Consumer Protection
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How to Protect Yourself: Car Advertisements
Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office


Next to a home, a new car purchase is the largest financial transaction for most consumers. To entice consumers, many new and used car dealers typically advertise special promotions. These may include high trade-in allowances, free or low-cost options, dealer's invoice prices, free prizes, unusually low interest rates, no-payment grace periods, and other "specials."

When you see an advertised special, read the ad carefully, including the small print at the bottom of the ad. Compare this offer with ones advertised by other dealers. Do not neglect to consult reference materials online, in your local library or elsewhere and make sure you shop around to ensure you are getting the best available deal. Remember, if the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Trade-in allowances
Advertisements offering to pay you a high amount for your trade-in vehicle are often not applicable unless you agree to purchase a new vehicle at the sticker price, which is the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP). While the high trade allowance may seem attractive, you may be giving back the trade allowance by paying substantially more for the new vehicle than you would have paid after shopping around and negotiating the purchase price.

Low price specials
Ads offering dealer's invoice prices or other low-priced specials are often "stripped down" models, without air conditioning, automatic transmission or other options which many consumers desire. Too often, the advertised model (which may be designated in the ad with a "stock number") is unavailable once you arrive at the dealership, and the dealer may not be willing to order one for you. Moreover, the dealer may recoup all of its profit by adding typically high-profit options such as rust-proofing, undercoating or other items. Beware of advertised monthly offers that may be lower only because they are based upon a lease transaction rather than a purchase. Also, beware of offers of low-priced cars that are actually pre-owned, pre-leased or demonstrator models.

Low interest rates
In order to qualify for advertised low interest rates, you may be required to make a large down payment; to pay sticker price (MSRP); to repay the loan in a shorter period of time; or to purchase additional options. You are not limited to the financing offered by the dealer. You may be able to obtain a more favorable annual percentage rate (APR) with your bank, credit union or even your insurance company or motor club.

Other advertised specials
Advertisers often construct their ads to catch your attention. By using a bold headline offering a low price, low interest rate, prize, grace period, or other apparently attractive offers, these ads may lure you into the dealership. Many of these offers contain important conditions, limitations or restrictions, which are in small print at the bottom of the ad. Be sure that you are aware of any important conditions or limitations on an advertised offer before taking the time to visit the dealership.