Used car dealer RAISING the price

So, my husband and I are looking to buy a used car. I’ve been spending days on craigslist and carfax and auto trader looking for suitable vehicles to see in person. We stopped at a local small used car dealer the other evening and explained what we were looking for and that we didn’t want to spend over $6000. One of their cars was great! It was the year and model we’d been trying to find and was a really smooth ride. And cost just under $6000! We put down a small deposit and arranged for our local expert mechanic to see it on Monday morning.

But then when we got home, we realised that I had seen that dealers online advertisement for that very car (same vin#). I still had it up on my browser and the price was a good $1000 less than what they told us in person! The car did not have a price on it. My husband looked up the ad on his computer and they’ve changed the price to what they quoted us in person. We have print outs of both ads with the 2 prices.

Assuming the checks out w our mechanic, we want this car. But for the lower price, now that we know that they took advantage of our naiveness. Is what they did legal? If it is, how do we make their deceit work in our advantage?

You gave them the info they used to set the price. They can charge whatever they want. You can back out, but you may have a hard time getting your deposit back. Did you print out their ad with the lower price? You could try to shame them into honoring it, I guess.

Sorry, I should have made it more clear.
They had already set the lower price $5000 online. I forgot that I’d seen that ad when we went to the dealer. They raised the price online to $6000 after we said yes to the $6000 in person. At the dealers, the car was not labelled with a price. We have print outs of both prices.

I understand what happened - they set the price based on the info you gave them. You should have brought the first ad. Try bringing it now, see what they say.

You agreed to pay $6,000 for the car. If there is a written agreement that you’ve signed you don’t have much to stand on. You can try to negotiate the lower price, but the dealer doesn’t have to give it to you.

Your mistake was telling them you didn’t want to go over $6,000. Once you give them a price you’ll never get a car for less.

Good luck.

In my area it is pretty much routine for many used dealers to have one price on the lots and a lower “internet special” price online. Its not unusual. You’re just learning about how NOT to get the best price on a used car.

You can always go with the old ad and see what they have to say.

I have to say that I have a used car dealership client (I’m an IT consultant – geek for hire, if you like). I recently had to be an expert witness in court when someone tried to sue them for not honoring an ad. Now, I am not (NOT!) saying the OP is doing this so let’s be clear. What happened, though, is this client’s customer brought in an ad that was thousands lower than really existed on the website. When the dealer wouldn’t honor the ad (it was below cost, even) they sued them.

I had to show up in court and demonstrate how easy it was to grab a webpage, change the price and then print that edited version out. Printed online ads are becoming recognized in courts as not worth much, if anything.

OK, that said, I have to agree with the rest of the posters here. If you tell a dealer what your budget is, they’ll set their price AT that budget. Why wouldn’t they? It sucks, sure, but that’s how the market is right now. Hopefully you haven’t signed an agreement to purchase regardless. You should be able to get your deposit back; most dealers aren’t going to try and hold it unless you specifically agreed it was non-refundable. (I don’t even know … are non-refundable deposits allowed in all states? It seems I heard they weren’t but that may not be for cars.)

The only thing that counts is the sales agreement you signed…Read it carefully.

They MAY honor their internet ad, but they don’t have to…Like McP said, NEVER tell a used car salesman how much you have to spend…

You can back out and look for another car. Purchase is contingent on the inspection by your mechanic. If you really don’t want the car, just tell your mechanic to find enough wrong that you don’t want it. You certainly should get your deposit back then. Keep looking. If the same car comes back on the market at $5000, you can buy it on the spot if your mechanic’s inspection is acceptable to you. No sense in doing it twice.

One thing you should never do is go onto a car lot telling them how much you want to spend; and that means in total, the monthly payment you can afford, etc.

It’s not deceit; it’s just a normal part of the sales game. The price can change by the minute and like Mcp and Caddyman said, if you put your name on the paper then you’re obligated to follow through.
If you don’t odds are the dealer can keep your deposit. You did read the fine print before signing didn’t you?

If the dealer wants to be nice about it they could lower the price of the car or refund the deposit but that’s up to them.

It’s the salesman’s (or saleswoman’s) job top get as much as possible for the car. There is nothing dishonest or illegal about what they did.

We often read about complaints of unethical behavior by car salespeople, but the fact that you agreed to pay a price, signed the paperwork, and now want to back out of the deal, seems unethical to me.

I took a negotiating class one time. One thing that stuck was when the instructor said that the first person to mention money, looses. And that applies to any negotiation, car buying, house buying or salary negotiations.

You have the perfect out, and you said it in your post:

You are going to have your mechanic look at it today.
Go pick up the car, bring it to your mechanic, and have him look the car over.

When you get his thoughts on the condition of the car, bring it back, and tell them the mechanic said that the condition of the car is not worth what you agreed to, and it should be about $1500 lower.

Tell them you will buy it for $1500 lower, and if they balk, walk away.
If they counter, then aim for that $1000 price they originally had the car listed as, and don’t say yes unless they agree to that price.


Bladecutter has the perfect solution. Tell your mechanic to give you a full detailed report of everything he can possibly find wrong. I’m sure he can find enough wrong to squelch the deal.

Others have pointed out how this happened. You said $6000, so the price suddenly became $6000. Never shop at a used car store that doesn’t post the prices. And never, ever, suggest how much you’re willing to pay.

A few years back I was helping a friend shop for a used car. We stopped at a place with no prices on the cars. The salesman/owner walked out to greet us. I said “how come you have no prices on the cars?” He said “how much are you willing to pay?”. I responded “not as much as you’re willing to charge” and we drove away.

It’s amazing how many otherwise honest people recommend you lie. I guess honor has no place in this discussion.

Whitey, if you’re referring to my post, I did not recommend lying. Any $5000 used car will have accumulated enough questions to back out of a purchase. Questionable struts, a timing belt that’s due, tires that need replacing, lots of stuff. There’s no need to lie.

And I highly resent the implication. If all you have to add to the thread is untrue accusations of dishonesty by others, perhaps you’d be better to not post at all.

If your suggestion is to only raise legitimate issues, then no, it doesn’t apply to you. I apologize if my criticism is unwarranted or misdirected.

My criticism is directed at those who would suggest the OP should say the mechanic raised issues he or she will not have actually raised, or given an appraisal of value other than what the mechanic actually says. If nobody was actually suggesting the OP be dishonest, I will be happy to retract what I said.

Bladecutter’s solution seems dishonest to me. jtsanders also gave similar advice.

In addition, I would trust a mechanic to judge the condition of the car, but a mechanic is not usually qualified to appraise the value of the car.

I would love nothing more than to find out I am wrong about the dishonest nature of Bladecutter’s and jtsanders’ advice.


So, the car got a thumbs up from the mechanic, but also some things I used in negotiating.

I showed the dealer the print out w the lower price. He said he had it listed at $5300 but nobody would buy it, so he lowered the price to $5000. And nobody would buy it. So he said that he put $100 into detail it, and then another $450 to refinish the roof. I saw an invoice for labor for roof painting for $250 dated a week before we saw the car.

So what we are going to do is get a cashiers check for $5000 and call it at that.

And I have learnt some priceless negotiating skills from all of you! Thank you! I have to buy another and more expensive car soon and will not make the same mistakes!