A North Texas car buyer contacted the NBC 5 Responds team after he said a salesperson at a dealership told him a car would cost thousands more than advertised online.
Read on to learn more about dealer advertising rules and what consumers need to know before taking a test drive.
“I finally found one that I liked”
After a family member destroyed Roxanne Thomas’ car, she spent two weeks searching for her next vehicle.
“A lot of the dealerships are running out of cars and I finally found one that I liked,” Thomas said.
It was a 2022 Hyundai Tucson advertised for $ 32,875 on a car research website. Thomas said she contacted the dealership who confirmed the car was available. That same day, she drove from Cleburne to Arlington for a test drive.
“I drive him and that’s when he said, ‘Oh, that’s $ 5,000 more than the sticker price,’” Thomas told NBC 5 Responds.
Which would also be $ 5,000 more than the price Thomas saw online for the vehicle she was testing.
“I said, why? He said because there is currently a shortage of vehicles and that is market demand, ”Thomas said.
Thomas said she left the dealership without the car.
Dadvertising rules for dealers
“The price you use to attract the consumer is the price you have to stick to,” said Corrie Thompson, director of the enforcement division of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles – which issues licenses to car dealerships.
Thompson points out Texas DMV rule 215-250 on advertising dealer prices, requests for savings, and discounts.
“When a dealer presents an advertised selling price for a new or used motor vehicle in the state, he must be prepared to sell that motor vehicle for that advertised price to any retail buyer.” , Thompson explained.
The advertised price may exclude some charges like tax, title, and license – which may be factored in later.
Importantly, there is no rule about respecting the sticker price, but Thompson said the authorized reseller must honor the advertised price on whatever medium: the dealer’s website. , a third-party site, even social media.
If a dealership has only one vehicle at a certain price, the dealership must include a stock number or VIN in the ad – Thompson explained.
Dealer: we keep prices online
NBC 5 Responds contacted Vandergriff Hyundai in Arlington about Thomas’ experience.
A managing partner told us over the phone that Vandergriff Hyundai keeps its prices online and if someone had given Thomas a different price it would have been outside of company policy.
He said if the seller mentioned another price, he could have referred to the dealer’s extras.
He said he also contacted Thomas after hearing her complaint and offered to work with her.
Thomas told NBC 5 Responds that she and the seller had not discussed the dealer’s extras. She said she ended up going elsewhere and was happy with the vehicle she bought.
“The price is what they had online, there were all the amenities I wanted and I was out in an hour,” Thomas said.
What can consumers do?
The Federal Trade Commission offers this advice to car buyers.
Before driving for a test drive, ask the dealership to send you in writing the price “out” for the car you are interested in.
Do this even if you are offering a trade. This way you only bring your trade-in to the dealers with the offers you have confirmed.
If you believe a dealership is breaking the advertising rule, consumers can file a complaint with the Texas DMV.
The agency has a dedicated investigator for complaints relating to dealer advertising.
If the investigator finds a violation, it is referred to a staff lawyer in the Enforcement Division. The action can range from a letter asking the dealership to resolve the issue, to mandatory training.
Thompson said the DMV asks consumers to provide as much information as possible about the ad: a URL for the specific ad or a screenshot along with the dealership information. The DMV said the consumer can download written communication with the dealer as well as verbal communication notes.
Here is a link to the TX DMV Online Reseller License Database.
NBC 5 Responds is committed to investigating your concerns and getting your money back. Our aim is to provide you with answers and, if possible, solutions and a resolution. Call us at 844-5RESPND (844-573-7763) or complete our Customer Complaint Form.