Online advertisements do not match the price paid at some dealerships
InvestigateTV – Buying a new vehicle is one of the biggest purchases many people will make in their lives.
“It’s a really big purchase, often the second most expensive after a house,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League.
Car prices are also skyrocketing. According to CARFAX, the median list price of a used car jumped 40% from January 2021 to January 2022. The biggest jump occurred in sedans, with the average cost rising from $15,995 to $22,900 during of the last year.
Amid this ascent, our national investigation team uncovered complaints from consumers across the country accusing dealers of announcing one price, but upon signing up, charging thousands more spot prices.
Daniel Blinn is a Connecticut attorney with the Consumer Law Group. We have spoken with three clients he is representing in litigation regarding this issue. All three told similar stories of price taking unexpected jumps.
- Karen Hubball bought a 2015 Volkswagen Jetta Sedan for $15,000. The ad showed the car would cost $10,980. “I was very upset,” Hubball said.
- “I was crazy,” said Gerardo Velazquez. “It was way too much money.” The price in his ad for a 2018 Nissan Rogue was $21,000, but when he went to sign his paperwork, it was $24,045.
- Michèle Gagnon bought a 2019 Kia Soul for $16,218 that was advertised for $15,499. “It made me very angry. I had literally exhausted my savings account to put the money on this vehicle to buy a reliable car for my 17-year-old son,” Gagnon said.
Blinn provided other examples of vehicle overloading. In one advertisement, a Ford Fiesta was priced at $11,599, but the cash price was $17,200 – an increase of almost 50%. Another showed a Nissan Altima posted online for $15,750; however, the spot price on paper was $20,681.
Blinn said his customers bought vehicles under false pretenses, and he said those cases were on the rise.
“Once it becomes less profitable to scam people, that’s when they stop doing it,” Blinn said.
After reviewing motor vehicle complaints reported to multiple state attorneys general’s offices over the past two years, InvestigateTV discovered that this practice isn’t just happening in the northeast.
- In Arkansas, a customer said: “they quoted me a price that was significantly higher than their online price. I reported the price discrepancy and they informed me that the national company was asking them to post a specific lower price on their website. »
- A buyer in Texas said: “The truck was advertised for $30,000. When asked for a price at the door, the seller refused and said the selling price was $38,000.
- And a client from South Carolina reported: “false advertisement, went to buy the truck and the price was higher than advertised. Stop baiting and change.
InvestigateTV has repeatedly reached out to the auto dealership industry for comment. The National Association of Automobile Dealers did not hear back. The National Association of Dealer Counsel responded by email stating, “NADC does not interview on these matters.” Auto Nation did not respond to our request for comment.
In Section 5: Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices of the Federal Trade Commission Act, the law prohibits any service provider, such as dealers, from deceiving consumers. While some states enforce federal regulations through fines and penalties, others do not.
“There are market conditions right now that have impacted the price of cars, but most state laws say that if a car dealership advertises a car for a certain price, they must sell it at that price,” Blinn said.
Greenberg of the National Consumers League said consumers should brake before they buy. She suggested doing comparison shopping, checking dealer reviews online and reading the fine print.
“Any vehicle purchase requires a healthy dose of skepticism about the reliability of the dealership, no matter how nice. It doesn’t matter how nice the showroom is,” Greenberg said.
Looking back, Karen Hubball said she had regrets and now wanted to make sure no one else fell for the same “predatory prize”. “People need to know what’s going on,” Hubball said.
If you think you’re overcharged for a vehicle, our experts said most state laws allow you to sue car dealerships for damages. They said you could also file a complaint with your attorney general or the consumer protection agency.
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