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Games Dealers Play: Overcharging for a Vehicle

 We don’t buy cars the same way that we buy other things.  For most purchases, a consumer can walk into a store, pick out an item, and reasonably expect to pay the same price that is charged to everybody.   That is not true at most car dealerships, and consumers who do not take steps to protect themselves are at risk of being overcharged thousands of dollars. Federal law requires that new vehicle manufacturers include the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (“MSRP”) on new car stickers (known as Monroney stickers – named after the Senator who wrote the original law).   Dealerships are not allowed to remove the sticker; only the purchaser may remove it.  Savvy consumers are usually able to negotiate a price that is significantly less than the MSRP.  Websites such as www.edmunds.com provide information on reasonable prices for new cars. But, some dealerships take advantage of vulnerable consumers such as the elderly and disabled by charging them even more than the MSRP.  Courts have held that a consumer may be able to sue a dealership for unfair trade practices if it sells a new car for more than the MSRP without having put a sticker on the car asking for a higher price.  And, if a dealership advertises a car at the MSRP or some other price, consumer protection regulations prohibit the dealership from selling the car for more than the advertised price. There is no MSRP for used cars, but there are several sources such as NADA, Kelley Blue Book, and www.edmunds.com that give “book” values for used vehicles.   There is no law that requires a dealership to sell cars for “book” value, so consumers have to be particularly careful when buying a used car.  Most used car dealerships do not put the price of used cars on the vehicles; consumers have to ask.  If a Connecticut dealership advertises a price for a used car, however, it may not sell the car for more than the advertised price.  It is a good idea to look at a dealership’s website to check a vehicle’s price before signing any papers. Sometimes a dealership overcharges for a vehicle simply because it can.  Other times, dealerships raise the price of cars sold to people who do not have good credit scores.  Another reason for overcharging is to make up for money that is being lost on a trade-in.    An attorney usually cannot help a consumer who didn’t negotiate a great deal, but consumers who have been truly overcharged should consider having an attorney look at their documents.  Consumer Law Group does not charge for an initial assessment. Before buying a used car, watch the video of our Webinar:  How To Buy A Used Car Without Losing Your Shirt (Or Your Sanity).  It provides lots of information about how to get the best price for a car and how to avoid falling into many dealer traps.  You can save a bundle!   

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