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.
I'm excited and proud to announce the publication of my first book, "Confessions of a Recovering Car Dealer."
If you've been reading my blog or my Hometown News column for the last seven years you've already read most of my book. I used this collection of hundreds of articles as the basis for my book, but I also have added some new information, as well as lots of historically interesting pictures, dating from 1937 to the present.
Before you get mad at me for using this column to sell books, be aware that 100 percent of the selling price of my book is going to charity. Not only am I not making a nickel off this book, but I'm also including my cost of publishing in the amount I'm donating to charity.
My purpose in writing this book is the same as my purpose in my Hometown News column and blog: to help you through the hazardous process of buying, leasing and servicing your car.
You can buy this book at my dealership, Earl Stewart Toyota of North Palm Beach, or you can buy it online by going to www.EarlsBook.com. You can charge it to your Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover card or use PayPal.
If you're curious about my title, it goes to the fact that I wasn't always a consumer advocate for car buyers.
I've been a car dealer since 1968 and I used to be a lot like the very car dealers that I criticize today. Frankly, my advertising and my sales practices back in the day are things that I'm ashamed of now. I refer to myself as "recovering" in the sense that a drug addict or alcoholic is recovering. This column, my blog and my radio show are like parts of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, AA.
People ask me all of the time, "What made you change?" but I can't give them a simple answer. It wasn't an epiphany or an instant revelation, but more of an evolution. It might have begun when I sensed how much smarter and more sophisticated and demanding my customers were becoming. I know that my sons coming into the business had a major effect, as did my second marriage. My oldest son told me that he chose to come into the business with me because he could tell his children, my grandchildren, how proud he was to work at Earl Stewart Toyota.
Fighting a successful battle against colon cancer several years ago also was a factor. There's nothing like the realization of one's mortality that puts the important and unimportant things in life in perspective.
Lastly, I would chalk it up maturity. I'm one of those who believe we truly get wiser as we age. Notice I said "wiser" not smarter. There are a lot of young, very smart people but, in my opinion, they lack the wisdom of their elders.
My book is divided into six sections. The first is "research," which explains how you should go about deciding what type and make of car you should buy and how to select the right dealer from whom to buy it.
Section two gets into the actual buying process. One chapter is entitled "Emotion is your enemy when buying a car" and another is "Holdback is holdup for consumers."
Section three is "F&I (finance and insurance). Two of the best chapters are "Buying a car when you have a credit problem" and "Should you buy an extended warranty?"
Section 4 is about used cars. If you read the chapter "Ten tips for buying a used car," you'll be forearmed and forewarned against making a huge mistake.
Section five is leasing. More people get taken advantage of when they lease a car than when they buy. Read this section very, very carefully.
Section six is service. This is the longest section of my book because you spend a lot more time buying service and repairs for your cars than you spend buying the car itself. This section also addresses the body shop, which you hopefully use very seldom, but which can be very hazardous if you don't understand your rights.
If you have a friend or relative who you would like to do a favor, why not consider making a gift of "Confessions of a Recovering Car Dealer?" It would make a great present for a son, daughter or grandchild.
Most of the complaints on car dealers that I hear from callers on my radio show or read on my blog could have been avoided if the victim had been better educated on car buying and servicing.