Buying a Car and Getting Away With It

Inspired by our post “HOW TO: Buy A Car Without Putting A Shotgun In Your Mouth,” M. writes in a story about navigating the tricky world of car financing.

Her story serves as a good reminder to read the finance contract with care and if you believe you’re being screwed, be vocal and persistent in pursuing your grievance.

If a business doesn’t believe the customer is always right, guess what? The customer will spend somewhere they’re not wrong.

M.’s dealership knew this and that’s why in the end, she wins. Read more, after the jump…

M. writes:

    “I recently bought a new car and bout 30 minutes after my husband and I left the dealership, our financier called us. He told us there had been a mistake made on the finance contract that we signed. He accidentally gave us a 2.9% APR AND $2,000 in rebates and customer loyalty incentives. OOPS! He thought we were buying a different car and gave us the incentives for the wrong model. The model I bought offered a special 3.9% financing rate OR a $500 rebate (almost all car incentives work this way — either/or on financing and rebates.) He not only gave us the wrong rebates and incentives, he gave us BOTH rebates and the incentive APR.

    When we arrived at the dealership, the financier, along with the business manager presented us with a new “correct” contract. We were extremely hesitant to sign this new contract, under the common understanding that once a contract is signed, it’s legally binding. When we asked the business manager what would happen if we did not sign the new contract, he told us that the entire deal would be undone and we would have to give back our new car. He told us that the bank would not accept the first contract and that it would be declared null and void. For our troubles, they threw in a free oil change and car detailing. OUCH. Talk about rubbing salt in our wounds!

    We spent the entire weekend fuming and called the general manger of the dealership first thing Monday morning. He apologized and invited us back to the dealership to present us with a new deal… a GREAT deal. First, we got the original 2.9% financing back. The dealership basically had to redo the finance deal with another bank and buy down the rate. We also got $1,000 in rebates AND a four year service plan. When we added up the costs on their recommended pricing and maintenance schedule, it added up to more than $1,200.

    EDUCATE yourself about the car buying process and read the finance contract carefully!! If you believe the dealership has made a mistake, be persistent in contacting the people in charge — going higher up the management ladder if necessary. The dealership made the right move in correcting the mistake and going above and beyond for something that they bunged up in the first place.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. I suppose the deal you got is better than going to court, but a contract is a contract. To my knowledge, there is not an attorney review period for a car purchase…you could have demanded the deal or sued for performance.

  2. nweaver says:

    One other thing that worked for me: Negotiate OUT THE DOOR prices, and negotiate over email.

    That way, you can print out the whole record when you are about to sign on the bottom line. I saved $500 when I bought my car. When I negotiated the price it was before I realized that I was also eligible for the recent grad $500 rebate.

    When the finance person wrote up the contract, he wrote it up as the negotiated price AFTER the $500 rebate. I pointed it out to him and the sales person, AND had the record in writing to show it. So that got fixed, and I saved $500 that way.

  3. thrillhouse says:

    Three other tips:

    1. don’t buy new cars
    2. don’t finance cars
    3. don’t got to the dealerships

  4. Ben Popken says:

    Dave writes:

    “I’ve used Expert Lease Pro software (it works for purchases too) to good effect on several occasions. It does the calculations, so you don’t have to crunch an Excel spreadsheet. It costs $70, but you can recoup that pretty easily–and it stretches when you use the software to help friends too. It’s not perfect and requires periodic paid updates to keep prices current, yet it’s easy to use/understand. And, no, I don’t work for the company.”

  5. Hawkins says:

    The “Oops, we made a teensy error in your contract” scam is as old as contracts, and common among car dealers. It is simply another trick to get you back in and squeeze some more blood from you.

    Some dealers claim that the deal is the same, that they just used the wrong form, or the wrong color ink… but the financing terms turn out to be different.

    In a case like this, do not go back. The contract has been executed, and is legally binding on all parties. If you have posession of the car, then you’re done, and can politely decline to reopen negotiations.

    If you don’t have the car, then you can sue to demand performance of the contract. A fax from an attorney sould suffice.

    These contracts are their sole livelihood. They do not make mistakes.

    This is, by the way, another reason to educate yourself fully regarding all incentives for a the car you want before you start negotiating.

  6. Ben Sherman says:

    “a contract is a contrat” is mostly correct, but if you ever look at one, you’ll se that the “binding terms” usually aren’t – there is almost ALWAYS a deal that says if the bank doesn’t like the terms, the deal is off.

    Also, not all car dealers are creepy ripoffs – this very well could have been an honest mistake.

  7. thrillhouse is the correct motorcycle.

    buy used, and buy what you know.

    or wait until wal-mart is selling cars in

  8. billhelm says:

    I find it’s better to find your own financing from a credit union or bank prior to going to buy. Dealing with the finance folks at a dealership is usually a waste of time, unless there’s a really good deal – but really good deals usually have catches anyway.

    A lot of banks will give you a sight draft, the equilvilent of a blank check to purchase a vehicle, which gives far more flexibility.