Buying a car even if you haggle down the price will still cost you more than it should with this scam.
Ever bought a car and thought you got a really great deal – until you added up the costs later? Beware of a very common scam car dealerships use to make extra cash from their customers; often as much as between $500 to $2,500. The amount you pay out toward the scam is largely dependent on what you are willing to spend. The really annoying and underhanded part of this consumer fraud scheme is that the money you get asked for later is money the dealerships recover from the factory. Put another way, you are being overcharged for something the dealership ultimately gets back.
Here is how this scheme works. You have haggled the price of your car down to what you are willing to pay. So far, so good. Then, you get hit with the line that the dealership is trying to recover their losses when they discount the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). So, they attempt to tack that on to the price you have already agreed to pay. Many people do pay the extra $500 (or more) in something called “pre-delivery service fees.” This is a scam, because it’s these fees that the dealership can recover from the factory later.
Here is what the “prep” fees are supposed to cover: taking the plastic off the seats (not a terribly hard endeavor), double checking fluid levels, taking a vacuum cleaner to the interior and washing and waxing the exterior. All in all, that may take about 2 hours or so. If the dealer tells you that you have to pay for it, stick to your guns and say no, because this service is already included in the MSRP. If you “do” pay for it, the dealership has just pulled off the double collecting scam.
Surprisingly enough, this practice is fairly widespread, largely because consumers are not that well informed about how to buy a car and what fees are involved. What happens if your refuse to pay the prep fee? The best way to handle this situation is to just tell the dealership to credit you the amount of the prep fees on your contract. Many dealers will refuse, and that’s fine, as your next move is to walk out. You won’t be losing anything at that point.
Is this double collecting scam legal? Unfortunately, yes, it is legal for a car dealer to pad the prep fees on your final bill. However, if you “know” before you go that the prep fees are already included in the MSRP, you can save yourself anywhere from $500 to $2,500. If you have been a victim of this scam, report them to the Better Business Bureau and get the complaint on record. You may save someone else the hassle of being double billed for no good reason other than greed.