All car dealers pay the manufacturers the same prices for their new cars. Dealers will lead you to believe that volume dealers pay less, but this is not true. So, when a car dealer advertises a price for a new car in the newspaper, he has no price advantage over his competition.
Virtually all of the prices for new cars you see advertised in the newspaper are so low that it would be impossible for a dealer to remain in business if he sold more than a very few cars at that price.
The reason for this is that, if a dealer advertised realistic prices with a reasonable profit built in, another dealer would advertise a lower price. The dealer who advertised a realistic price is actually helping his competitor sell a car.
Most of the new car prices advertised in the newspaper are below the dealers actual cost. He protects himself by selling very few at this price and counting this loss as a cost of advertising. Next to an advertised car you will see some letters and numbers like, #5632A. That is the "stock number" of the car being advertised. This is all that the dealer does to tell you he has just one at this price. The chances are that if you are not the first person in the dealership on the morning of the ad, this car will be gone.
Look for these two fine print disclosures at the bottom of the ad: First, "Price good on date of publication only," and "Price good with copy of this ad only." These are just two more ways the dealer can avoid selling you the car at the advertised price.
If you read my last column, you understand about "dealer fees." These fees are additional dealer profits ranging from $500 to almost $1,000 that are added to the agreed upon price of the car by most dealers in Florida. Florida law requires that this dealer fee be included in the advertised price. When the salesman tells you the advertised car has been sold but he has another one "exactly like it," he can legally add back on that dealer fee.
As you can guess, the salesman's commission on an advertised car is either zero or very small. Having a very small incentive to sell an advertised car, he will most likely encourage you to buy any other car.
My recommendation to you is to ignore advertised new car prices. If you must respond to an ad car, call the dealership first and ask if the car is still available. If the answer is no, you have saved yourself a lot of time and aggravation. If the answer is yes, ask if they will hold the car for you. If you have to, offer to give them your credit card for a deposit to hold the car. If they won't hold the car, save yourself the wasted trip.
The only way to get the best price on a new car is by getting competitive bids from at least three car dealers for the exact same year, make, model, and accessorized car with the identical MSRP. You can do this on the Internet, by phone, or in person. Use Consumer Reports magazine, the Internet (www.edmunds.com and www.kbb.com are two excellent free sources of information), or even your local library.
Earl Stewart is the owner and general manager of Earl Stewart Toyota in North Palm Beach. The dealership is located at 1215 N. Federal Highway in Lake Park. Contact him at www.earlstewarttoyota.com, call (561) 358-1474, fax (561) 658-0746 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to him on Seaview AM 960, FM 95.9 and FM 106.9, which can be streamed at www.SeaviewRadio.com every Saturday morning between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.