Need help buying a new or used car? Beware of these questionable dealer tactics

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Buying a new or used car can be difficult and frustrating. Now the Federal Trade Commission is trying to protect buyers with some new rules.

Many consumers complain to the troubleshooters not only about sticker shocks, but also about new, hidden fees. Until these new rules are implemented, Consumer Reports has some tips to help you avoid problems.

Have you ever walked out of the dealership with the promise of a great deal, only to find you’ve been taken with you? You are not alone.

“The FTC has received more than 100,000 complaints of shady trader practices each year for the past three years. Now they’re trying to put in some safeguards to keep that from happening to consumers,” said Keith Barry, an auto expert at Consumer Reports.

Some of the practices the Federal Trade Commission would prohibit? Not disclosing the full price of a car to any consumer who asks.

“Until then you should get as much information as possible in writing from the dealer. Ask for a one-off price that’s free to the door,” Barry said.

And also ask about the cost of add-ons already installed on your car that claims to be “last in stock”.

“Under these new rules, you wouldn’t have to pay for those extras, but in the meantime you’re going to want to negotiate to take them off,” Barry said.

Half of a dealer’s profit, about $1,200 for new cars and about a third of the profit, or $900 for used cars, comes from additional financing, leasing, and service fees.

“At the end of the whole process, check the paperwork, check the calculations. If you want to buy an extra, negotiate the price and don’t fall for unnecessary extras,” Barry said.

Extras like those nitrogen-filled tires. CR has seen fees as high as $495, though one company says merchants should only charge $8 to $12 for a fill.

CR recommends eliminating nitrogen altogether, regardless of price.

And be careful when you are told that something went wrong and your car has been sold and the more expensive one is the only vehicle left.

“It’s the classic bait and switch. It’s illegal in some states and it’s an unfair trade practice at the very least. So that’s your sign it’s time to go,” Barry said.

CR says if you feel a dealer has wronged you, complain, complain, complain.

Meanwhile, auto dealer associations say the proposed FTC rules are complicated and could negatively impact their businesses.

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Alley Einstein

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