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Why a ‘good deal’ on car sales websites may not really be a good deal

Why a 'good deal' on car sales websites may not really be a good deal

Car prices are in high gear this year, making it more important for buyers to shop around for the best deals.

But before you go to the dealer, there’s another reason to read all the fine print, because the vehicle may be a lot more expensive than you think.

Tony Stevens just learned that. He needs to replace his outdated pickup truck, so he started searching the popular site Car Gurus.

At the very top, listed as a “Great Deal” Car Guru was a pickup truck for just over $16,000, at a local used car lot.

“It says it’s a great deal, at $3,973 below the market,” Stevens said.

But deep into the details, he discovered that it was only that price after a significant down payment.

“At the bottom it says ‘Internet price reflects a $7,000 down payment applied to a $23,995 retail price,'” he said.

At over $32,000, he says, it never would have appeared as a “great deal.”

“It would probably change the offer from overpriced to overpriced,” Stevens said.

Report: similar ads on other car sites

However, the problem is not just limited to listings on car gurus,

A recent report from PCMag Similar listings found on other car sales sites from other used car dealers across the country.

PCMag’s Will Greenwald says he recently ran into the same problem during his own car buying experience.

He said, “This is just a small line buried in a list that says it’s $2,000 more than it’s listed for.”

He says the practice isn’t illegal, but says buyers should know that the price you see up front isn’t necessarily the price you pay.

“The information is there. It’s so hidden it’s deceptive because these sites only list the price listed,” he said. “And if the price quoted is after a deposit, then it costs more than what it’s quoted for.”

When scrolling through auto sites, Greenwald says to check the “comments” or “dealer description.”

And look for terms like “reflective after deposit.”

We called the dealer in the ad, where the owner told us he was “not trying to mislead anyone,” and said, “Lenders are demanding bigger deposits from buyers these days.”

But a spokesperson for Car Gurus told us: “This kind of activity is not allowed on our platform. This dealer has been flagged and they will be forced to update their prices, or we will remove all deal reviews from their offers.”

Tony Stevens wonders how many other potential customers don’t see the fine print.

“It’s a long journey to find out what you’re looking for isn’t what you expect,” he said.

So make sure you know the actual cost before driving to the dealer so you don’t waste your money.
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