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The internet has changed the way dealers price their used cars online. Most dealers will list their cars according to market values, while others will post a cheap price to hook you in only to make up for it with bogus fees when you ask for the total cost. Here’s an especially egregious example.

Recently, I was shopping for a used Volkswagen Golf R for a customer in New England. He spotted a car down south with an enticing price and figured that even with shipping he could hit his target of about $35,000 out the door.

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The dealer was advertising a 2017 Golf R with fewer than 7,000 miles for a mighty tempting $32,500. Considering a new 2017 Golf R has a sticker price of around $40,000, this sounded like an opportunity for some real savings. (I’m leaving some of the details off here so as not to single this dealer out, but to use it as an example to you on what to look out for.)

Many dealers are always a mixed bag, but I had worked with this store before and they were fairly cooperative. I reached out and made an offer on the Golf R, they responded by saying that $32,500 was their bottom dollar price since it was one of the cheapest examples on the market. I requested an out the door price with all tax and fees and they sent me a shockingly high $37,652. That is when I asked for a full breakdown of that price and got the following:

So this store wanted to charge a “reconditioning fee” of $1,365 on a practically brand new 2017 Volkswagen. Of course, there is also the insane $899 dealer fee.

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When pressed about that reconditioning fee I was told “All of our used cars undergo an extensive reconditioning process.” I responded by saying, “Show me the receipts.” 

Needless to say, I haven’t heard back from these jokers.

Obviously, that reconditioning fee is bullshit. They didn’t do anything to that car other than maybe give it a wash, but the reason they try to get away with it is so they can advertise their Golf R cheaper than the rest of the field and hope that someone will fall for the bait.

Reconditioning costs are just a part of doing business when selling pre-owned cars; the vast majority of dealerships have this already built into the price. If you see a car that is cheaper than what most other folks are asking, make sure you get the full picture on the total price before walking through the door.