Deal? What stinking deal?
One of the great adventures of the American consumer is buying a car. Sadly, however, the dealership, the salesperson, and the finance department just never quite provide the impression they are on your side. Inevitably, too often the image portrayed by Robin Williams in Cadillac Man rings far too true.
Buying hybrid cars can be even worse, as there is often less selection, and numerous dealer add-ons, especially whenever gas prices increase – not to mention outright ignorance and even deception regarding the capabilities of hybrid technology.
And, now that dealerships are going to be exempt from any new oversight by a new consumer protection agency, I guess we can expect more of the same shenanigans.
Back in 2008, during the height of the gas spike, I wrote Robbed: Buying a hybrid car. Then, it wasn't just dealer add-ons, such as dealer-installed leather that consumers had to accept, it was often dealer-fees as high as $5,000. In fact, in the Los Angeles area it was basically impossible to find a Toyota Prius that wasn't marked up at least an extra $3,000 by the dealer “because of demand”.
Ultimately, car dealers proved quite clearly then that they will get as much out of the consumer as possible.
Now, perhaps a new government watchdog would have achieved little in protecting the US auto consumer. Despite my name on the telemarketer ‘no call' list, for instance, I still receive quite a few telemarketing calls. Inevitably, making the law is the easy part, enforcing it is where things often get sticky. Anyway, whether a new watchdog would have helped is now almost assuredly irrelevant.
Thus, if you're in the market to buy a hybrid, good luck. Do as much research as possible and always be ready to walk away. Believe it or not, there are always some fair deals to be had – even back in 2008 – but finding them often takes a lot of shopping around. Stay strong.