You know that saying: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is? That’s especially true of car ads. Dealerships are notorious for using not-so-truthful ploys to get you in the door. But once you’re there, you’ll often find those incredible deals aren’t quite what they seem.
Here are six of the most common lies hidden in car ads to be on the lookout for:
1. Base trim price for a luxury trim car
Don’t be fooled by the fully equipped car shown in an ad’s picture. The fine print likely notes that the price advertised underneath that image doesn’t reflect the car shown. Rather, it’s likely for the base trim — which lacks many of the features that are found in luxury trim models.
This may only be a minor bait-and-switch tactic, but it’s still misleading. If you were hoping to get a good price on the car shown in the ad, call before you visit the dealership and ask what comes standard with each trim. If the features you want are only available with the luxury model, be prepared to pay more than the advertised price.
2. Only stocks a limited number of vehicles
Dealerships may list a specific model at a specific price. But like with every good deal, it pays to check the fine print. Often, you’ll find a disclaimer that only one or two vehicles are actually available for sale or lease. And of course, they’re always gone once you visit the dealership yourself.
The advertisement is usually just a ploy to get you into the financing office so that a salesperson can steer you toward a different, more expensive model.
3. Hidden drive-off fees
Most advertised lease deals don’t mention drive-off fees — the amount you put down for a leased car. To get that low advertised price, you usually need to commit a few thousand dollars up front, not including taxes and fees.
When considering an offer, ask for the monthly lease payment based on $0 down. This will give you an idea of the actual price of the lease. You can then see how different down payments will impact both the monthly and total cost.
4. Cash incentives factored into the price
Dealerships like to advertise the lowest possible price to buy or lease a car — which often includes cash incentives. But there’s no guarantee you’ll actually qualify for these cash incentives, which are often reserved for loyalty customers, recent graduates, service members or other select groups.
And even if you do qualify, these are typically rebates: You’ll need to buy the car first, and then wait for the manufacturer or dealership to reimburse you.
5. 0% financing or no-cash-down offers
You may also see special dealership offers for 0% financing or no cash down. These deals are reserved for customers with excellent credit and spotless financial histories. Even if you are able to qualify, you likely won’t get as good of a trade-in deal if you were hoping to use your old car to cover some of the cost. And it’s typically harder to negotiate a lower price for the car itself with these types of offers.
6. Extremely low lease payments
The advertised monthly payment on a lease isn’t necessarily the full amount you pay. Dealerships often omit important factors like taxes and fees. Or they may simply calculate the lease at the lowest possible annual mileage.
Before you head to the dealership based on a low advertised lease payment, check the fine print to see what is and isn’t included. You may find that the low monthly cost doesn’t account for any of the other fees that come with leasing a vehicle.
Car ads are notorious for saying one thing and meaning another. But you can get a leg up on sneaky salespeople by knowing what to look out for before you visit the dealership.
Frequently asked questions
More guides on Finder
A beginner’s guide to cryptocurrency ETFs
If you’re looking for ways to gain exposure to bitcoin and other digital currencies, cryptocurrency ETFs could be worth exploring. Find out what crypto ETFs are and how they work in this introductory guide.
Your stimulus check could pay for a down payment on a car – is that a good idea?
With $1,400 or more coming to most Americans’ wallets, here’s how you can fund your car down payment and save money on your loan.
Biden plans another boost for electric car stocks
Biden’s plan to replace the federal fleet with American-made electric vehicles gives another boost to a red-hot sector led by Tesla.
How to finance a Ram pickup
Get competitive rates on your next car loan when you finance this full-size pickup truck.
Revolut Junior card review
Current Revolut users can get a free prepaid card for their kids between the ages of 12 and 17.
Car loans in Virginia
Three local lenders to explore before heading to the dealership.
This large dealership network works with lenders to offer financing for new and used cars.
5 ways COVID-19 may have helped you buy a car
Navigate car deals and a wavering market if you’re buying a ride during the coronavirus.
What cars are made in America?
Check out the top 50 American car models, and find out what makes them American.
Finder Cryptocurrency Predictions Report: October 2020
We asked 30 panelists for their cryptocurrency price predictions, the outlook for DeFi and how long they think high returns on yield farming might last.
Ask an Expert