Beware the Internet During A Crisis

Beware the Internet During A Crisis
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The Coronavirus is hitting car dealers hard. The undercapitalized dealers (the ones short on cash) probably won�t make it through this crisis. Desperation will set in and out will come every deceptive trick in the book, especially online. This underlies how important it is to do business with the good dealers that are part of the CarProUSA radio show..

One of the biggest fears of doing business with a bad dealership is your paperwork. When a dealership suddenly locks the doors, it won�t have the money to complete your title and registration, in fact, it is likely the people who bought from them a month or two before won�t get their paperwork processed either. If there is a payoff on your trade-in, it can take months for resolution, if it gets resolved at all, and yes-it is still your responsibility. Getting license plates for your new vehicle? Forget it.

Case in point, read about this Hyundai dealership that is less than five miles from my home. I helped CBS 11 investigators with this story and at the end, over 400 customers failed to properly get their license and registration completed. Some cases are still in limbo, and the new owner is not legally responsible for any of it:

Consider Source of Online Reviews

That is about the worst thing that can happen, but not all you need to be leery of when you are setting home on your computer. Every day, someone says to me something like �I read on the Internet that this car had this problem, and this car had that problem, etc.�. After all, if it is on the Internet, it must be true, right? Not so fast. I can go online and find bad things about every vehicle ever made.

Remember too, the happy owners don�t typically post things online, because they are happy. When you look for problems with a particular car, you get a very skewed view�only the bad stuff, which may be a small fraction of the people who own a particular car.

Watch Out For Online Scams

Many of the things you see on the Internet are false and scammers must be doing something right, since there does not seem to be a slowdown in people getting ripped off. In fact, the more people are on their computers during this crisis, the worse things will get online.

Hopefully, most people are able to spot the scams these days, yet when it comes to automobiles and in some cases, car dealerships, people tend to believe everything they read.

We had a caller not long ago who saw a price online somewhere in the Northeast, and he was in Texas. As I explained, vehicles cost dealers the same all over the country. If a dealer far away is substantially cheaper than local dealers, it is most likely a bait-and-switch price. They only have one vehicle at that price OR they use a lot of rebates for which most don�t qualify.

Then there is the problem with believing blogs and other things written online. We do not know who wrote the information or if it is even remotely correct. This scenario plays out all too often: a salesperson at the local Ford store is bored and decides to blog bad things about the Chevy Malibu. Perhaps that same bored salesperson decides to blog great things about Ford Fusion. I know for a fact some dealerships write horrible things about their competition online and somebody out there is going to buy into it and base an important decision on what they read.

What to Know About Online Trade-In Values

On the radio show, I warn people all the time not to value their own trade-in by going to Kelley Blue Book or looking at similar cars on a site like Neither of these plans generally works out very well. While the new car info at KBB is good, their own website admits that �the values we provide are based on several factors including, but not limited to, the current marketplace which can be erratic and inconsistent.�

People tell me all the time they see cars �just like theirs� selling for a certain amount of money, always more than a dealer is offering them as a trade-in. I have to slow them down and make them aware that they are looking at asking prices. That doesn�t mean the vehicle actually sold for that price, sold at all, or it could have ultimately sold for thousands less. This just isn�t a good criterion upon which to base anything.

Some things never change in the automotive industry. One thing I tell people on the air constantly is to forget what a website says a used car is worth. No matter how new or old, no matter what brand, a car is only worth what someone is willing to write a check for it, and not a single one of these sites will buy your car, so keep that in perspective.

The Coronavirus is making getting a true trade value even harder. Our dealers are still paying top dollar for trade-ins simply because they have a vested interest in selling a new vehicle. Even if the online sites like KBB kept up with current market values, those values are all over the board. Auctions are shut down completely, and places like Carvana that typically beg for your used car are not purchasing right now according to their website.

All this is not to say there isn�t good automotive information available online. I think is a good website for doing research, but as with everything else, you really need to keep in mind that much of what you find is opinion, not fact.

Online Research Doesn�t Replace At-Home Test Drive

Studies suggest most consumers spend hours researching cars before they go look. I have no problem with this at all, but nothing will ever take the place of actually driving a new car to see how it fits you and your family. That is why most of us do not buy shoes online; we need to try them on first. Car reviews, yes, even mine, are just one person�s opinion.

In the current environment, our Car Pro dealers will bring a vehicle to you to test drive, sanitize it before and after you drive it, and most will let you drive it alone, so you maintain the 6-foot social distancing.

Click below to check out our new online buying guide: