Am I entitled to dealer's advertising "mistake?"

Hello all,
I found a listing online for a used hybrid car, let’s say roughly 20K. I contacted the dealer and they said come on in for a test drive. Now I’ve checked the dealer’s website, which lists the same car for a whopping 6K more. I think the KBB is in the middle of the two numbers, probably closer to the higher sale price.

Your opinion (given this is a five hour round trip…)

  1. Do I drive up and expect to hold them to their advertised price?
  2. Do I get the price in writing, and no doubt lose the lower sticker advertised?
    Any recourse to obtain the lower advertised price or other ideas?

Many thanks!!!

I’d call the dealer, ask them to confirm the 20k price in an email. If they won’t, don’t go.

This not a mistake… it’s a ploy to get you into the showroom. A lot of dealerships do this. You are just one of many who are thinking the same thing at the same time. That’s what the dealership is banking on. A bunch of people in their showroom thinking they are going to benefit from a “mistake” or a deal that’s too good to be true. The only “deal” you are going to get is the deal that they want you to get.

Check the “fine print” on the dealer’s website. It will probably have a disclaimer that they are not responsible for advertising errors. Had their web personnel accidentally entered a price of $5k for a car worth five times that amount (this does happen from time to time), would you expect them to hold to that price? If you have a paper printout of the original ad with the lower price, you may be able to use this as a negotiation tool, but dealers generally do not sell highly desirable cars like hybrids for thousands below blue book. If you are paying cash, they may be willing to meet you halfway, as long as it is not less than they paid for the car.

Bait and switch is against the law in many states (including OK) but it’s done anyway. Usually there is a disclaimer in tiny print that says that price is applicable to a car with stock number xxxx or whatever and when you show up 2 minutes after that ad is placed you would be told that stock number xxxx was just sold.

All of those ads promising the moon are nothing but BS that is designed to do one thing only; get your body onto the lot where the sales pressure can be applied.

Many thanks all. I was pretty much on the same page, especially with Missileman’s analysis. I think I’ll have to get it in writing, so there’s no bait and switch. It seems illegal, but since I would be travelling to a different state, it would be nearly impossible to fight them on it.

Good luck to you all.

I don’t think I would make a 5 hour round trip to this dealer. There are probably plenty of cars for sale that are closer than this dealer.
Sometimes, dealers will offer a car at a low price to generate floor traffic. My brother was in town and the Oldsmobile/Cadillac dealer advertised in the local paper a 1977 Cadillac at a very low price–less than wholesale book. This was in December of 1982. My brother looked at the car and took a test drive. He then made the 250 mile trip back to his house thinking about the car all the way home. He then called me and told me to go put some money on the car if it was still available. I did just that and as I was leaving the dealership, another customer came in trying to buy the car. My brother took the bus back from his home and I had to drive 100 mile round trip to pick him up. He bought the car and it was really a good car.
The following summer, all the local dealers were having a big “special day” with all the dealers having cars in the parking lot of a local university football stadium. I was looking at cars and a salesperson from the dealership where my brother bought the Cadillac and tried to interest me in a car. I told him that his agency had sold a used Cadillac to my brother the previous December. The salesperson then said, “It didn’t happen to be a 2 tone green 1977 Coupe DeVille did it?” I told him it was. The salesperson then said "He got the buy of a lifetime. The car was priced really low to generate floor traffic. After he bought the car, we had inquiries about that car for a week. He was just lucky to get it.

I’m having a negative reaction, in general, to the word “entitled.” There’s a product in the hands of a seller and a prospective buyer. If there is a price that the buyer is willing to pay and the seller willing to accept then generally a sale happens. No one is “entitled” to anything except the freedom to agree or not agree.

That said, it is true that it all works under the assumption that buyers and sellers act in good faith - which is often a bad assumption. Thus things like laws that target bait & switch. So there’s nothing wrong with that. There is something wrong with someone who would drive 5 hours on a vague “promise” of something and feel “entitled” to something at the end. If you’re going to drive 5 hours, do it with everything that you expect when you show up already in writing.

I just caught the part about this car being a five hour round trip away. I would shop elsewhere. There are other hybrids on the market that are closer to you, I’m sure.

I agree with cigroller.
It appears that the OP believes there to be some sort of legalities involved here, thereby restricting the seller’s price. However, that is a bogus assumption.

In reality, the seller is “entitled” to ask as much he wants for the car, and even to post different prices in different places. Nothing restricts the seller from setting too high a price or from changing the price.

Similarly, the prospective buyer is “entitled” to offer as little as he wants for this car.

It is up to the seller to decide whether or not to accept the buyer’s price.
Pretty simple, if you ask me.


There are legalities involved with bait and switch sales tactics though.

The only thing that surprises me is the low 90% number quoted. :slight_smile:

If the dealer is intentionally misleading in the advertising you might have a legal case. The can’t legally advertise a car at a price unless they actually have such a car and are willing to sell it for the advertised price. However, most ads contain small print somewhere saying they are not liable for advertising errors. Sometimes the newspaper could type in the wrong price for instance and for that mistake the dealer won’t be liable.

Call the dealer to see if the car is available and if that is the correct price before you drive a bunch of miles to check it out. A hard copy via email would be best.

Some 60+ years ago…

A car dealer advertized a car for something like 1,395 Banana’s. Banana was a common term for dollars back then. Well someone came in with 1,395 banana’s. And the dealer refused to deal. Then sued for false advertising.

They’ll have protection form your claiming ‘‘mistake’’. Like the vin number matching etc.
Far far too many DEALERS are placing these ads which appear to the novice eye to be a personal ad.

They didn’t make a mistake, advertising that one car.
YOU DID, thinking you’d actually find that one car still for sale.

Welcome to the wonderful world of used car sales. Believe nothing that you cannot see, touch, or otherwise verify. The dealership will advertise anything to get you in the door, and the saleman will tell you anything to sell you the car.

I’d double check with the dealer on the price. Mistakes do happen. I was looking at a Vibe a couple years ago that was advertised on line. After I tried the car out the price on the car was several thousand more than on the internet. I didn’t want the car anyway, but they turned white when they double checked the internet price and changed it right away. No harm no foul. Usually if they have the VIN and everything on the site, they will honor the price. If not, you don’t want to buy from them anyway.

Some dealers will advertise the lowest price they’ll go to on the internet because they know internet shoppers will sort by price and won’t see their car if they play the “list it overpriced and let them bargain down” game. They’ll advertise the overpriced price elsewhere, where comparison shopping isn’t so easy.

Don’t buy the car without an inspection by an independent mechanic.

New Camry for $15k…“with a $10 k trade” in ever so fine small print, often some where else on the same page that applies to all advetised cars, but obscured by an ad for a Corrolla. Believe none of what you hear and half of what you read when it comes to advertising. Except for “fine Corynthian leather” when advertiised by Ricardo Montalbon, the absolute truth sayer and one of my favorite method actors…" Ze plane…!" Tattoo to Ricardo.

Dealers convieniently under state when advertising and mistakingly over charge when billing of you don’t catch them. I am hard pressed to think of a time when mistakes were made in the reverse.
“Oh, I thought you said you wanted that life time warranty on your $50 radio for an additional $1500. You have fool written all over your face”.