Dealerships will try all kinds of things to convince you that they are offering HUGE SAVINGS. Some of them even resort to giving things away like free televisions, free maintenance, or even a free car. Usually, the deal isn’t so great once you run the numbers.

I immediately get suspicious when any dealer offers stuff for “free.” The reason being is that, most of the time, these places are trying to distract you from the actual price of the vehicle and are betting that you can’t do math.

No matter where you are, I bet there is a local dealer giving away a free TV if you make a vehicle purchase December.

Buy a car, get a free TV – and it seems to be a pretty nice television as well. If this particular dealer managed to snatch up some 2015 leftover models they would retail for around $900. But don’t think for a second that dealer is going to take a $900 loss on a television just to sell you a car.


Before you get excited about that free TV, run the numbers. Is the price on their car more than $900 than the offers from competing dealers? What about your trade? Are you getting a ridiculously low-ball offer?

Also important to note that this offer stands only “while supplies last.” So the dealer could have bought two televisions, given them away the first week and when you roll up to take advantage of this deal they can say, “Well...we had a few of them, but they are all gone.” And now they have you right where they want you, in the showroom so they can wear you down in order to take whatever offer they have.

Some dealers won’t go so far as to give away a TV, but many will offer all kinds of other freebies. Such as:


There seems to be some good stuff here. ENGINE WARRANTY FOR LIFE! Who doesn’t love that, especially when it’s in big letters?

Oh wait. Certain restrictions apply, and there goes your plan to hoon the crap out of a GT-R motor. Okay, so, most modern engines will last well beyond the first owner, what else you got for me Nationwide? Free car washes are nice. I do appreciate a good multi-point safety inspection. Loaner cars are always a plus. But free manicures? I guess if you need a polish touch-up while waiting for your oil change, that can be appealing to some folks.

Speaking of oil changes, many dealerships will try to sell you on “complimentary maintenance,” but usually, this only covers a few years or a certain number of oil changes. Remember, a few free oil changes at around $50 a pop, doesn’t mean significant savings. Also, be aware of any dealer that pushes the free maintenance bit if they are selling a brand that already offers it. I’ve seen a few Toyota dealers attempt to use this to lure customers, and most folks don’t realize that Toyota covers you for the first two years anyway.


Maybe free televisions, oil changes, and manicures won’t sway you, but what about a free car? A Nissan dealer in Colorado is offering a free Nissan Rogue if you buy a new Leaf. That’s two cars for the price of one.

But of course, there’s a catch. You have to purchase the Leaf, unlike the majority of people who lease them because they depreciate like crazy, and you have to pay full sticker price at a starting MSRP of $30,000.


No one pays sticker for a Leaf.

Furthermore, the free Rogue isn’t for a purchase, but rather a 24-month lease on a base model car. The buyer is still responsible for all taxes and fees, and the dealer keeps all rebates. Just like any other item for sale, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

As a car buying consultant, I have worked with all kinds of dealers from all across the country. I have said it many times and I will say it again because it bears repeating, not all dealerships are bad. In fact, many dealerships have adapted to car buyers in the Internet age and understand that offering a competitive price with no games is a better long term strategy, than confusing buyers into paying more than they should. Of course, the dealers that rely on these tactics continue to do so because their customer base lets them get away with it.


Some buyers think that shopping for a vehicle during the holidays is the same as buying electronics, clothes, or other items from retail store. It’s important to remember that buy-one, get-one offers and bonus items are really just marketing tools to make you spend more. When these things are being rolled into a very expensive car purchase you have to look at the numbers from all angles.

If you have a question, a tip, or something you would like to to share about car-buying, drop me a line at and be sure to include your Kinja handle.