My experience with the Cash-for-Clunkers program

Yesterday, I traveled to a nearby state to purchase a car I saw advertised through AutoTrader for $19,000.  This price was significantly lower than the prices for similar cars in my local area, so the extended drive was worth the time and effort. 

After fighting through traffic and trying to find the dealership (I took a wrong turn at one of the lights), I arrived at my destination about 40 minutes later than I planned.  As I walked in, the salesperson that I was dealing with over the phone greeted me by name and promptly took me over to the car I was to buy.  We walked around the vehicle, searching for scratches and dings while he explained all the various features the car provided. 

An hour passed since I was at the dealer when we finally had a chance to drive the car.  Since the car was on the showroom floor, the staff had to open the exterior glass doors in order for us to drive.  Talk about a slightly-unnerving task.  While the doors were about the same width as the doors on my garage at home, the glass panels threw me off.  Needless to say, I was able to exit the building without hitting the mirrors on the way out.

We drove around the block a few times before returning to the dealership.  Once there, we started on the paperwork, and that is when my positive feeling disappeared.  As he was drafting up the invoice, I noticed figures in the $30,000 region being written down.  At first I wasn’t too sure if I just wasn’t reading the info correctly, but when he turn the page around and handed it to me, I was floored.  With all the deductions applied to the price of the car, the bill came up to $27,000.  Confused and somewhat shocked, I showed the salesperson the website listing that I printed out showing the $19,000 price. 

At the bottom of the website, it states that all applicable deductions and offers are taken into account with the advertised price.  What it didn’t say is that the $4500 cash-for-clunkers rebate was also included with that price.  Since I wasn’t trading in a car the was eligible for the program (a fact that I new prior to showing up), the price of the vehicle automatically went up.  However, even with the $4500 difference added to the $19,000, the math still didn’t add up.

The salesperson and I went to the General Managers office and we discussed how I was not happy with the turn of events.  He started going line by line down the invoice, pointing out where deductions occurred and how my trade-in (which wasn’t eligible for the cash-for-clunkers program) was taken into account.  As he was talking, I noticed the $30,000 figure again, this time pointing that out.  The website listing showed an MSRP of $28,000, not $30,000+.  The GM turned to the salesperson and asked about the discrepancy.  It turns out that they brought out an upgraded model of the car I was looking at rather than the one advertised online.  This was the reason for the price discrepancy between the $19,000 online price plus the $4500 trade-in deduction, since the upgraded model cost more.

After about 40 additional minutes with the GM, and him trying to find alternatives to appease me, I told him I needed to think things over (though I also needed the time to cool off as I was highly annoyed by this point). 

If any of you are planning to buy a car, and you see a really good deal, make sure you ask if the price is including a deduction for the cash-for-clunkers program.  It will save you any unnecessary surprises, as well as sticker shock, when you go in to the dealership.


One Response to My experience with the Cash-for-Clunkers program

  1. […] presents MODU’s Musings: My experience with the Cash-for-Clunkers program posted at MODU’s Musings, saying, “A telling story of how car dealers are using (or […]

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