SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Edmunds.com, the premier online resource for automotive information, reports that members of the U.S. military are particularly vulnerable to deceptive practices by unscrupulous car salespeople.
Trained to respect authoritative figures and say “yes, sir!” or “yes, ma’am” in response to direction, service members are at unique risk in a high-pressure sales environment.
Edmunds.com Senior Consumer Advice Editor Philip Reed warns that crafty salespeople may even demonstrate patriotism just to lower resistance to a sales pitch.
“Consider the case of a 30-year-old Air Force Reserve staff sergeant near Salt Lake City, who was told by a car salesman that since the sergeant had served his country, the dealership would ‘take care of him,’” reports Reed in his advisory piece, “Star-Spangled Rip-Off: Why Military Car Buyers Are Vulnerable to Bad Deals.” “The salesman then said that he needed a credit card number so that he could give the sergeant a price quote on a 2009 Infiniti G37x coupe. Instead, the dealership charged the sergeant $1,000, told him he owned the car and tried to pressure him into signing the contract. After the sergeant filed a formal complaint with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection and threatened legal action, the dealership removed the charges.”
Experts say that this is just one of many tactics used to fleece young service members, who can be easy marks when they have accumulated paychecks and an urgent need for a new car.Enough cases have been reported across the country to drive the creation of the Office of Servicemember Affairs, a new agency within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to provide information and support to military members about car-buying and other major purchases.
While warning service members of the risks, Edmunds.com also reminds them of their advantages in the car-buying process. Most automakers, for example, offer a cash rebate — typically $500 — to shoppers in the military, and some dealers offer programs for service members beyond the standard incentive.
To avoid expensive missteps when buying a car, members of the military – as well as civilians – should take the following steps:
1. Conduct target-price reconnaissance. Set realistic price expectations by checking Edmunds.com’s True Market Value® (TMV®) pricing for new, used and certified pre-owned cars. Edmunds.com’s mobile site is easily accessed at the dealership, should you become interested in a car that you haven’t fully researched before leaving the house. It’s also smart to check local classified listings to accurately gauge the asking price of cars.
2. Plan for the total cost of a car. Don’t overlook other costs of owning and operating a vehicle that kick in after the final deal is made. These include gas, registration, insurance and maintenance, and can differ greatly from model to model. Edmunds.com’s True Cost to Own® provides a free estimate of five-year ownership costs that gives consumers the ability to easily compare the vehicles on their shopping lists.
3. Be prepared to negotiate with your feet. Car salesmen create a sense of urgency, telling a buyer that someone else will take his dream car if he hesitates. There will always be another opportunity. Don’t be afraid to walk away without a deal.
4. Get good intel. Check the dealership’s rating on a Better Business Bureau Web site and read consumer reviews of dealerships at http://www.edmunds.com/
5. Strategize before you make a move. Don’t enter into negotiations right after a test drive. Instead, contact local dealerships’ Internet department managers for price quotes. Internet departments tend not to create a high-pressure sales environment.
6. Know the rules of engagement. When you sign a car sales contract, you are legally obligated to make all the payments. Unlike many other large purchases, there is no “cooling-off period” when you buy a car. It’s not a bad idea to sleep on your purchase decision before you sign the paperwork.
7. Call for back-up. For live advice and support, Tweet car-shopping questions to https://twitter.com/#!/
Additional tips can be found in Edmunds.com’s Guide for First-Time New Car Buyers at http://www.edmunds.com/car-
More detailed advice for U.S. servicemen and servicewomen in the market for a new car or truck is available in Edmunds.com’s “Boot Camp for Military Car Buyers” athttp://www.edmunds.com/car-
About Edmunds.com, Inc. (http://www.edmunds.com/help/
Edmunds.com, the premier online resource for automotive information, launched in 1995 as the first automotive information Web site. Its revered mobile site, Android App and five-star iPhone app makes car pricing and other research tools available for car shoppers at dealerships and on the go. Its automotive enthusiast Web site, InsideLine.com, is the most-read car publication of its kind. Its highly regarded mobile site and iPhone app features the wireless Web’s most comprehensive gallery of automotive photos and videos. Edmunds.com Inc. is headquartered in Santa Monica, California, and maintains a satellite office in suburban Detroit. Follow Edmunds.com on Twitter@edmunds and fan Edmunds.com on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/