal, property, income and sales taxes that support the oil, tire, and other auto-related industries, and perhaps you will agree that the automobile "choice" is excessively expensive compared with public transit and other automobile alternatives.
    • Consider developing (just do it) a life-long car consumer strategy and demeanor. If you are going to buy and use cars, have car ownership and purchasing built into the organization, budgeting, and planning of your life. And make your government protect the health and welfare of the marketplace by policing up unfair, manipulative and fraudulent auto sales and service practices in the automobile industry. Do this now, and keep doing it until your government works for you. You've helped the auto industry pay for laws that protect the industry, now its time to ask the industry on your next new car deal to help you buy a piece of your government back.

  • Learn from past mistakes. Keep a car deal file, folder or binder or repository ready to receive clippings, stories or notes about cars, car deals, and car industry things. Keep a separate file for car deal and maintenance receipts. The customary car owner will buy five or six or more vehicles over a life time (assuming no major changes in personal transportation technology).
    • Record past consumer mistakes and dealer tricks that worked or backfired (write them down and file them in your car-file. Share these with family and friends, neighbors and enemies. The Great American Car Deal is a team sport. Clip and save newspaper reports (usually buried in the business section, if printed at all) of consumer related automobile industry issues. Refer back to this file when planning any future new or used car purchase. Share this information with friends and family. Most car consumers hold their noses, end up paying too much and getting the agony over with as soon as possible, only to have to endure the experience again in several years without growing from the process or doing anything to improve it. Try something that works.


    • Consider car ownership and purchases to be a life-long process of learning and mastery. Make the necessary commitment to improve your skills, knowledge and abilities and to support worthy consumer protection organizations, agencies and efforts. Consumer protection is good for capitalism and is a non-partisan issue,-- even some conservatives enjoy a good fair deal, and resent being cheated on price or quality. Not every Republican believes that cheating auto consumers is a Constitutional right or Darwinian entitlement.
  • Consider making a car deal checklist during any car purchase pre-planning and make sure the dealer provides all of the pre-deal information you need and request in a form and content that is useful and meaningful to you as a consumer. Make sure that any information the dealer or manufacturer presents is of value to you. Fluffy sales brochures do not help consumers make objective purchasing decisions. And they are not intended to do so.
    • If you cannot read or understand any materials provided by the dealer or manufacturer, consider it worthless. Before talking price, make sure the dealer is willing to provide you with all the information in a form, context and content useful to you in making an informed purchase comparison and decision. Make the dealer and the manufacturer earn and respect your business. Bring your hoops with you to the dealer and keep them hopping.
  • Compare the negatives and positives about a particular model based on your personal consumer criteria and transportation needs. Such criteria might include (·) dealer demeanor and helpfulness (go for substance here, and avoid the puffery or the faked sincerity), (·) voluntary provision of useful consumer information with objective comparisons between a vehicle and its competitor, (·) total price clearly identified and itemized, in full out the door, (·) customer satisfaction rating by an independent rating service such as J.D. Powers, and Associates, or Consumer Reports, (·) maintenance track record as independently rated, (·) warranty period and coverage (read it) they very considerably, (·) fuel mileage (your mileage will vary considerably), (·) tire brand and ratings, (·) extra freebies, (·) size of spare tire, (·) free warranty period service maintenance, (·) gas tank design and placement, (·) bumper ratings, design, and composition materials (reshapeable or brittle plastic over reinforcement or not reinforced) (·) etc. Intellichoice, Campbell, California (Call information for listing) provides vehicle rankings based on seven or more consumer value categories. IntelliChoice publishes car consumer materials which may be available at your library or local bookstore. Look for, "The Car Book", latest editions.
    • Report all car deal problems to your loan holder,
      (in addition to the Better Business Bureau, and local and state consumer protection agencies). County District Attorneys are perhaps the best place to report fraud or unfair, manipulative auto sales and service practices. Consider consulting with an auto deal issues lawyer for possible legal assistance on a contingency basis. They are sometimes listed under Attorneys as "Dealer Fraud" or "Lemon Law" specialists. Or try:
  • If the loan holder is the manufacturer, consider the possibilities of leveraging a resolution if necessary, by possibly withholding payments until legitimate grievances are addressed satisfactorily. Some consumers have found that when almost everything else has failed, withholding payment brings the lien holder around in such cases. Caution, defaulted loans may be foreclosed.
    • Before taking out a loan, demand to see a copy of the bank's or lender's published consumer protection policies, and any agreements that the bank or lender has with dealers to protect consumers from unfair, manipulative and fraudulent sales and service practices. If the bank or loan company has no such policy or agreements, consider finding one that does.
  • Report fraud, unfair, and manipulative sales and service practices to your local District Attorney, Consumer Affairs Office and State Attorney General's Office.
    • Report car dealer and manufacturer problems and issues
      to the editors of your local or regional newspapers

      where the dealer or manufacturer advertises. Request the editor's or publisher's assistance in resolving legitimate deal or quality grievances, as the newspaper and loan-lien holder benefit from the advertising business of the dealer and the manufacturer. Request that editors balance industry and business reportage with consumer reportage, including an independent section on consumer issues.
  • When subscribing or renewing a subscription to your local newspaper or national magazines, consider requesting of the editors a copy of their published policy on consumer relations as they relate to automobile industry advertisers. Demand that newspapers contract with auto industry advertisers using agreements that respect and protect consumers from sham practices and commit the industry meaningfully to fairness in sales and service practices and support and sponsorship of Fair Car Sales and Service Practices consumer protection laws including: training, testing, monitoring and effective enforcement. Many newspapers merely accept without question or care that dealers and manufacturers adhere to substandard and watered-down advertising disclosure laws when and if they exist. This is not enough. Demand more, demand better.
    • Demand fairness in car sales and service practices from your newspaper where the auto industry advertises. Newspapers can handle this contractually with their auto industry advertising clients and by agreement can help protect consumers from sham sales and service practices including misleading advertising.
  • Remember: consumer protection is good for business, and is a non-partisan lifetime T E A M sport. Lying, cheating and stealing are not family, Christian, conservative or liberal values. Make your government help keep the auto industry honest. Even baseball has rules and requires umpires!
    • When you demand FAIR CAR SALES AND SERVICE consumer protection legislation from your local, state and federal representatives, send-mail, fax or e-mail a copy to the editor of your local or regional newspapers and request the editor's editorial support for meaningful consumer protection measures to help police this industry of its traditions of inflationary and sleazy treatment of consumers. Remind the newspaper that auto sales and service are the number one consumer complaint, and ask what they've done about it recently. Demand that they do more.
  • Demand that newspaper editors balance their automobile industry reportage and support with realistic consumer reportage and supportive editorials. Ask that editors screen and enter into enforceable consumer oriented and supportive agreements with their automobile industry advertisers to help police the industry of sham practices and practitioners. Ask that editors shun advertising from dealers and manufacturers for a reasonable time period after any sanctioning actions have been taken by consumer protection agencies against the dealers or manufacturers for unfair, manipulative or fraudulent sales and service practices. The price of cars include a hefty hidden charge for advertising, and in many cases dealers and manufacturers have charged consumers twice of more for the costs of so-called regional advertising which was already included in the manufacturer's invoice price to the dealer. Make sure you get your money's worth by demanding that newspapers help police the auto industry on your behalf - since you're paying for it.
    • The following note is included in the classifieds section of the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle under #455 - Massage / Spas: 'The San Francisco Examiner & the San Francisco Chronicle make every effort to ensure that our MASSAGE/SPAS classification contains only legitimate advertisers who adhere to strictly professional standards of conduct. If you encounter a violation of this policy, we encourage you to call our representative......All responses will be held in strictest of confidence'. Unfortunately, apparently the Chronicle and Examiner are more concerned about their MASSAGE/SPAS readers getting rubbed the wrong way than they are about their AUTO classified readers being taken for a ride, as no such cautionary note or complaint solicitation is printed in any of its AUTOMOTIVE classified advertising.

      If you get rubbed the wrong way by your auto dealer or service shop, drop your newspaper editor and publisher a note accordingly and demand that they police up their automotive classified advertising clients.

      Consumer protection is a safe sex team sport -- everyone needs to work together to keep this industry from screwing us one customer at a time. Even baseball has rules and requires umpires. Why not automobile sales and service?
  • Condition your newspaper subscription or renewal on the publisher and editor taking positive affirmative and publicized steps to protect consumers (our friends and families) from unfair, manipulative and fraudulent car sales and service practices which the newspapers profit from directly or indirectly through advertising fees. When your newspaper prints its traditional "ten reasons to buy from a factory authorized auto dealer," ask them to balance this with consumer supportive editorials and stories.
    • Demand that your newspaper editor not cave in to the industry's bullying tactics of retaliating against newspapers that take strong consumer supportive editorials and reportage (see "Case(s) Against The Industry). Request your editor support consumers regularly in his or her newspaper's editorials.
  • Keep a tally of industry supportive vs. meaningful consumer supportive reportage and editorials in your newspaper. When was the last time your newspaper took on this industry by news reports or editorials in a meaningful and productive way to help protect consumers from sham in the auto industry?

    Fluffy perfunctory rehashing of news wire stories don't count. When was the last time your editor challenged the auto industry to police itself of its shabbier side and act pro-actively and comprehensively to clean up its public image and reputation?

    When was the last time your newspaper or magazine editor printed "10 good ways not to be taken for a ride by your factory authorized car dealer," or printed a warning about "unprofessional" auto sales and service practices on their Auto Classifieds pages? Trick s of the Auto Deal?

    When was the last time your editor suggested that consumer protection in auto sales and service is good for business and for commerce? There is no Constitutional right to cheat customers on auto deals...!

    It is unrealistic to expect average consumers to be mechanically and business savvy enough to protect themselves from "professional" auto deal and service cheats. Moreover, auto buying and selling is not a test of survival of the fittest or of Darwin's theories of natural selection. Its a matter of demanding to be treated fairly by those wielding the truncheon of the corporate privilege. If you cannot organize and plan your life to include carlessness, bring God, a prayer, and know the tricks.
  • When was the last time you did anything about sham factors in auto sales and service practices? Are you part of the car deal problem or part of the car deal repair plan advantage? What are you waiting for? If you wait until you buy or lease another car, it likely will be too late, although better late than never.

    • After dinging the manufacturer and the dealer by negotiating the dealer's and the manufacturer's profits on all new car deals, consider smiling politely, maintaining friendly eye contact, shaking hands firmly and courteously mentioning the superior negotiating and dealing skills of the dealership salespersons. And politely tell the salesperson not to tell anyone about the bad deal you got.
  • Consider the comparative costs and possible benefits of having your new vehicle serviced by a dependable and trusted independent service mechanic or shop after the dealer has done all of the manufacturer covered warranty services and maintenance. Consider whether the manufacturer permits independent mechanics to perform warranty maintenance as a condition of dealing or purchasing from the manufacturer. Inquire of the manufacturer's policy in permitting independent repair shops access to manufacturer's repair and service manuals and information. Some manufacturers are considering restricting the availability of vehicle servicing information only to factory authorized dealers. Consider whether this practice represents another perversion of the auto industry's idea of customer service?
    • Before buying, check with the Clerk of your County Court to verify small claims, bankruptcies and other formal legal claims against the dealer or manufacturer. A review of such cases may forewarn of potential problems and previous consumer issues. Avoid rewarding bad businesses.

    Hunting & Gathering:

    Obtain car dealing information from several sources before developing a strategy tailored to your personal situation. Avoid relying on any single source or criteria in making a purchasing decision.

    • Refer to other books, consumer advice materials and advice (of which there are many sources at your public library or bookstores) along with your own personal car dealing skills, knowledge, abilities and experiences in fashioning the best car deal strategy for your personal circumstances. Expect the dealer of sales staff to politely and professionally bamboozle you about the facts and figures (real issues) to consider in making informed auto consumer decisions.
  • Keep in mind that the primary and biggest mistake in car dealing is buying a car. The second mistake is settling on price too early and not getting absolutely the best price (watch out for dealer responsible pre-sale defects or hidden damage or repairs on all new car deals, especially negotiated profit deals). Even BMW cheated its customers on repainted Beemers, failing to disclose the fact that some of its "new" vehicles required repainting due to finish defects caused in transporting the vehicles to its US dealers.
    • Keep track of changes in the marketplace, the rate of inflation and the increase from year to year of car prices, and adjust your strategies, negotiating tactics and final offers accordingly. Keep track of the annual inflation rate and try to hold any auto price increases to this rate or less,-- less your negotiated fair dealer and manufacturer profit price, of course.
  • Watch out for dried out, water-logged vehicles shipped in from flooded or storm damaged areas. The auto industry often swaps inventory with other dealers and distributors by transporting locally damaged stock or tainted goods ("stock churning") to other areas after major natural disasters. Often these vehicles have been under water or otherwise damaged and repaired without proper disclosures about their prior use, condition or repair records. Do the "smell test" to make sure that water damage has not been covered up with that new car smell or perfumed in other ways. Just another clever dealer trick to be aware of and to avoid, brought to you by Shyster & Swindle Motors, Inc., Potentially Anytown, USA.
    • Unfortunately, consumers may be their own worst adversary when it comes to car deals and consumer protection issues. What have you done lately to improve consumer protections in the auto industry?

    When was the last time you wrote a letter to your county commissioner or supervisor, your city mayor, or state or national representatives demanding FAIR CAR SALES AND SERVICE PRACTICES laws to protect consumers from the traditions of sham and unfair, manipulative sales and service practices and fraud in the auto sales and service industry?

    • Consumers have passively accepted the current state of affairs in the automobile marketplace, without asserting necessary and legitimate consumer pressures on pricing, quality, or customer service and without demanding governmental intervention where it is obviously needed. Consumers have permitted its government to pander to and to protect the auto industry at every turn.
  • Consumers typically complain, hold their noses and get ripped-off time and again, often unknowingly, without taking the action necessary to bring this industry to task for its shortcomings. Don't wait for the industry to do anything substantive in this regard, except perhaps the smarmy advertisements of late which claim that pricing and haggling are consumers' main concern in buying vehicles. Price is one thing, and a valid consumer concern, but cheating on quality, warranty, and hidden or undisclosed defects or damage repairs are far more likely to be of bigger concerns and costs to consumers, and for good reason. Trickery and sham follows a close second if not first in consumer concerns overall.
    • There may be other industries with similarly odious and unsavory histories, but the automobile industry stands out among industries with public personas and reputations for tricking the public as a traditionally expected and accepted practice. Many costly and effective unfair and manipulative practices are not prohibited by law, so it becomes a situation pitting the relatively novice and easily manipulated customer against the "professional" car dealer.

      Therefore consumers need to improve and exert not only their best consuming skills, knowledge and abilities, but also to demand that government step in and help clean up the shabbier side of this industry, which has been estimated to cost our friends and families 22 billion dollars a year from fraud alone, not including the costs of unfair and manipulative sales and service practices that fall above the technical threshold of legally actionable fraud, and without factoring in the real consumer costs of industry sales and service incompetence. A billion here and a billion there, and soon we're talking real money, real money that could be put to better use than fattening the bloated and undeserving coffers of the automobile industry.
  • Odometer (mileage) fraud in used car sales is estimated to cost consumers $10 billion annually, approximately $3000 per vehicle. Beware of low mileage cars with new brake peddle covers. Have the title researched (State DMV) and have the vehicle evaluated by an independent service mechanic. What, no tamper-proof odometers after all these years? Engine clocks you say? What next, tamper-proof engine clocks too. Hey, anything for our beloved customers.
    • But don't let us talk you into or out of anything here,-- feel free to pay too much for your next new car or to get ripped-off on quality too, if you like (its a free country and free market economy, right?). Leave a big tip if you like, too. But if you do, you risk assisting and rewarding this industry for the many tricks it has played on our friends and families over the decades, and in inflating prices, needlessly making it more difficult for consumers less able or more sensitive to or sensible about price in acquiring private transportation.
  • Whether you are in the market for a Bentley, Rolls Royce or a Hyundai or Yugo; whether you are a Michael Jackson, a Bill Gates, Ross Perot, Bill Cosby or a Mr., Mrs. or Ms. J. Q. Consumer, you owe it to yourself, your family, friends and others to pay not one dime more than the true value plus a reasonable profit to the dealer and the manufacturer for any make or model of vehicle, with the possible exception of some historic, antique, or classic vehicles, a status of which few new makes or models will ever achieve .

    Its your money, consider not giving it away foolishly or rewarding sloth, arrogance and deceit in the automobile industry. But, also remember, its a free country, dealers are free to ask for the moon, try to make you believe they or their products are worth it, and you are free to go along for the ride or you are free to profit from the value of your business as a consumer in the Consumer Driven Car Deal, in our so called consumer driven economy.
    • How much is five minutes of often sloppy dealer paperwork after hours of haggling worth anyway? Save as much as possible on your next new or used car purchase (you save the most on the no-deal deal strategy) and put it to better use for better social or personal endeavors. Invest it for your retirement or for your children's education or future, or donate it to worthy social or consumer charities.
  • If a dealer and manufacturer are unwilling or unable to provide you with full and detailed background information on pricing, consider not dealing with the dealer or manufacturer and dealing with dealers and manufacturers that can and do provide you with helpful information with or without a sincere smile. When enough consumers muster the skeletal and gray matter to stand up to this industry, these customer value-added services will become voluntary, standard, and automatic. Tell the dealer and the manufacturer that you need this information to make an informed purchasing decision and comparison, and don't deal until they provide it to you in a form, context and content useful to you as a consumer.

  • A reasonable itemization of the unit costs, including basic costs for making the vehicle and the total profit and other costs of materials and services built into the price of vehicle (completely itemized) should be standard industry disclosures and might look like and include the following:

    • Production costs, including materials and assembly labor (fully itemized and certified)
    • Administrative costs, including management and shareholder payouts (fully itemized and certified)
    • Advertising costs (don't pay advertising costs if possible, just deduct it from your final offer, unless perhaps in the unlikely event you were served directly by the advertising in making your purchase decisions)
    • Warranty costs
    • Past litigation costs (list these) ( it has been reported that lawyer fees add as much or more than $500 to the cost of each automobile on balance). (This is another value-subtracted cost to avoid paying if possible - ding, ding ding-the dealer)
    • Debt service costs
    • New car depreciation costs (and method and period of calculation)
    • Hold back for dealer (dealer profit built into the manufacturer's invoice price to the dealer for the vehicle) this is usually concealed on the mfr.'s invoice in code
    • Sales incentive program fees or costs (usually offered by the manufacturer to the dealer)
    • Rebate program costs (usually offered by the dealer to the consumer)
    • Dealer profit
    • Manufacturer profit
    • Executive salaries, golden handshakes, and pensions and retirement costs
    • Corporate pension plan
    • Estimated average annual and "life of car" consumer purchase and operating costs (including basis of calculation)
    • Liability litigation costs
    • Congressional lobbying costs
    • Political contributions
    • Etc. (add your criteria and information you would like to have here)

    • Make sure the itemized disclosure of vehicle costs is fully certified as truthful and accurate by a licensed certified public accounting firm of national stature. "Distrust and verify" may be the best personal policy in dealing for cars and gathering information from the industry. Unfortunately car dealing has not evolved much since the days of shady horse and buggy trading. Beware the horse dealer with one species of horse, and do not be surprised to learn from this dealer that his only horse is just the right horse for you. Beware the heavy dose of dealer B.S. factor.
  • Many dealers treat consumers like numbers, running down their list of deal milking tricks and statistically successful deal ploys, ruses, and representations on every customer, so return the favor and treat all dealers like numbers in return, always respectfully of course. Ding each and every dealer equally -- nothing personal -- just business!
    • Verify all representations and information to the extent possible, including merely sharing the information with family and friends for constructive and supportive feedback. Never buy a car on the first date (visit) to a dealership, as this sends the wrong message and sets the wrong consumer to dealer relationship and demeanor. Do your homework and wait out the dealer on price. Control the deal.
  • Request written documentation and backup of all sales representations. The automobile industry may argue that this is unfair and that detailed pricing information is "proprietary" information which the consumer is not entitled to possess. From a guerrilla car consumer's perspective, that is the dealer's and manufacturer's problem. Actually, since only Ford Motors makes Taurus's, sharing its vehicle unit costs hardly jeopardizes Ford's legitimate proprietary information, because no one but Ford can make the Taurus. But, it gives consumers another piece of useful consumer information on which to base a major purchase decision. It permits consumers to compare production and profit costs of various companies and vehicle models as a legitimate consumer service. If Taurus's for example, are made better, more cheaply, with smaller profits than another make or model of vehicle, why wouldn't a car maker volunteer this information without being asked, and prove it with full certified disclosures?

    With full itemized disclosures of production costs in hand, consumers can help monitor and reward efficiency and other marketplace and social values in the system through consumer purchases. Expect a lame answer from the industry until consumers force a manufacturer out in the open on the issue. The others will follow when such disclosures become a routinely recognized and expected consumer service. Expect it, demand it, get it.

    The industry will resist and argue that consumers don't request this information for toothpaste and therefore are not entitled to it for automobiles. Expect the resistance and resist back. The logical answer here is that consumers should request the same information for toothpaste and other products. Don't forget too, that automobile prices are significantly higher than tooth paste, even when calculated over a lifetime of car and toothpaste purchases. Another factor to consider is that toothpaste is essentially tooth paste, and toothpaste manufacturers can compete head to head with other toothpaste manufacturers on materials and ingredients, whereas auto manufacturers enjoy trademark monopolies on make and model of vehicles they sell, effectively eliminating head to head pricing competition.

    Let us know if you ever hear about anyone buying toothpaste using the services of a broker to avoid having to deal directly with the retailer. And let us know if you find a shelf full of books at your library or bookstore on how to avoid getting ripped-off by your local toothpaste or toaster dealer.

    Don't buy broken-in industry arguments for hiding its inefficiencies and profit creep in auto pricing and dealing. Manufacturers and dealers are posting record profits at the expense of our friends and families. Negotiate everything. Yes, negotiate the price of toothpaste, too. The longer it stays on the shelf, the more likely the price will come down, or at least that's the way the marketplace is rumored to work under academic supply & demand models. Toasters and toothpaste you can take back for a refund if they prove unsatisfactory, but automobiles as currently marketed are for life.
  • Some differences between toothpaste and automobile purchases:

    1. Buying toothpaste does not require an expensive four or five year loan.
    2. No confusing "fine print" contract required for toothpaste.
    3. Toothpaste costs less. (!!!)
    4. Toothpaste can be returned and replaced or refunded, no questions asked.
    5. Lemon flavored toothpaste is sweet, not sour.
    6. With toothpaste, complete customer satisfaction is guaranteed or your money back.

    • Pricing is one of the most important factors affecting consumer demand, and it is manipulated by manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and dealers, yet consumers walk around blind to important pricing factors, merely comparing incomplete retail prices between similar or different products or brands. Don't buy it. Demand useful and detailed background pricing information. We live in a consumer driven economy, so jump into the driver's seat of the consumer driven car deal! Drive a hard bargain. Don't buy until the manufacturer and dealer jump through your hoops and provide you the information you need in order to make an informed pricing and quality purchasing decision.

      DON'T LET THE AUTO INDUSTRY DEFINE CUSTOMER SERVICE AND SATISFACTION FOR YOU... Don't be sold on any deal. Be a shopper. Do the buying. Its your job as a consumer. Beware of the dealer sell-up. Buy only what you want and what you can afford. Repossession of vehicles is big business on the take.


    • Make your government respect your consumership in the new consumer driven economy with tax breaks and write offs similar to those enjoyed by big business. After all, you can consume more if you are taxed less, right? How about 100% write offs for all personal medical and the increasing costs of living (cost of business) under increasingly unregulated anti-social and anti-personal capitalism. You cannot work and earn money to pay excessive prices in the newly free traded and globalized economy if you are sick or unless you eat and recreate regularly. Businesses write off three martini lunches, but consumers cannot write off basic costs of living... Democracy, what good is it if only a minority get to use it and benefit from it?

    • Leverage the value of your business-- the value of your consumer ship, your value as a consumer. If the dealer respects you as a consumer and values your business, he or she will provide you with the information and service you require in exchange for the value of your consumer ship -- your business, your service. Hey, its a consumer's economy, right? However do not permit the dealer to leverage, guilt-trip or coerce concessions in price, quality or product merely because he or she may have provided you with materials you have reasonably requested. If the dealer is unable or unwilling to provide you with the materials and information you require to make an informed consumer decision, then he or she does not value your consumership, and you should take your business elsewhere where it is valued.
  • Keep a separate file, folder, envelope, box or binder of car deal materials, invoice, stories, articles, good deal tips, past mistakes, and other related information. Clip car industry and sales stories from your local newspaper and keep them for future reference.
    • Consider negative reportage and manufacturer and dealer reputations when rewarding car makers and dealers with your business. Consider reviewing the public court records at your City or County (call ahead for directions) Clerks office to determine issues raised by other consumers in small-claims, superior or district court actions against the manufacturer and dealer in your area before dealing and especially before closing any deal. Certify for yourself the worthiness of the dealer and manufacturer for the courtesy and reward of your business--the value of your consumership. Buy only from consumer responsive dealers and manufacturers.


    • "Go figure" your car ownership costs: (Compare this with the manufacturers' estimate, if available and obtainable)
  • Do the Math. Add up the automobile ownership costs for a year of driving and for the running life of your car, and for your lifetime of car ownership: 50, 60, 70, 80, 100 years?

    Do the same for your LIFETIME of car ownership and operating costs. Include insurance, license and registration, depreciation (cost of car minus trade-in-value, divided by years of ownership) and finance charge, if any. How much of your state and federal income and local property and sales taxes go to pay for highway and road construction and maintenance?
  • You can easily calculate your lifetime of automobile ownership costs by using the standard federal car use reimbursement figure of between $0.28 and $0.35 per mile for reimbursable personal vehicle use. This figure is an average figure. Double this figure and you begin to approach the real costs of car ownership and operations with the costs of unfair, manipulative and fraudulent sales and service practices added in. Report No. FHWA-PL-92-019 from US Dept. of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Office of Highway Information Management, Washington, DC 20590 gives the "Costs of Owning & Operating Automobiles, Vans and Light Trucks (1991)".

    If you drive 20,000 miles a year its going to cost you approximately $7,000.00 per year, including wear and tear (depreciation), gas, insurance, debt service, maintenance, etc. If you own a car for 60 years its going to cost you approximately $420,000
    (based on current calculations of standard government per diem reimbursement rates for mileage). As time passes, actual costs will be more, significantly more than the median priced American home. Note that this cost factor does not factor in the actual wear and tear and full mileage costs for operation and ownership of an automobile which is considerably more. Its is nearly twice the cost of median priced American homes. This cost does not include such economic externalities such as the costs of environmental pollution and other indirect costs of subsidizing the Great American Car Deal. These costs have been estimated variously to be from $5.15 to $15 per gallon of gasoline. Compare this to the pump price which does not reflect the full subsidized price of gasoline or automobile ownership and operation.

    Parade Magazine (Jan. 26, 1977) reported that a Wisconsin based consulting firm, Runzheimer International, calculated the upkeep on the 1997 Mercedes 320S at $18,212 a year to operate. These (after purchase) costs were based on annual total fuel, oil, maintenance, tires, insurance, depreciation, financing, taxes and licensing costs. Runzheimer International reported calculated the following annual "operating" costs (keep in mind these cost do not include indirect economic costs associated with the automobile in the environment):

    • Cadillac DeVille ($14,596),
    • Lincoln Town Car Executive ($14,222),
    • Oldsmobile Aurora ($13,266),
    • Buick Riviera ($11,945),
    • Ford Crown Victoria LX ($10,698)
    • and
    • Buick LeSabre Ltd. ($10,580).

    Thus, a lifetime of Buick LeSabre Ltd. operating costs could add up to $581,900, assuming a 55 year automobile ownership lifetime (not including purchase price at X-year intervals). Your costs may vary, of course. Oh, and a 55 year automobile lifetime of ownership for the Mercedes 320S (at 1997 prices -- [factor in a 3%/year inflation rate]) would be $1,001,660. But, what's a million between friends? With interest and inflation compounding over sixty years, a considerable amount, indeed.

    So, why isn't the Great American Car Deal regulated with minimum education and training requirements, testing, and licensing of dealers and mechanics like or similar to the way we regulate real estate agents? Because your government hasn't gotten your consumer message, or is ignoring it!

    Using these calculations, if you drive 15,000 miles a year and own cars for 60 years at today's figures, say for $0.28 per mile of reimbursable private vehicle use costs, your consumer costs would be $252,000, again significantly more (nearly twice as much) than the median price of the American home (recently reported to be ($149,000).
    Actual costs, factoring in the real costs of ownership and operation including the inflationary influences of fraud, waste and abuse, is considerably more than these figures suggest.

    Oh yeah, keep in mind that at least and likely much more than $256 billion of your tax dollars over the next five years will be given away as corporate welfare to profitable corporations like:

    • Archer Daniels Midland
    • McDonalds (to advertise its products overseas).
    • Gallo Winery (to advertise their wines overseas).
    • Plush Colorado Ski Resorts
    • Weyerhauser
    • Georgia Pacific
    • Walt Disney
    • Martin Marietta
    • Mining Industry Interests
    • National Meat Association
    • Energy and Petrochemical Industries
    • and many more...(Thanks for your contributions).

    Because your government hasn't gotten your consumer message, or is ignoring it! Are you getting your money's worth? Some of us are, why aren't you? How long are you going to permit your "representative" government to give away your money to profitable corporate slouches like Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), to help it pay its fines for fixing prices for which it recently was found guilty.


    Is it worth it?

    • "Go figure" your car operating costs:
      (Compare this with the manufacturers'' estimate, if available).
  • Add up all costs for operating your car per year, length of ownership and longevity of vehicle. You can estimate them by taking the costs for a month and multiplying twelve to give you the yearly costs, but actual costs over the chosen time period is more accurate. Include gas, oil, tickets, tolls and parking, maintenance costs, car washes and other car related costs. All of them. Do this manually or if you have Quicken or other money and finance managing programs, set up a separate "car costs" account to track your overall car costs for future comparison and reference.
    • Is it worth it? What's your total Lifetime per mileage cost of car ownership and operation? Is it worth it? Would better and more efficient public transportation serve your needs more economically. Can you reduce your per mileage personal transportation costs by changing your car ownership or car use habits and patterns? Not driving is the best deal. Driving during non-peak traffic conditions is more efficient than commute driving. Grouping chores or errands requiring vehicle use is also a way of reducing overall per mileage car ownership and operation costs.
  • Keep this information for reference and comparison. You may not be able to calculate these costs because you don't have complete records, but this is a good time to begin keeping all your car related records for future reference. These records may help you in documenting repair work and in selling your car when the time comes anyway.
    • Consider requesting that vehicle manufacturers provide written projections of the total cost per mile of ownership and operation of each of its vehicles (your total cost / mile may vary), and request the manufacturer's failure rate projections for the model of vehicle you are considering buying and factor this into your purchasing and final offer decisions. Manufacturers have risk assessment specialists on staff to calculate lemon and failure rates to determine how much to ding the consumer per vehicle to cover these anticipated costs. This failure rate is calculated into the cost of all new vehicles. This includes the manufacturer's costs for warranty work and replacement of lemons. There is no good reason why, in the name of genuine customer service, that the manufacturer should not be willing to provide this information without request, so ask anyway. Consider not dealing until you receive all necessary disclosures and information in a clear and concise and useful form and content. If there was true competition in automobile markets manufacturers would be competing more obviously in providing consumers with value-added information and consumer services. Instead buying a car is a potential risky business.
  • Consider requesting a copy of the manufacturer's franchise licensing agreement between the dealer and manufacturer before purchasing from a dealer. Expect resistance, whole trunk spaces full here, too. Also consider requesting a copy of the industry's policy on sanctioning and policing tricky dealers and unfair, manipulative and fraudulent sales and service practices. If the dealer requests its salespersons to sign truth statements, request copies of these in advance of dealing too, and remember to ask why these statements are required by the dealership. Expect resistance, be firm. If these documents are not available, why not, doesn't the dealership respect its customers or provide minimally satisfactory customer service?
    • Consider avoiding dealing until all documentation has been received in advance and reviewed completely away from the dealership. Make this a standard practice until dealers and manufacturers build this into their customer service and sales practices. Obtaining the dealers home phone, address and credit information is more easily leveraged prior to a purchase.

      Consumers should require of the manufacturer and dealer the same information of the dealer and manufacturer that is required of the consumer in the transaction. This sets the proper tone and demeanor between consumer and dealer and consumer and manufacturer. It puts the consumer in the driver's seat of the Great American Car Deal where we belong. Standard loan or employee application forms may be obtained at your local stationers or business supply store.

      Tailor the standard information to meet your personal needs for obtaining necessary credit and address and phone number information from dealer and manufacturer staff. Having the home phone numbers of the dealer's and manufacturer' customer service representative manager may help in resolving after-sale quality and warranty issues. Make sure you are not being sandbagged with a phone number to a business office or answering machine. Check for a published direct and active listing of the owner(s) of the dealership and for the president, sales manager, and customer service manager of the dealership in the area of location of the dealership, and of the manufacturer in the directory or from directory assistance in the area of location of the manufacturer's national headquarters. No published home phone number for the dealer or manufacturer? Why not? Its much easier to give customers the brush off when you don't have to deal with them directly, and what are dealer's for anyway?


    Does Your Auto Dealer or Manufacturer Support FAIR Car Sales and Services Practices Legislation? Find out, and get it in writing.

    • Request and obtain a copy of the dealer's letter to its state and national legislative representatives outlining the dealership's support and sponsorship of local, state and national "Fair Car Sales and Services Practices" legislation to protect consumers from unfair, manipulative and fraudulent sales and service practices in the industry. Look for this to be displayed conspicuously on the dealership's "salesperson of the month" motivation plaque display wall. Consider not buying until the dealer provides you with a copy of such a letter and you are satisfied with its contents and that it has been forwarded for action by the dealer's governmental leaders.
  • Consider forwarding a photocopy of the dealer's letter to your state and national representatives along with your personal letter requesting same. Obtain a copy of similar letters from the manufacturer if possible before buying too. Perhaps the manufacturer will volunteer a list of all consumer protection laws, programs and policies it has supported and sponsored.
    • Distrust, but verify. Remember, dishonest car dealers can always become convenience shop clerks or burger flippers at the local fast food restaurants if they cannot make a living fairly without mistreating the public and abusing the marketplace. This industry is making enough in profits and is successful and powerful enough to demand and get effective and comprehensive consumer protection -- " FAIR CAR SALES AND SERVICE PRACTICES" (is fairness too "flipping and turning" ask?) --legislation to protect consumers, dealers and our economy from the expensive trickery of unfair, manipulative and fraudulent auto sales and service practices. But they will not do this voluntarily, and consumers are paying for it. So, make sure you are getting your money's worth.
    • Leverage your willingness to deal with a dealer by requesting that the dealer (the owner of the dealership on dealership letterhead) write a letter to their state and national representative demanding Fair Car Sales and Service Protection Legislation. Obtain a copy of the letter and forward a copy of it to your local, state and national government officials, along with your letter demanding same. Better yet, take a copy of your auto consumer protection letter to your dealer with you when you are ready to deal, and leverage the deal for dealer's signature on the letter. Forward the letter to your government representative after making a copy for your files.
  • "No bumper rating sticker on new vehicles...? No deal...!!!" (2.5 miles per hour rating-- you call that a bumper?) Hell no, no bumper, no deal! (Pick-ups are often yet sold without bumpers, although they likely will be presented for test driving fitted with one and removed between test drive and drive-off, or perhaps the dealer will remember the bumper as an add-on or extra near closing the deal after the consumer has settled into the deal--avoid such deal add-ons, make the dealer throw in the forgotten extras as a condition of completing the deal.
    • Don't rush to close the deal, as this is the customer's milking time. Is this misrepresentation or just the industry's idea of customer service--the bumper thing? What are bumpers for anyway? Cheap bumpers are a way for manufacturers to pass costs downhill to consumers. A little extra in bumper protection would save consumers in insurance premiums and deductible expenditures for major damage caused due to minor impacts. Ding, ding, ding...Make sure bumpers, tires and the engine are included in the base price of the vehicle, as consumers have discovered to their dismay that dealers have removed many items between test drive and drive-off...don't get taken for the Great American Car deal Ride.
  • Request future rebate information about vehicles you are interested in purchasing "IN WRITING" (Read between the lines -- double meanings can be confusing or misleading). Obtain this information in writing. Ask that every verbal representation by the dealer's or manufacturer's sales staff be backed up in writing. Everything! Don't accept or buy anything at face value. Remember to request full disclosures about outstanding or current recall information about any vehicle you are about to purchase, including new and used vehicles.
  • Rebates vs. incentives...

    • Understand the difference between sales incentives and rebates. Sales incentives are typically offered from the manufacturer to the dealer. Rebates are typically offered from the dealer to the consumer. If you request information on future rebates and the dealer or salesperson says that the manufacturer does not offer rebates, so there is unlikely to be rebates on the vehicle, this is half truthful, as rebates may not be offered by the manufacturer, but may be offered by the dealer at a later date.

    Invoice? Whose invoice?

    • Dealers also have some neat truth tricks they play with invoices. Who's invoice? Manufacturer's invoice? Dealer's invoice? "Oh, I thought you meant my invoice?" A dealer once went back to his price book three or four times to get the requested "manufacturer's invoice price", returning each time with a different and wrong answer. When tweaked on this the following day, the dealer's sales staff indignantly said he thought the customer had meant "his invoice." Yeah sure. Like the dealer wouldn't know his invoice price any better than he would know the manufacturer's price? Another dealer even said over the phone that his sales staff would not know the manufacturer's invoice price because he would not tell them what it was. Yeah sure, well perhaps anyway, like the dealer wouldn't let the sales staff know where their commission is based? And, as if a car salesperson wouldn't have personal access to such information? Yeah, sure. You place your trust in anything a dealer or sales staff says or does at your own risk.
  • Advertising representations are usually considered legal if they are truthful. To be considered unlawful an advertisement (not necessarily a sales representation or brochure) must generally be both untruthful and misleading. A truthful and misleading advertisement is therefore not unlawful. Huh? Or, an untruthful ad that is not also misleading is apparently OK. Hey, the dealers and manufactures helped write the rules with your money, what'd you expect? What, you weren't invited to the party? -- you paid for it with the excessive price of your last auto deal!

    Be critical of advertising. What is the stated and unstated message and the product and the feelings or unstated products being sold / advertised? Modern advertising is psychologically associative -- associating a product or purchase with such things as "escape" from the stress and boredom or the work-a-day world or corporate culture (also sold by advertising). If one could actually buy these things the excessive price of the Great American Car Deal might be worth the price. Its just a car, and it isn't worth the price of industry advertising which lies about a product being anything more than what it is or what it will do. "Distinguish yourself, be original, be radical, be anti-establishment -- buy a car, like everyone else...? Find your own road? Duh? Its a Saab story...!
    • Walk away from gamy or rummy dealers, let them puff their tiny egos dinging unwary consumers, old ladies and uninitiated first or second time buyers. If you get dinged on a deal, learn from it, consider avoiding the dealer and perhaps the make and model of vehicle again. Unfortunately dealers and manufacturers have contented themselves with swapping disgruntled customers, satisfied in the status quo of current car sales practices rather than making the entire system more consumer responsive as most other retailers have done through Total Quality Management practices. The auto industry will be the last to discover TQM, especially as it might apply to sales practices.
  • When test driving a new or used vehicle, have a friend or family member follow you in another car and carefully inspect the tracking of the vehicle. Even new vehicles can be skewed on their frame and track down the road at an angle, where the front and back of the vehicle appears to offset and out of square. This is especially important for used vehicles which may have been salvaged where two different vehicles may have been welded together. Inspect for wheel alignment too, as many "new" vehicles come off the assembly line or off the transport truck without proper alignment.
    • More good reasons to ding the dealer and manufacturer. Carefully inspect any new or used car. Look it over very closely in different lighting if possible. Move the vehicle from where the dealer displays it and look it over again. Be particularly critical of door, hood and trunk gaps and alignment and window sealing strips -- not all new cars are created equal -- even two vehicles from the same assembly line on the same day may vary considerably in quality control. Bring your own ball bearing.

      Will the vehicle look and perform the same in all seasons and weather conditions.

      Be particularly watchful of dealer applied pinstriping. Such detailing is often added to cover up defects or damage repairs or to draw consumers' attention away from defects, problems of less desirable aspects of the vehicle. Avoid paying extra for such detailing -- its not worth the mark-up the dealer will likely charge for it. Ditto for window tinting. And don't let the dealer "give" you anything, dealers never give customers anything -- its a taking business, and any gift is a ruse to make you feel beholden to the dealer for other aspects of the deal including the over-pricing and other dealer ding dong factors. CARveat Emptor!

      Wear your Polaroid sun glasses to dim the glare of the new car shine, it'll help you find razor blade thin clear-coat cuts and scratches or other hidden finish repairs. Check along panel indentation or detail lines for evidence of refinishing marks.
  • Look behind or under the shine. Be wary of shabby metal surfaces which may be covered up with shiny or lighter or darker finishes. Wavy or pitted metal surfaces are often hidden this way. Ding the dealer and manufacture for imperfect finishing, instead of becoming a ding factor of the dealer or the manufacturer. Close inspection of shiny new finishes can reveal repaint jobs which may lead to discovery of other hidden damages.
    • Avoid brain surgery at muffler or oil & lube shops. These shops butter their bread on both sides by selling unnecessary ancillary services unrelated to the reason customers take in their vehicles. Many of the specialty auto repair or service shops are slippery at selling unneeded expensive services, these are where the real profits are.

      Don't be oversold on any service suggestions especially just after the muffler shop has removed all your tires and they are sprawled all over the repair shop floor. Beware the neat trick of trying to sell unneeded shocks and coil springs with the excuse that brake lines might be pinched unless this service is done immediately.

      Verify any such recommendation with at least three other mechanics or service shops, and compare pricing before giving the go ahead. Do not be rushed into any service decisions just because the mechanic has your vehicle torn apart on his service shop floor.

      If the service is not needed, have the mechanic put the tires back on and back that sucker out of there and do not go back. If the service is needed, use the your willingness to take the vehicle to another shop as leverage to reduce or negotiate the service charges. Get at least three other appraisals from other mechanics over the phone before authorizing the work.

      Remember, 'half of the cars serviced by AAMCO Transmission Centers don't need new transmissions'....?


    • Retaliation is generally discussed in most comprehensive negotiating texts. Get one and study it. If you or your family have been tricked on a deal, and the dealer or the manufacturer is unwilling to make the deal whole, consider retaliating in a lawful, creative and measured way. Too often consumers just shrug their shoulders and "eat it", or let their emotions get the best of them and make a bad situation worse. This merely rewards the industry for trickery and guarantees that the practices will continue.
  • Keep in mind that retaliation is a two way street. Dealers may slander or libel you if you seek to correct or even up a sham deal, or they may sue you for slander or libel if you assert your rights.
    • If you paid by personal check and later find that you have been dinged by the dealer or the manufacturer consider stopping payment on the check if possible to leverage a response to the problems. Also consider that stopping payment on personal checks may be a violation of state of federal laws. It may be worth it if it works to leverage compliance with fairness standards or warranty or other sales representations.
  • One of the best ways (besides TV ads, billboards and web pages) besides taking some form of legal action is to go to the court of public opinion by sharing your consumer experience with at least five family members, five friends and five strangers, with a friendly suggestion that they do the same...and so on. Tell at least a thousand people about your experience, especially if its negative. Don't let a dealer or manufacturer sham another person in the way you may have been shammed.
    • Make a flyer and make sure your library has a public consumer's folder for consumer information and concerns...this is a team sport, folks...we only win as a team in the Tricks of Great American Car Deal game! Hey, two can play this game. A few dollars a month will keep you in flyers which make great reading on bulletin boards at laundry mats, cafes, bus stops, or just about anywhere where people congregate or pass. Be creative within the confines of local littering and handbill ordinances. Flyers or business sized consumer action alerts or information grenades can be returned with utility and credit card bill payments, or returned in postage paid envelopes that are contained in junk or unsolicited business mail.
  • Obtain a copy of the CARveat Emptor: CAR BUYER BEWARE flyer or make your own, and distribute it widely.

    Places where flyers might be well received:

    Jury Duty
    Bank teller & ATMs
    Office bulletin board
    Public events
    Opened widows of parked cars
    Conventions or trade shows
    Hotel rooms
    The Theater
    The Symphony
    The Opera
    • While "XYZ Motors, Inc., Sucks," seems informative, its not news to anyone who has gone through the demeaning rigmarole of buying a car from a dealer, as most dealers suck. So when developing personalized consumer alerts and flyers, be as detailed and descriptive as possible and be as brief as possible. "Undisclosed Defects," "Hidden Damage Repairs," "Unreinforced Plastic Bumpers," "Side Impact Exposed Gas Tank," "Never Again", "My Last VW (or other manufacturer or dealer) Mistake," followed by a contact phone number or internet address, etc., or similar are more descriptive than merely Shyster Motors Sucks," even though this is undoubtedly true. Give helpful and descriptive information when possible, letting fellow consumers know just how badly the dealer or manufacturer sucks or bites. Distinguish dealer and manufacturer problems where applicable. But do not let the dealer and manufacturer Ping-Pong you back and forth when resolving legitimate consumer concerns. They are in this Ping-Pong game together against the consumer. Slam. Slam. Slam. Slam. Your serve.
  • Call your local taxi company and find a source for car top signs for displaying your car dealing or quality problems for others to note during your commutes or trips to the grocery store. Domino's Pizza also uses a car top sign which is modestly priced. These come with a light to catch the after dark crowd. The car top sign manufacturer is often listed somewhere on the product.
    • Send a dollar ($1.00 US) for handling and a self addressed and stamped business sized envelope to CARveat Emptor for a Xerox ready copy of the CARveat Emptor flyer. Make copies of the flyer and make sure others receive a copy of it in your area or take copies of it with you on vacation and share it with others along the way as a way of evening up a sham deal or for just alerting others to the need for fixing the Great American Car Deal. Helping to educate auto consumers is a good and legal retaliative measure.
  • Consumer alerts can be designed into self-inking rubber stamps which can find their way on returned utility and credit card payment slips and envelopes, and blank spaces on personal checks, etc.. Businesses can frank their bulk metered mail with a consumer supportive or guerrilla consumer information alert message on all outgoing mailings.
    • Holding a well advertised lemonade, lemon cookies and lemon meringue pie party or sale outside the offending dealer or manufacturer showroom, with the media invited along will help consumers know where to shop more carefully or to avoid altogether. Talking to shoppers leaving an offending dealer or manufacturer's showroom is perhaps the most effective means of helping consumers avoid unsavory dealing tactics. Unfortunately it is also very time consuming, but a weekend morning or afternoon or two can do great things for your CARma in evening up a screwy deal. This will certainly make the dealership jittery about the effects of its deal spiel being taken for a spin by a cheated consumer as customers return to their cars from the dealership. Direct action is the weaponry of the guerrilla car consumer. Do a quality and informative flyer and go to the annual auto show in your area and distribute it to show patrons as they line up outside.
  • Self-adhesive pre-cut ready-to-apply (RTA) vinyl lettered vehicle or window signs available at FAST SIGNS or other sign company (yellow pages under signs) can be easily installed on vehicle windows or other areas of the vehicle to let fellow commuters and others know about quality or dealer problems or issues. Well- done, informative and tasteful signs will sensationalize and make your commute more productive and interesting, and its amazing how well fellow commuters treat drivers bearing free car consumer information. Most people will acknowledge such helpful information favorably with a smile and thumbs up signal. Avoid the few ill-advised industry apologists who likely will give you the single finger salute, as they may be employed by people who feel a need to defend the auto industry.
    • A recorded phone message about quality or dealer problems or concerns will let your friends, family and late night calling tele-marketers and wrong number callers know of your concerns. Keep any such consumer alert message short and to the point - look into getting an answering machine with voice mail boxes to post such messages which can be selected by the calling party. Choose a machine with ample message storage capacity within each mail box.
  • Advertise your consumer alert message number with flyers (with tear-off tabs at the bottom), signs on your vehicle or windows, etc.. This gives one's personal recorded consumer awareness or heads-up message a wider audience and effect, and its very neighborly. How many potential consumers do you have to alert to even up a screwy deal? Just one, right? The more the merrier, as they say....?
    • Copy a copy of the free CARveat Emptor flyer page and take it to work and post a copy on your staff or public bulletin board. Send one to school with the children. Leave a copy with your bank teller, grocery clerk, toll-road toll clerk, butcher, and etc.
  • Printed consumer alerts and messages can be photocopied on light index card stock and cut into business card sized cards or very small (as small as 3/4" x 2") cards (guerrilla car consumer's informational grenades) which can be unobtrusively left at ATMs, phone booths, the post office or tucked into all outgoing mail envelopes, or other areas frequented by the public. These small consumer alert cards may be stuck on the outside of mail-back envelopes using a glue-stick. They may also tuck easily under windshield wiper blades or between the window glass and rubber weather striping at the driver's door of parked vehicles for sharing consumer alerts with other motorists. Carrying a few of these consumer alert cards or flyers when visiting the grocery store, the library, the post office, to the football or baseball game, other special event, or on vacation, etc., allows many opportunities to share personal consumer alerts or heads-ups auto consumer information with other consumers. For a few dollars a month you can keep a ready supply of these guerrilla consumer informational stinger missiles ready for launching. Be careful with leafletting cars as some dogs can be possessive and rabid about anyone leaving free information on a piece of paper on their automobile. And, their pets may bite too.

    Consumer alerts may be well received at:

    Jury Duty
    Bank teller & ATMs
    Office bulletin board
    Public events
    Opened widows of parked cars
    Conventions or trade shows
    Hotel rooms
    The Theater
    The Symphony
    The Opera
    PTA Meetings (does your school teach car buying 101?)
    Bingo Games
    Hotel Lobbies
  • Consider letting others know about your car deal and quality mistakes and tricks that car dealers and manufacturers have played on you, your friends, family and associates. Only by letting the widest number of other consumers know about the tricks of the trade will consumers be able to avoid repeating these expensive mistakes, and will dealers and manufacturers pay an effective price for tricky dealing and screwing consumers.

    • Add AutoBuyology to your hot link site or recommend it for hot link listing with your favorite web sites. Build CARveat Emptor into your e-mail signature block as an automatic act of random kindness. Also consider creating a website home page or subpage listing your personal vehicle experience history. Describe problems and triumphs with deals and with vehicle makes and models. Sticking to the facts may help you avoid reverse harassment and or nuisance claims from the dealer or the manufacturer, although suing customers may be an untapped profit center for some dealers experiencing slower showroom traffic.

      Add AutoBuyology's web address to your e-mail signature block.
    • Consider consulting with an attorney who specializes in auto deal or lemon law issues. In the end, this may be the best and quickest way, if not the most fun way, to resolve or settle some auto deal or service issues. Some attorneys will take good prospects on a contingency basis. Several cheated auto consumers have reported good results from their lemon-law attorneys. CARveat Emptor!
  • Avoid car deal mistakes by becoming a savvy car buyer, and consider not permitting this industry to ding you without an appropriately measured and lawful retaliatory response. Do the arbitration thing if its available and to your advantage without compromising your options, values or integrity. If the dealer or manufacturer screwed up, they should own up to it and or just fix the matter without jerking consumers around through the arbitration ordeal which may be tainted with a "business" bias since many of these programs which dealers and manufacturers subscribe to are sponsored by the dealers and manufacturers -- not necessarily an objective or arms-length relationship. I have never understood why dealers and manufacturers who screw hundreds and thousands of unwary consumers, fail to merely make a few deals whole when they are caught red handedly shortchanging customers. Its just a greed and numbers thing, and we suspect there is a small matter of ego, where some dealers have developed an arrogant attitude over the years about consumers and profits. Make a killing on thousands of deals and make a few deals whole when found out. Its a no brainer, but many players in this industry are just greedy and unwilling to make screwy deals whole when caught, unless forced to, and as long as there are no laws governing unfair and manipulative sales and service practices, dealers and service shops will continue to believe they have a perfect right to cheat customers as a matter of routine business practice. Some industry players misbelieve that because a practice may not be illegal that it is fair and OK, even though by any objective standard the practice is clearly unfair and is cheating.
    • Avoid foreclosing on your options when it comes to deal dispute or problem resolutions and avoid dealing or settling with offensive or aggressive dealers or manufacturers unless it is to your advantage and meets your consumer values and criteria. Avoid signing away your rights. Avoid binding arbitration unless you are comfortable with the prospects of not having legitimate issues addressed through the arbitration process. Take it, "or you won't have any friends," jokingly or seriously stated by a dealer or manufacturer or his sales or finance manager is wholly unacceptable. Consider discontinuing negotiations at this point and consider appropriate lawful retaliation unless you believe you can trust the dealer to make the deal whole after having cheated you the first time.

    • Any threats of physical abuse or threats against one's life or property should be reported to the police immediately. If a dealer or manufacturer cheated you, consider not entering into a quid-pro-quo resolution, where the dealer or manufacturer suggests settling the issue if you "shut-up" about the deal or product. These situations occurred with us in dealing with VW's authorized dealers. If the dealer or manufacturer screws a customer, they should make the deal whole unconditionally. Charge extra for giving up your free speech rights.

    • Contact your local or state consumer protection agency for assistance in resolving disputed service or sales issues. Request that a case or claim be opened against the dealer or manufacturer.
  • Consider small claims or other legal action after assessing the facts of your circumstances and after consulting with legal counsel. Some small claims courts provide claim filing advice.
    • If all else fails consider alternative lawful measures including signs, faxes, flyers, business or smaller sized consumer alert cards, etc. Ready to apply (RTA) pre-cut vinyl self-adhesive window signs can be purchased at FASTSIGNS (©) or other self adhesive lettering or retail sign outlets in the yellow pages and easily applied to vehicles for advertising consumer alerts, warnings or notices to others. Be creative, truthful and as briefly detailed as possible for the best effect in such messages. Stay on message. Engage a resume or word processing service or use the graphic professionals at KINKO's to help if necessary in developing an effective flyer, graphic or logo, or vehicle sign system.
  • A system of standardized symbols (thumbs up or down, or lemon graphics or symbols) may be developed which can alert other consumers of a car buyers relative satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a vehicle or deal as a neighborly consumer to consumer service to other consumers (such as a thumbs up or down with the make and model of car or dealer's name on it). Someone suggested that an inexpensive way of making bumpers sticker is to print a message on a laser printer, having it laminated and apply it with double stick film.
    • A simple self-sticking lettered strip such as "Never Again" or "My Last VW (or Chrysler, GM, Volvo, BMW, etc., car dealer's name) Mistake" in the area of the dealer's monogrammed license plate frame (front and back), or in larger contrasted lettering on the rear window (don't block visibility) would clearly indicate to others a customer's dissatisfaction with a particular dealer's treatment or vehicle quality. If undisclosed defects are an issue, a self-adhesive lettered window or vehicle sign so stating, including the undisclosed defects would help others avoid similar mistakes. A phone number or internet or home page address would permit others to contact a consumer for more details or to hear a pre-recorded message about the dealer, the manufacturer, or the vehicle.
  • A "My Other Car Is Not A (enter make and or model of car you are driving)," bumper sticker (Vinyl lettered sign or bumper sticker from FASTSIGNS or other sign company) will let others know that your car deal or vehicle choice is not recommended for the benefit of others who might take advantage of and appreciate the free advice. This is a low tech / low cost way to even out a lopsided deal or shabby quality or service.
    • Consider going to an annual Auto Show in your area or nearby city. Take 5000 or more copies of your well crafted consumer alert flyer (use ours) and hand these out to Show visitors as they line up for entrance and encourage them to share the information with friends and family. Make sure you include a note to share the info, as some people forget or fail to understand that repairing the American car deal is a team effort.
  • Demand and obtain strong and effective consumer protection laws in auto sales and service practices. Do this now for improved car dealing experiences in the future. You may not be buying a car right now, and you may not be planning on buying one soon, but if you own one now, you will likely buy another one again someday. Make the effort and take the few minutes it takes to stake out your interest in the marketplace. Demand that the automobile industry be regulated in its own interest and in the interest in consumer protection.
    • Supporting consumer agencies or non-profits is good for one's CARma and future car dealing success.

      Practice random acts of kindness. Share CARveat Emptor with everyone.
    • Tell others about CARveat Emptor and how to find us.

    Illegal Retaliation (Punishable by law, if caught),-- Costs are Usually Passed Down the Road to Future Consumers by Dealers (So do not try these at home or at your local friendly factory "authorized" dealer.

    Illegal retaliation or over-reaction generally reflects the tendency of consumers to overvalue the automobile and thus pay too much, and therefore react extraproportionately to that overvaluing... you likely will get screwed in addition to paying too much, either on quality or product, etc... but its still only a car... so don't overvalue it and don't over pay for it, and don't over-react when you get what everyone expects -- screwed on another car deal...An example of overvaluing and resultant over-reaction associated with auto ownership may be reflected in the real life story reported where a homeless person was shot and killed by an auto (BMW) owner who became irate when he returned to this street parked car to find the homeless person leaning against it. The BMW owner is now overvaluing his BMW from behind bars for committing manslaughter. For our money, no car or screwy car deal is worth killing or hurting anyone over.

    • In New York State last year a dealer discovered that a bulldozer left on an adjacent construction lot by a construction crew had "accidentally" been started and aimed to roll over a line of 11 new Oldsmobiles. Flattened them all. Coincidental? Perhaps.
    • Scratching the finish of dealership inventory (sometimes known as keying a car, or the more fashionable: Razor blade thin (Exacto blade) micro-fine clearcoat scratch that only shows up weeks or months after sale when the clearcoat opens up
    • Removing antennas from dealership inventory
    • Spray painting graffiti on dealership inventory or buildings
    • Deflating or puncturing tires on dealership inventory
    • Other vandalism of dealership inventory
    • Physically or verbally intimidating dealership staff
    • Shooting, beating or maiming dealership staff (unfortunately this actually happens from time to time - when irate consumers over-react and take extreme action over "its just an overpriced and overvalued car" (consider lawful and legal measures instead which offer greater satisfaction mileage and less potential for personal down-time in jail or on death row [no car dealer, no matter how scummy is worth going to jail for] --trust us on this one, go legal in any retaliation, its more fun and potentially far more effective if done well and creatively!)
    • A friend once related how her husband took a car back after buying it after a real hard sell job including several grounding techniques and lots of coffee. After a heated exchange including pulling on the salesman's tie, they were able to have the deal annulled. Do not try this at home.
    • On a recent trip, it was learned that a Corvette owner who was not satisfied with the quality of the product and service found himself out in the wilds near a steep cliff with a coincidental flat tire, and low and behold while changing the flat, it rolled hundreds of feet down the cliff after slipping off the jack. Apparently the insurance company replaced the vehicle which the dealer and manufacturer would not.
    • Some disgruntled auto buyers have taken it upon themselves to have a "smashing good time" in bringing public attention to their lemon vehicles and lemon deals... by taking their unserviceable lemons back to the dealer and smashing it with sledge hammers, some offering the honor of a few blows to passersbys or willing onlookers.

    Consider these consumer tricks on your next or future car deals:

    • Use "System Buying" (System Selling shifted and driven in reverse) techniques to keep the dealer focused on valuing the value of consumers. Shift System Selling techniques into reverse and back up the dealer into a corner using your "System Buying" techniques. When the dealer asks what he can do to make the deal for you, merely suggest that he meet your request for fair pricing, quality and service. Then, don't let the bugger talk you out of obtaining these simple consumer oriented deal items.
  • Check with your state attorney general, but usually until you actually drive the vehicle off the lot (considered taking possession of the vehicle -- the contract has not been executed -- meaning that until you drive the vehicle off the lot, in some states you may be able to back out of a deal even though you may have signed the contract. Use this fact where applicable to cat and mouse the dealer if such fun is your interest.

    Hold on to the keys of your old car if you are trading it in. Never, under any circumstances, give your keys to the dealer until you are really ready to drive the new car away -- as this will make escaping a "good deal gone bad," much easier. Don't give up your keys for any reason, even to the dealer to have the vehicle "appraised". Hang on to your old car keys until the deal is done and over with. Do not under any circumstances let a new or used car dealer talk you out of your old car keys until you are ready to drive the new car off the lot after signing the contract. Giving up your keys leaves a consumer at a negotiating disadvantage and lessens one's stature as a consumer in the dealer / consumer dynamic. Keeping your keys gives you leverage right up to the point of driving the new car off the lot.

    If the deal goes sour, or if you discover that the dealer has sucked the gas tank dry or removed trim, bumper or other items, you still have your keys and can drive away in your old car. Don't give up your keys under any circumstances. Use you keys as the final act of the transaction, after you have signed the papers. This also establishes the proper customer to dealer rapport, demeanor and relationship. Keep your keys and control the deal.
    • Avoid buying new models first year out - wait for design and quality bugs to be found and worked out before making a poor investment in a new product. Check the 1-800-424-9393 NHTSA car safety report service before buying any car, but especially newer models. Find out what problems others are reporting about a make and model of vehicle before plunking down excessive dealer and manufacturer profits. Use these reports to negotiate lower dealer and manufacturer profits. These reports represent a consumer's track record with various makes and models of vehicles.
  • Check consumer reported safety problems with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 800-424-9393. Use safety and maintenance issues and problems to eliminate potentially unsafe or high maintenance vehicle and to negotiate lower purchase prices. Report automobile related problems to this number too. Obtain a report / complaint form and return it to the NHTSA for their records.
    • Negotiate the dealer's profit on all new car deals, including so called "value priced" and no-dicker deals. Make your final offer after complete research and comparison shopping, leave your phone number and walk or fly if necessary, until the dealer talks.
  • Negotiate the manufacturer's profit too, on all new car deals, even (especially) no-dicker or so-called "value priced" deals. Remember the dealer's profit is only half the profit picture on car deals. The manufacturer puffs its invoice (so-called dealer's costs) with excessive profits and other customer "value-subtracted" costs such as advertising, product liability and negligence litigation, political lobbying to postpone, water down or kill consumer and environmental protection laws. Try not to pay these value-subtracted costs, or hold them to the lowest possible levels. There is no good reason why the auto industry cannot provide helpful and meaningful consumer information instead of wasting profits and costs on cheap emotionally charged advertising. Demand and obtain consumer service or don't deal.
    • Negotiate a consumer's lemon law into each deal. Just have the dealer and the manufacturer put in writing the consumer conditions you require for the replacement of the vehicle should it turn out to be unserviceable after purchase or fail to perform as you believe it should or expect it to at the time of purchase.

      Lemon laws are good as far as they go, but typically the definition of "lemon" favors the industry and not the customer, and some arbitration programs only have to "consider" the law instead of enforcing the letter of the law. Negotiate everything in leveraging a good consumer deal. And remember you are on your own in enforcing a written guarantee and any lemon law. Many dealers and manufactures require consumers to jump through a series of hoops before responding to legitimate consumer interests as a matter of simply postponing warranty repairs or costs to the dealer or manufacturer.

      Get the consumer negotiated deal in writing up front on every deal. Leverage the value of your consumership. Don't be surprised after sale when the auto manufacturer is trying to raise capital for a pet project or to reward shareholders to find a downward pressure (the squeeze) passed on to dealers to dampen warranty services.

      Manufacturers exercise considerable latitude in honoring warranties. Look for hidden warranties. Often, emission or pollution control devices or fuel distribution system parts may be required to be warranted for a longer period of time than standard warranties.

    Why A FEDERAL LEMON LAW Is Needed:

    • Because State lemon-laws are often unenforceable intra-state let alone across state lines. Moving to a new state? Will your lemony lemon-law migrate with you? Buying a car in a neighboring state? Negotiate a signed lemon-replacement agreement with your manufacturer (dealers don't count) in writing and notarized in triplicate (FROM THE MANUFACTURER !!!).

    • Charge a consumer's profit on all purchases (negotiate a lower price). Value the value of your business--your consumership and make the dealer value you as a consumer.
  • Find out how much the new car depreciation costs are for the new vehicle and deduct this from your final offer -- don't pay "new car buzz" or "shine" costs.
    • Change the control dynamic between consumer and dealer, shifting the emphasis to the consumer where it belongs in a consumer driven economy. Don't let the dealer guilt-trip or otherwise manipulate you into or in a deal. Remind the dealer when the salesperson attempts to focus your attention on one or another particular aspect of the vehicle or deal which you may have expressed an interest in, that your business--your consumership is the product or service in the transaction and continue to ask the salesperson whether the dealer values you as a consumer--values your consumership. When the salesperson broken-records, "what can we do to sell you this car," merely reply and repeat (broken record) as often as it takes, the consumer's broken-record, "meet my price and quality expectations and needs for fairness in pricing and quality assurance.

      Study "Guerrilla Selling," and become a Guerrilla Consumer.
    • Deal with the dealer's sales manager if possible to avoid being flip-flopped between salespersons and management. You may find that the dealership has several sales managers upon your request to see the sales manager. If so, consider walking out of the dealership to another one where there is only one sales manager who has authority to price and sell cars without chasing you or his boss around Robin Hood's barn to close a deal. This is called "flipping and turning," and many unaware consumers fall for this slick dirty little car deal trick. Its sole purpose is to keep consumers off guard and confused about pricing and from focusing on the consumer's best interests, the bottom line. Keep your eye on it, and if you cannot find it, don't buy it.
  • Obtain dealer and manufacturer personnel business and credit disclosures before dealing. In order to maintain the proper role between consumer and merchant, the merchant should be requested to provide the consumer with the same information about the dealer and manufacturer that is requested of the consumer, such as credit information, home address and phone numbers, and other such information. Verify. Verify. Verify.
    • Avoid time limited deals - any good deal should not be hurried. Don't suck on 0% down, no interest deals. Re-envision advertising claims to reflect the reality of the product and the deal. Visit an auto junk or body repair shop before buying for a balanced perspective.

      Industry advertising (you paid for it) notwithstanding, no new car will make your sex life better, make you happier, make you more powerful, make you more likable or loved or give you more control over life's difficulties or uncertainties as many advertisements suggest. (In fact, many car deals and cars have actually made many a personal situation or problem worse.) Sadly, no new car can do this, regardless of the stupidity of advertising which is psychologically researched and designed to push consumers' hot buttons of human needs for feelings and needs for power and control and social acceptance and inclusion in what has become an increasingly impersonal, chaotic and out of control world. Advertising and the corporatization or depersonalizing of our culture seeks to dispossess people of their needs, and sell these back at a profit. Clever, eh?

      Don't buy it, don't pay for garbage advertising, it provides no value to you as a consumer. Be wary of the suggestion that a vehicle is in limited supply. Often this is stated to manipulate a sale regardless of its verifiability or truthfulness. A similar ruse is to suggest that the vehicle may be difficult to get, which is merely another sales trick to generate or increase a psychological interest or demand for the product.

      Note how advertising tries to associate fulfillment of human needs with the acquisition of a product. No matter how wealthy you are, you cannot buy love, power, or control, and even if you could, you shouldn't pay more than they are worth.

      Honda is currently advertising "simplicity" with its vehicles. Five years of car payments, and the risk of a Honda lemon is hardly a mater of simplicity, and neither is the complicated technology which can take days or weeks to diagnose when it malfunctions. Simplicity, eh? What price, simplicity?
  • Avoid advertisement motivated deals (Dealer's agenda vs. consumer's agenda) (Don't come on down, until you are ready), buy when you are ready at your terms, not when the dealer and manufacturer would like you to or on their terms.
    • Avoid being sold. Question and be skeptical of all sales representations and advertisement claims. Read, "The Tangled Web They Weave: Truth Falsity and Advertisers," by Ivan Preston (at your library or bookstore--tells consumers how to find the truthful lies in slippery slope of advertising).
  • Obtain a copy of the transport, test drive, and use log of any new vehicle before negotiating or buying. These logs should completely account for all mileage on the vehicle and document the dates and places of transportation of the vehicle from factory to distributor to dealer. All damages, defects and repairs should be fully documented and disclosed, including persons responsible with contact numbers.
    • Obtain a copy of the transport report/receipt from the trucking company that shipped the car to the dealer from the car maker's factory or distributor to the dealer before buying. Be very careful of purchases of vehicles traded between dealers for undisclosed defects, damages, or hidden damage repairs. Obtain and verify full documentation of all mileage, transportation and use or test driving of all new vehicles. Remember vehicle claimed to have been "executive" vehicles, may have been abused rental or leased cars.
  • Have new cars inspected by an independent certified body repair shop and mechanic prior to buying. Double ditto for used cars, but increasingly important for new cars too. New cars are transported on open truck racks which means that rocks kicked up off the road often ding and nick the finish on new cars -- BMW, Hondas, Volvos and other models alike. Check with the local Dent Doctor to see if they have a record of repairing the vehicle subject of an anticipated purchase. Look very carefully for poorly or hurriedly repaired or touch up jobs in finish work, as this may tip you off to greater damage or concerns.
    • Keep in mind that even if the odometer has not been tampered with, mileage readings do not tell you the whole story of the use of a vehicle, like how long it may have been used in commute traffic. An engine clock would be helpful to consumers in this regard, but don't hold your breath, for the auto industry to add one for your convenience.

      Mileage does not reveal how the vehicle has been driven or treated or maintained either, nor does it give you the maximum engine temperature, maximum speed the vehicle has been driven, or other extreme occurrence measurements which would assist consumers in "valuing" vehicle purchases. It does not tell you whether the vehicle has been abused during test driving. Often new cars are supposed to be driven carefully for the first 500 to 1500 miles or more for break-in purposes.

      Brakes are especially susceptible to damage by improper test driving or emergency stops during the break-in period. These are other good reasons for deducting the new car depreciation costs for all new cars. Remember, most manufacturer warranty maintenance is done at consumer expense. Find out how much this will cost and compare costs for warranty maintenance between dealers.

      Consider negotiating dealer or manufacturer responsibility for all maintenance during the manufacturer's warranty period or the term (length) of your auto loan or lease. Consider negotiating an extended manufacturer's warranty as a condition for the deal -- what's "value priced" mean anyway?
  • Obtain a notarized written release from the dealer and manufacturer of all consumer complaints and information filed against the dealer or manufacturer by consumers with any public or private consumer protection agency, organization or non-profit before finaling a deal.

    Verify past complaints against the dealer and manufacturer with the BBB, Departments of Motor Vehicles, State and County Consumer Affairs Agencies, etc., before rewarding a dealer with your business. Keep in mind that generally the BBB currently will not divulge useful information about consumer complaints about a dealer -- so what good is it unless the dealer and manufacturer release this information to consumers in writing? Get this release up front before dealing along with all of the other information you have check listed in your deal pre-planning. Leverage your business, and don't let any concession be used to coerce you into a deal. Walk or fly until your are completely comfortable with the dealer, the price and the product and service.
    • Demand that the BBB rewrite its agreements and memberships with dealers and manufacturers to include full disclosures of all complaints filed against dealers and manufacturers. An unconditional membership fee seems like a rather poor qualification for membership in an organization that suggests by its name that consumer protection is its most important commodity.
  • Obtain a certified up to date listing of all past customers from the dealer with contact information. Randomly verify consumer satisfaction or service. At a minimum, request a copy of at least the last one-hundred consecutive sales contracts. Keep in mind that dealers typically number contracts sequentially. And keep in mind that these contracts could be faked for the purposes of disclosure or hiding disgruntled customers.
    • Check county court records for small claims and civil actions brought by other consumers, and check the bankruptcy court records for any indication of financial problems with the dealership.
  • Be especially careful of purchasing vehicles from a manufacturer immediately prior to, during, and for a period after employee or union disputes or strikes, as quality may be compromised. Unhappy assembly employees are unhappy campers. Excessive overtime can add to quality control problems, so try to pay attention to news reportage and coverage of the industry, the little that finds its way into mainstream newsprint may help consumers avoid quality problems built into the car manufacturing machinery. General Motors is reported to be effected by labor strikes currently (March 1996) which is impacting several of its manufacturing and parts assembly plants. CARveat Emptor! Watch those GMs GM gears down to meet demand. GM has been reported to be maintaining a very skinny inventory, so it will likely be hurrying production to come back up to speed once labor contract negotiations are resolved.

    GM's recent (mid-1996) employee strike in Canada is effecting US production and parts supplies. Heads up! Steer clear? Chrysler is currently experiencing labor strikes (April/May 1997). Watch out for downstream quality problem spill-over. Shop defensively.
    • Obtain from the manufacturer or estimate all value-subtracted costs the manufacturer builds into the invoice price of the vehicle. Estimate and deduct costs for liability litigation for shoddy products the manufacturer should have addressed through design engineering. Estimate and deduct advertising costs the manufacturer adds to the cost of every car. Estimate and deduct costs the manufacturer tries to recover from consumers for its congressional lobbying efforts to kill, postpone or water down value-added consumer and environmental protection and safety laws.
  • Prepare a checklist of all the information you need to satisfy your consumer needs before dealing. Work your checklist, work your deal. Don't be manipulated by the dealer or salesperson. Its their job to sell you on their products regardless of your personal transportation needs. They have babies to feed, but so do you, right? Try not to blame the low level sales personnel. They are merely pawns in the car deal shell game, and are usually paid a small commission upon a minimum wage, after the dealer has milked as much out of the deal for executive salaries and overhead as possible. The blame for the tricks of Great American Car Deal belongs with the manufacturers and dealers who benefit from the current system of delivering vehicles to consumers, and who pay token and patronizing commercialized lip-service to the low public repute of the industry in the eyes of the public.

    The manufacturers and dealers, who have the resources and means to repair the Great American Car Deal have chosen instead to maintain the status quo, where unwary consumers are often dinged on product quality and price through the employment of unfair, manipulative and sometimes fraudulent sales and service practices. Yet the industry has done diddley nada squat (aside from industry serving advertising) to improve its reputation or the system, opting instead to ding customers through so called 'value priced" or no-dicker deals...where everyone merely pays too much more or less equally. You call that customer service, eh? You've perhaps seen the ad in major magazine media, touting the industry's so called response to consumer discontent with the industry, buy suggesting that haggling over price is the major consumer concern.

    Its interesting that the industry would try to persuade consumers with advertising about the nature of the industry's public relations problems...this is just more advertising SOP to make consumers think that things have changed when in fact the Great American Car Deal remains the sham it has been since the first automobile was produced on January 18, 1886. Well, more likely since the days before camel trading.
    • Be wary of the new national car deal chain dealerships (the McDonalds of car dealerships) that are cropping up such as AutoNation (known locally by various names). These dealerships offer checklists (they have filled out the checklists in advance) and offer minimal warranties to grease deals and move units off the lot. Have any new or used vehicle, regardless of where it is purchased, checked over completely by an independent car assessment or inspection mechanic and body shop before buying. Save yourself the trouble and uncertainty and just do this, and ding the dealer and the manufacturer by back charging the amount of the costs of the inspections from your final offer to the dealer. These new car dealership chains suggest that consumers should be able to safely buy a car during lunch hour. Dream on, folks, and count your fingers and toes after shaking hands on all car deals.
  • Avoid buying from auto auctions where test driving and mechanical and aesthetic evaluations by an independent service, repair and body shop are not permitted unless you are a professional car buyer and know what you are getting yourself into. Lemons and salvaged vehicles are often "laundered" through auto auctions. If you buy from an auction, deduct a huge ding factor from the deal to cover the uncertainty and consumer risk factors.
    • Remember to negotiate the manufacturer's profit on all new car deals, especially so called value price or no-haggle deals. Make your offer after doing your pricing research, and walk until the dealer talks if necessary.
  • Demand that your government have fleet purchasing policies and criteria that avoid business dealings with manufacturers and dealers with histories of sham consumer practices and that reward credible manufacturers and dealers who demonstrate a comprehensive program of customer service and satisfaction.
    • Chrysler laundered lemons, hundreds of then in Pennsylvania, New York and California, without disclosing prior use, defects, damage or repairs, to second purchasers. General Motor was caught and charged with laundering 50 lemons through 31 San Francisco Bay Area GM Dealers. Some of theses "cars" reportedly contained mechanical defects which could not be repaired. Some of the defects involved safety issues, such as brakes. Feeling lucky?

      Public resources should not be used to reward these sham practices and to help these companies pay for the token fines imposed by timid, underfunded and understaffed consumer protection agencies. Make sure your local, state and federal governments are not rewarding unfair, manipulative, and fraudulent sales and service practices in the auto industry.
    • As many as 50,000 lemons or more, are repurchased by manufacturers every year and resold, often repeatedly, and all too often without labeling or disclosure of serious defects or repairs. Thousands of more vehicles miss becoming technically lemons by one repair job or because owners fail to enforce the lemon law.
  • Clip news reports of sham auto sales and service practices and forward copies to your local, state and federal government representatives with a request that they review government fleet purchasing policy to protect consumers from sham practices.
    • Reduce your insurance deductible to defray any costs associated with pre-sale defects, damages or hidden repairs discovered after sale for which the dealer and manufacturer deny responsibility. Deduct the additional costs of the lowered deductible from your final offer for the vehicle.
  • Request a semi-gloss or matte finish instead of the more expensive high-gloss vehicle finish, and request credit for the semi-gloss or matte finish. If the dealer is unable to supply the non-shine finish, deduct the new car depreciation (Shine costs) from your offer, as before your loan is paid the vehicle will turn into a semi-gloss or matte finish anyway. This is especially true for US cars which have historically displayed inferior exterior finishing. Getting dealers or manufacturers to make good on shabby finishing work after sale is very difficult, usually requiring research into paint finish problems experienced by other consumer owning the make and model of vehicle, and pursuing a claim through small claims or higher courts at the consumer's expense of time.
    • Request that the manufacturer provide you with a three, four, five, ten, fifteen and twenty year computerized aging progression image or "morfed" image of the vehicle as a means of judging the vehicle's appearance and potential resale value over various periods of time. This information will be much more useful than a ball bearing rolling down the grooves between the hood and fender of a "new" or recently assembled vehicle. Also request computer modeled collision impact images based on common and worse case crash scenarios with respective cost estimates for repairs.
  • Request pricing scenarios for various standard repairs and replacement costs such as for tires (sometimes vehicles require specialized tires which may or may not be readily available or may be available only through particular outlets), bumper, fender, rear deck and window or sliding side door replacement costs. Fuel and water pump replacement and air-conditioning compressor replacement costs are worthwhile costs to budget for and factor into the overall price of the vehicle as well. Remember, many of these relatively expensive items fail soon after the warranty fades. Check out any special tire rating which may make them unusually expensive or difficult to acquire from third party tire manufacturers and stores. Consider that each of the mechanical systems: electrical, brakes, power train (consider taking the train instead), power windows, suspension, transmission, tires, fuel supply and emissions control, frame, upholstery, and other items often fail to perform as designed, planned or intended.
    • Require the dealer and manufacturer to price in advance the costs of all scheduled warranty and on-going maintenance costs. And keep in mind that those new vehicles which supposedly can go 100,000 miles without a tune-up or oil change break down and sometimes turn a lemony shade of sour yellow after purchase, well before the 100,000 mile post.

      Focus on the important stuff (how much is this mistake costing me, we, us) and don't fall into the dealer's trap of romanticizing the "best case scenarios" (a natural thing to do when under the spell of the "new car deal buzz"), as every make and model of vehicle has its share of quality control problems, yes even those overpriced Lexuses. Those "100,000 mile, no (SCHEDULED!) maintenance vehicles" can be just as sour or sourer than the other lemons on the lot.
    • If your state requires license plates on both the front and back of the vehicle and the vehicle is designed to receive only one plate and especially if the dealer has installed only one license plate mount, ask yourself what else the manufacturer may have forgotten. How do you feel about a license place being screwed to the front bumper through the plastic because the manufacturer forgot to design or provide a front license plate mount, or the dealer chose to save a dollar by not installing one? You pay the fine, not the dealer or manufacturer, and the costs for installing a plate mount after sale.

    Signs of Voting Dummies On-board!, ... and Life on Mars?

    • If the dealer provides license plate mount frames, request generic plate mounts without the dealer's name and phone number franked on them if possible, or request that the dealer pay you for driving around advertising his or her business. This may seem like a small or insignificant issue, but it speaks volumes about the relationship consumers permit the dealers to define between consumers and the auto industry. See if reverse works, after adjusting the rear view mirror, of course. Buckle up, and drive your hard bargain safely.
  • Dealers install monogrammed or engraved license plate mounting frames because they work as advertising, letting others know where you made your last new car mistake. You may not want to advertise to every kook and stranger in the world where you got taken on your last new car mistake, er., deal. The dealership should not assume that you wish to assist it in advertising the dealership, and should request your permission to install the dealership's monogrammed license plate mounting frames. By requesting generic plate frames consumers assert the proper consumer to dealer demeanor and relationship.
    • And by all means, if a dealer mistreats you, do not drive around with the dealer's name and phone number emblazoned on the front and rear of your car, for free at your expense -- yes, you paid for it. Remove the license place frame and replace it or go without one, or you can paint or tape over the name of the dealership in some cases (avoid over-spraying). Remove the plate frames and replace them with generic or other engraved plate frames available from your alma mata.
  • Perhaps the only legitimate use of the dealer's license plate frames is when they are accompanied with ready to apply (RTA) self-adhesive lettering or signs indicating the nature of any mistreatment accorded the consumer by the dealer. In such a case, the accompanying message should be obviously related to and reflective of the dealer's name and phone number and located near the dealer's monogrammed license plate frame.
    • Driving around with the dealer's monogrammed license plate frames on your car is generally reflective of a non-assertive consumer working for the dealership for no remuneration -- stupid, very stupid. Unless the dealer is paying you for the service, take them off and replace them as soon as possible. Does the dealer drive around with your name on his or her vehicle, advertising the value of your consumership, for free? Do what the dealer does. Give the dealer the dealer's treatment. Treat the dealer like dealers have treated consumers for fun and profit for decades over the last century.
  • If you buy a car, consider buying near the end of the month and just before the new model year vehicles are due out (typically in October of each year), or better yet wait for a model to reach a year old on the dealer's lot and deduct the new car depreciation cost. Call another dealer and tell him or her that you have XYZ new car with (mileage) and ask how much the dealer would pay for the vehicle -- this is how much the car is worth -- not the sticker or dealer's asking price. No car is worth more than the amount the dealer would by it back from you for if you sold it back to the dealer immediately after buying it. Buying a car does not and should not depreciate the cost and value of the vehicle. Consider not paying more for any car then the dealer would buy it back for five minutes after you buy it. It really isn't worth any more than this.
    • Dealers are reported to have an inventory incentive to move units on a monthly basis and may try to increase their monthly unit sales by accepting a better consumer deal near the end of the month. Try to avoid buying over the seasonal holidays of Christmas and New Years. Dealers often try to reduce inventory before new model vehicles are due out around October of each year. New model cars are usually out in October or thereabouts. Dealers may accept better consumer deals nearer the time when they are expecting the new vehicle model shipments from the manufacturers. Consumers will have to negotiate fiercely whenever they deal to get the best consumer deal. Expect this and build this into your consumer demeanor and strategy. Expect dealers to deny or to spin or even to admit to much of the material contained in this and other web sites and in the various books about typical dealer practices.
  • Be particularly wary of buying cars from a manufacturer which may have recently experienced labor unrest, work stoppages or strikes. Vehicle quality can be problematic and erratic enough under ideal circumstances. I'll avoid the story about the Ford Bronco owner who discovered after several dealers looked at it, that the wrong transmission had been installed in it at the factory (oh, perhaps the dealer did it). While mistakes can be made in normal manufacturing, and things might be left undone or left out from one shift to another at the factory, however, dissatisfied employees are not necessarily the most ideal folk to have building a product you trust your money and your life with on our highways.

    Studies likely would show that quality control problems grow during union or labor unrest. (This has been alleged and denied during the year 2000 Ford/Firestone Tired Recall--that the quality problems of the tires resulted from hiring inexperienced scabs to replace striking employees). Keep an eye on the business pages of your local newspaper for indications of labor / management problems. When a manufacturer experiences labor unrest deal very carefully for vehicles built before, during and for a period after labor / management dispute resolutions. CARveat Emptor! Personally, I'd avoid buying from a manufacturer during and labor dispute resolution period and for a least six months following resolution of the issues. At the very least use reports of labor unrest as a bargaining chip in negotiating better pricing and better warranties and deal extras. Go for it? Expect dealers to use real or invented inventory shortages during employee disturbances to increase demand and prices. Don't buy it. Walk. Wait. Walk. Wait. Walk. Wait.
    • When leasing (not advised,-- dealers/mfrs win, consumers lose) your next new car, be careful to have the dealer quote in writing (have it notarized) the rate of interest you are paying on the lease or the lease rate or what it costs you to lease the vehicle, the total costs for the lease, and any costs for premature return, and the buyout of the lease costs upfront -- get these in writing. A good way to proceed with lease negotiations is to ask the dealer (and verify) the difference in total costs between leasing and buying the vehicle outright. If you don't mind paying for maintenance, excess mileage, and other hidden lease costs, and typically hold onto your vehicles for less than three to four years, leasing may be acceptable to you... but buying and holding is still the best way to go from a consumer point of view... and you may as well think about taking advantage of this strategy, as long as the auto industry permits it... or buy used, carefully, or opt out of the car deal deal altogether and pocket the change and invest it with compounding interest for a better retirement...
  • Many states do not require leasing rate disclosures which are required on direct loans, and dealers have been ripping off customers in credits on trade-ins, rebates, maintenance, early-out, or other negotiated credits. Two thousand or more auto consumers in Florida reported being leased vehicles that they thought they were buying and intended to purchase outright. Hum, must be more of that good-ole customer service the automobile industry brags about in its advertising. Dealers and manufactures make 3% to 10% or more over the MSRP on many lease deals because of the confusing nature of lease forms and due to non-disclosures of crucial consumer information. Consider not leasing if possible, as leasing is typically not a good deal for consumers. CARveat Emptor.

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    CARveat Emptor - Tricks of the Great American Car Deal
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