December is usually a good time to get a deal on a car since both manufacturers and dealers want to end the year with strong sales numbers. However, just because something looks like a good deal doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pick apart the details.
A reader was shopping for a used Subaru Outback when he cames across what is labeled as a “good deal” on CarGurus.com
Now because Jalopnik readers are sharp cookies he didn’t take that price at face value. He then saw this little tidbit in the dealer’s description section.
The advertised price assumes a downpayment of $2,495 and if the buyer does not have that payment available the price increases accordingly. So essentially the real price of this car is $28,485, which I would imagine may get a different score using CarGurus’s pricing algorithm.
CarGurus’ actually has a policy against these types of ads and I reached out to them to see if they were willing to give a statement on how they enforce this. Here is what they sent me -
“CarGurus takes the integrity of data very seriously, it’s at the core of why car shoppers love coming to our site. We have a team dedicated to proactively monitoring and reviewing pricing issues, and ensuring that dealerships are not in violation of our clearly established pricing guidelines. However, should the rare occurrence like this happen, dealers are given a small window of time to update their pricing and comply with our policy. Otherwise all of their pricing will be removed until they are in compliance. Once the violation is flagged, we also continue to monitor consumer feedback for that dealer to prevent a relapse from occurring.”
Remember, the purpose of an ad is not to honestly disclose the details of the transaction, it’s to get you in the door. There is a key difference between an ad and an offer. As a professional car shopper, I probably look at hundreds of car ads every day, and with all the tricks that dealers sometimes pull, I tend not to pay much attention to the sale price in the ad. I use ads to determine which dealer has a specific car in their inventory that is worth pursuing further.
I have detailed before that ads can sometimes reveal clues as to which dealers you want to do business with and which ones you may want to avoid. Tactics like the downpayment thing above, “call for price” and numbers that seem suspiciously cheap should raise some red flags.
Regardless as to where you see pricing for a specific car whether it be a third party listing site like CarGurus, Autotrader, or Cars.com or directly from a dealerships’ webpage, always request a written, itemized, out-the-door price for what you are interested in. Good dealers will provide this and it will allow you to compare offers and of course, there are dealers that won’t want to put their numbers in writing. The level of cooperation and professionalism makes it pretty easy to determine who to give your business to