Learn How to Spot a Suspicious Vehicle Sticker
Although it is generally considered poor practice, a great many dealers will take advantage of the vehicle’s MSRP presentation sticker as a means of increasing their own prices. I wish it were not the case, but this is one of those few stereotypes about car dealerships that sometimes prove true. We want to take a minute to describe what a “supplementary sticker” is, how it is intended to deceive you, and ways to avoid it.
Unreasonable Overhead, Unnecessary Features
You are browsing through a lot and come to a vehicle that you would like to buy, so you hone in on the sticker stuck on the inside of the rear window to see what that model is going for. As you’re reading the trim and package description that affects the MSRP, you see an addendum to the sticker on a separate pane that includes various services and extras that common sense concludes are wholly optional. This is the “supplementary sticker,” a misleading piece of paper that would have you believe that services have already been rendered on the vehicle that are absolutely necessary or cover part of the dealer’s overhead — the costs of doing business, essentially.
In reality, these are cheap and unwarranted services used to inflate the cost of the vehicle. Typically, they include things like the following:
- An “interior protection package” – Essentially a fee for the wrappings and plastics that guard the interior while the vehicle is in transit prior to being sold. In most cases, this is just a layer or two of temporary chemical waterproofing or some floormats installed quickly by a dealer representative — nothing worth the extravagant prices they charge.
- The “express code marking system” – This one is an “anti-theft” device that leaves an ultraviolet residue for tracking but does nothing to prevent theft itself. It operates like a magnetic tag at a clothing store, but you certainly won’t see those retailers charge as much as some dealers do for this hidden feature.
- The “exterior protection package” – A slight variation on the interior package above, including things like splashguards, rubber wheel locks, or a rubber cargo tray.
The best way to deal with these add-ons is to simply ask your dealer about them. Signal to them that you don’t need them by asking to see another vehicle without them included, or simply refuse to pay for something that did not come standard from the manufacturer and that you never asked for. In extreme cases — and there are plenty of examples of dealers abusing this system to the tune of thousands of dollars — you need to pass on that car.
Walking away from a sale may hurt after investing so much time into negotiating a vehicle, but it’s better to take some additional time and get the car you want for a fair price than to allow yourself to be overcharged for flimsy features you can live without. Stand your ground and be sure to watch out for these extra charges the next time you buy a car.
July 29, 2012 by Jamie Rettig