Consumer Guide

Insider Information About Buying A Car

It's no secret that most consumers do not trust car dealers. Most consumers are concerned that car dealers will take advantage of them and are making excessive profits at the consumer's expense!

Unfortunately, there are some bad car dealers out there and finding an honest dealership can be difficult.  Hard economic times such as those we have been experiencing since 2008 have forced some dealers to resort to new gimmicks and tactics to create profits.

Manufacturers have also made it more difficult for all dealers to make a reasonable profit.  Increased manufacturing costs, government take-overs of auto manufacturers and a consumer credit crisis has forced dealer's new car profits to drastically shrink.  It has become an unfair fact that dealers have to pay more for cars then consumers. That's right with the new government regulations  a customer can purchase a new vehicle cheaper than the dealer. You say, how can this be? Well all rebates and special incentives have to be given to consumers only. Dealers do not qualify for these consumer discounts only the person buying the vehicle can take advantage of all the manufacturer's rebates and special deals.  

Out of necessity, consumers have become more informed and internet savvy.  New websites have surfaced with the intent of helping new car consumers get the best possible price for the vehicle they are interested in buying.  Consumers can now retrieve the latest, lowest or best deal price along with the dealer's cost to buy a vehicle buy just logging on to various new car websites. The problem on these sites is the same as throughout the rest of the world wide web half the information is wrong, but you the consumer, is left not knowing which half is right and which half is wrong!

All of the above has changed the new car market for both the consumer and the car dealership.  In recent years, Yellowstone Country has been asked by customers, family, friends, banks and attorneys  to help with problems they have encountered with bad dealers when buying a car. We were shocked and disappointed at the tricks, tactics and outright scams committed against these folks.  

Unfortunately  these bad dealers' unethical practices are a direct negative reflection on good dealers.  Consumers feel that if one car dealer is using  these tricks, tactics or scams to sell new cars, then all car dealers are doing the same.

At Yellowstone Country, we have always taken pride in being a trusted and honest dealer. Because of our low overhead and expenses we are able to make a fair profit without having to resort to gimmicks and tricks like the bad dealers do.

Yellowstone Country has decided to show you how we can be trusted without the tricks, tactics or scams used by other dealers.  We will work hard to earn your trust by sharing inside information without any tricks or gimmicks.

We want you to know that we are willing to work with you to get the best possible deal we can offer.  We'll share the "True Invoice" dealer cost for the vehicle you are interested in.  We'll even help you evaluate any other dealer's price and deal by providing you with the honest facts so you can make an intelligent buying decision!

We have included in this report helpful hints and tips that you can use to prevent from being taken advantage of by the scams that unethical dealers are using. The information in this report are actual transactions that were brought to us by concerned customers. We    have also included information received from "Consumer Reports" and the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Feel free to contact us with any questions or further clarifications you may have after reading this helpful guide.  If you feel you are currently involved in any of these situations and would like a second opinion or help sorting the issues out, we are more than happy to help you at no obligation to you.

We always appreciate your feedback and comments, so please use our web contact information to share any comments you may have via email.  

Helpful hints on:

"How to Avoid Being Taken Advantage of When Buying a New Car."

Our best advice to you would be to read through the various situations listed below to become more informed before visiting any new car dealership.  This  insider information will help you avoid the most common tricks and scams that we have seen unethical car dealers use as outlined below.

The most recent problem that consumers have been experiencing is the abuse of the advertised wording of  Invoice pricing. To avoid this entrapment and scam the staff at Yellowstone Country has researched and written a article addressing this topic. To outline what the difference is between "True Invoice" and Invoice pricing we have attached this article as #10 "Invoice Abuse, Tactics & Scams" at the end of this Consumer guide.  

We feel the most informed consumer is our best customer!

How to avoid the Tricks and Scams

Hint #1 

Watch for "The Add-On Scam"

Unethical dealers will wait until you're not looking and add items to the contract that you did not discuss or approve.

Unethical dealers know consumers spend a lot of time researching the car they want. They then have to find the desired car at a dealership, go for a test drive, inspect it, make sure they got a fair price and then get it financed. Then you are buried in what seems to be an excessive amount of paperwork. However, this is the norm based on all the State & Federal regulations all dealers are required to prepare to sell the vehicle to you.

However, the devil is in the details.  Dishonest dealers will add extras to the contract that you were not aware of and have not approved!  Don't let them add or change anything without your permission!

All dealers deserve to earn an honest and reasonable profit.  Valuable add-ons can be a win-win situation for both the customer and the dealer.  But add-ons should be openly and clearly explained   and their benefits should be obvious so that you can make up your own mind about whether or not to purchase the add-ons.

How to Beat This Scam?

To avoid being overcharged by this scam, you need to be certain that you carefully read all of the paperwork, line by line.  Immediately bring to the dealer's attention any additional add-on items you didn't agree to.  Typically, these items were not previously discussed with you so they should be a red flag to you.

If you do see add-ons that were not previously discussed or if you feel like you're being pressured to make a decision without having enough information without an understandable explanation, this should be a red flag that the dealership and/or the salesperson you're working with are not ethical and honest.  It might be time to leave and find an honest dealership.

You can leave the dealership by simply stating that you need some additional time to think about the deal or you need a night to sleep on it before proceeding.  

Hint #2

Watch out for when the "Dealership Sells You Something Having No Real Value"

When you are purchasing a new vehicle, dealerships will usually offer you upgrades that may enhance your vehicle and save you money in the long run.  However, some of these products provide little or no added protection or value at an added cost.  

If you decide to accept the upgrade, make sure you can afford the upgrade.  Adding the cost of an upgrade may substantially increase your monthly payment beyond your financial abilities.

Dishonest dealers will charge a lot of money for products that provide no real value.  Some of these upgrades to be on the lookout for are:  

  • Paint and fabric protections are good but only when they are real and come from a reputable company.  Unethical dealers will spray water or cheap chemicals on paint or fabrics that actually do nothing and charge hefty prices for this type of protection.

  • Extended warranty agreements are a very good investment when they are backed by an established insurance company.  Dishonest dealers will sell "off brand" warranties that fix and/or cover very little leaving the consumer with no real coverage.

  • Unethical dealers will also sell extended warranty agreements on new vehicles that already have a warranty covered by the manufacturer.

  • Undercoating is a good product; however since 1998 most cars coming from the factory arrive at the dealership with undercoating.  Watch out for the dealers that try to sell you undercoating for your new vehicle.

While on the subject of warranties, the internet is full of companies selling extended warranty agreements. You need to be very careful because many dealership service departments will only honor certain warranty agreements because they trust they will get paid for services provided.

Don't get sold on a low cost warranty agreement because you may be unable to find a dealer service department willing to service your car.  You could waste a lot of money and get nothing in return.

Many of these companies do a great job on advertising and selling you on their coverage, then go out of business when you need them.

Here's How to Beat This Scam

Do your homework.  Ask for warranties and guarantees in writing from the dealer so you can review detail coverages. Determine where your warranty services can be performed.  What about services when you are on a trip away from the dealership?  Does the warranty company pay the service facility, then require you to file a claim for reimbursement? Or do they pay the service facility directly?  

Only select warranties backed by well-known and highly rated insurance companies have a history of providing the warranty service you expect.  Research warranty service providers on the internet for complaints and service levels experienced by other customers.  You'd be surprised at how many dissatisfied customers are out there.

Hint #3

Watch out for the   "Bad Credit Scam"  

Unethical dealers will use this scam to charge you extra money for the car. Or they might even say the lender financing your new car requires that you buy an extended warranty in order for the finance company to accept your loan.  Sometimes they will say that your credit is not that good and you will have to finance your new car at a higher interest rate; an interest rate that can cost you thousands of dollars in interest over the term of your loan.

Financing your new car at a dealership is usually a lot easier than going to your local bank.  Interest rates are usually lower too!

After you've found the perfect car you'll usually enter the credit approval phase.  You complete a loan application which is then forwarded to the finance department.  These days, loan applications can be approved quickly.  Honest dealers develop strong and valuable relationships with local and national lenders in order to provide their customers with the most competitive interest rates and terms available based on the customer's credit.  In addition, honest dealers handle this process confidentially in a very professional manner.

How Unethical Dealers Pray on Customers:

If you see the following situation developing, leave the dealership immediately!  You're being played!

After completing the loan application and having it evaluated by the dealership's Finance Department, the salesperson usually returns with your application looking sad and frustrated. They explain that your credit wasn't exactly as good as they thought it would be and they weren't able to obtain financing approval through their preferred source.

Your heart sinks and your face turns red.  You're embarrassed and you're worried that you may have wasted all of this time and now won't be able to be approved.  Perhaps the salesperson even tells you that they're not sure they'll be able to get you approved.

You're depressed, embarrassed and desperate.  You try to explain your credit issues to the salesperson.  You explain that you pay all your bills on time and there must be some sort of mix up or a mistake.  The salesperson then tells you they will "go to bat for you" by having one last conversation with the Finance Manager to see what can be done.

In the meantime you're worried and wondering how you screwed up your credit.  You're just hoping you can get approved.  The salesperson comes back, this time with a smile on their face saying "Great news!"  "I pushed my Finance Manager to call in a favor with another bank so they got your loan approved!"

Great news, the depression, embarrassment and desperation immediately goes away!  You can now buy the new car of your dreams.

However, what they didn't tell you was the interest rate being used in your loan is 4% higher than it should be. What just happened?  You're a victim of a dishonest dealership!  Dealers will misrepresent your ability to finance your new car purchase by misrepresenting your credit.  For example, if you have an "A" credit score they'll tell you that you have a lower "B" credit score.  Their motivation to misrepresent your credit score is an excuse used to mark up your loan interest rate above competitive levels or the true interest rate your credit score would provide.  

The salesperson will play on your emotions to make you feel lucky just to get approved so you'll accept the loan no matter what the circumstances. This trick can cost you thousands of dollars in extra interest over the loan term.

How You Beat This Scam

First, arm yourself with a copy of your credit report before beginning to shop for a new car. We recommend that you obtain a copy of your credit report from one of the three credit reporting agencies; Equifax (, TransUnion ( or Experian ( Credit Karma ( is another company that can provide your credit score plus monitoring of your account for any changes.  Legally, you are entitled to one copy of your report each year, however, these agencies will expedite reports for a nominal fee.

Any of the above websites provide a wealth of free information about credit scores and their use.  It's a worthwhile investment of time on these sites to fully understand your credit score and how it will influence the interest rate on your new car loan.  This information will greatly help you avoid being taken advantage of by an unethical dealer.

In addition, it's a good idea to carefully review your credit information because our experience has shown that companies reporting to credit agencies have made mistakes or reported information that does not pertain to you.  Legally, you have the right to have this information corrected and your credit score adjusted based on the corrected information.  If you run into this problem, have your credit score corrected before car shopping because you could be penalized for errors contained on your credit report.  Uncorrected errors can result in higher monthly loan payments, credit denial, increased down payments and higher interest rates.

With your permission as part of our finance process, Yellowstone Country actually provides you with a document that shows your score and it ranks for car loan purposes so you know the truth.

Consider obtaining an interest rate quote from your bank or credit union to use as a comparison with the rate a dealership will quote you.  A savvy dealer can often beat the rate your bank or credit union offers.  But, a dishonest dealer will convince you that you need to pay a higher rate.  When you're armed with your credit report, knowledge of how credit scores are used in the loan process, and a reference interest rate from your local bank or credit union, you will have the upper hand when negotiating a car loan.

Hint #4

Watch for the  "Life Insurance Trick"

There you are sitting in the finance office signing your name on numerous documents and just hoping to get the paperwork done so you can drive away in your new car. Then, the Finance Manager slips in a Credit Life Insurance Policy.  You are told "It's standard, and it simply is to protect your family in case you unfortunately pass away before the car loan is paid off."

How to Beat This Trick

This may sound reasonable and somewhat true. If you do want the protection offered by having insurance and you're not otherwise insured, check with your car or homeowner insurance agent.  They can sell the same insurance coverage at 50-75% under the dealer's cost.  On the other hand, if you are not interested in the coverage, let the dealer know you do not need the insurance, don't sign the Credit Life Insurance Policy paperwork and have the dealer remove the charge.

Hint #5

Watch out for the "Pricing Tricks and Scams"

There are many pricing tricks and scams to watch out for.  Here are two that are often seen.

  1. 1.Advertised Low Prices

Dishonest dealers advertise ridiculously low prices on the internet and in their local ads.  The purpose for doing this is to bring you to the dealership and get you excited about buying a new car.    

When you travel to the dealer you're in for a big surprise!  Sure they advertise unbelievable low prices, but those prices are only available to a certain customer; usually one that is hard to come by.  Why?  Because buried in the fine print they have a disclosure that states all prices are after a 20% down payment! Which means the actual price ends up being 20% higher.

How to Beat This Scam

Call the dealership and ask them if there is a down payment required. How much is the down payment and what is the exact out the door price?  Then compare the price with your research.

2.The Addendum or Add-on Sticker

If the dealer adds accessories to the vehicle that are not included on the original factory MSRP sticker, then these stickers are legitimate.  However, unethical dealers will put an addendum or add-on sticker next to the factory MSRP sticker appearing on the window. These stickers usually contain fake or duplicate charges such as transportation or advertising.  Be aware that these charges have already been included by the factory in the MSRP sticker even though they are not separately shown on the factory sticker.

How to Beat the Scam

Check the windows of the vehicle you are interested in buying to see if professionally preprinted add-on stickers have been attached to the window.  Ask the dealer to explain them and why they are considered an added cost of the car.  If you can't verify that after-market accessories have been added and they are not part of the factory built vehicle, be especially leery of the dealer. Not getting believable and verifiable answers should alert you to seek out a dealer who does not play this game.

Hint #6

Watch for the "Bait-and-Switch Advertising"

This has been around for years and not only in the car business. Retailers have been using this trick to bring in customers to do business.

"Bait-and-switch" is intended to get you in the door by advertising a super deal on a car. Unethical dealers will intentionally advertise a vehicle that they do not have or can't get even if you put cash on the table to immediately buy it.  The only purpose of the ad is to get you into a buying mode and into the showroom where they can switch your attention to another vehicle that they can make a higher profit on!

How to Beat the Scam

If a dealer truly sold the vehicle which can happen then ask them if they can get you another one. Read the fine print before you go to the dealership. If you're not sure call ahead and ask them if they have the car and if they can hold it for you before you make the drive to the dealership.  If they say they don't have the car or it was just sold then see if they can get you another. It's really hard to know if they are telling you the truth or just playing the game. If you are dealing with a reputable dealer and their story makes sense then  you have to decide if you want to look and see if they have a similar vehicle for you to test drive. If you feel like they are giving you the bait and switch run around then it is time to go to another dealer. Bait and switch only happens when a dealer intentionally advertises a vehicle they do not have.

Hint #7

Don't accept  "High-Pressure- Haggling and Tactics"

There is no reason for high pressure sales tactics to sell you a car. Unethical dealers train and encourage their salespeople to pressure consumers into buying a car today.  They will make you register or sign-up before you can even look at a car.  The main goal is to keep you in the dealership while they do everything under their control to get you to buy the car today. They will pressure you by saying someone else is looking at the same car you're interested in buying and you need to buy now or it will sold to the other buyer.  

If you are lucky enough to leave the dealership, they will hound you for your phone number or email so they can keep pressuring you to buy from them.

How to Avoid This Trick

If you feel uncomfortable, over-whelmed or unsure of any decision, you should insist on speaking to the owner. Do not let a salesperson pressure you into buying a car.  Express your dissatisfaction to the owner then ask him to assist you in buying the vehicle you are considering.  Evaluate how he responds to your request to see if you are treated honestly and with respect. If you feel you are still being hassled, pressured and/or can't trust the owner, you should leave and go do business with a different dealer that you can trust.

Hint #8

Watch out for "Undervalued or Overvalued Trade- In values"

Undervalued Trade-In

A dishonest dealer will intentionally undervalue your vehicle traded-in.  As a result, you'll have to put more money into the deal by adding a higher cash down payment or increasing your car loan.  By undervaluing your trade-in, the dealer can sell your car to another customer at a higher profit at your expense.  

Overvalued Trade-In

Dishonest dealers will intentionally overvalue your trade to trick you into thinking you are getting a great deal for your traded vehicle so you focus only on the value of your trade.  Unfortunately, the dealer will then charge you more for the vehicle you are interested in buying in order to offset the overvaluation he gave you on your trade-in.  Psychologically, the dealer hopes you are so excited about the overvalued trade he gave, you would not notice he charged you a higher price for the vehicle you are buying.

How to Beat This Trick

Before you call or get to the dealership, check internet sites such as Kelly Blue Book (, NADA (, or Edmunds ( to obtain a current market value for your trade-in.  Once you get a value, subtract the estimated cost of any repairs or service your vehicle may need.

You will also have to research the selling price for the new or used car you are interested in buying.  If you are buying a new car, it's important that you read our "What Is True Invoice?" article to help you understand new car pricing.  

If you are interested in buying a used car, the previously mentioned websites above will help establish a price range for the used vehicle you are interested in buying.  Remember, dealers pay you the wholesale price for your trade-in and sell to you and other customers at retail.   

When you are at the dealer, ask them to slowly go over the process on how they came up with the value for your trade. If your value is close to the dealer's value for your trade, you are not being a victim of this trick.  Now, ask the dealer for the selling price of the new or used car you are interested in buying.  See how close your researched price is to the dealer's price.  Again, if your price is close to the dealer's price, you should be getting a fair deal as represented by the lowest difference between the new vehicle price and your trade-in allowance.  This difference represents the cash and/or loan you will need to close the deal.


"The lower the "Difference" the better the deal!"

In the above example, the honest dealer will save you $1,000

Hint #9

Watch for  "The Tic-Tac-Toe or Four Square Trick"

This trick has been around for years and continues to be used by bad dealers.The salesman pulls out a form that has lines that look like tic-tac-toe or the page has 4 boxes like the example below:  

"The Four Square"


If you see this type of presentation be prepared to Not get a good deal!     

Dealers that use this tactic train their salesperson on how not to lose at this game. They will box you in like a tic-tac toe game that you cannot win.

How to beat the trick

If you get involved in one of these games we suggest that you leave because the deck is stacked against you. There are dealers out there who do not use this ploy and will not take advantage of you and your family. Check other references and go to a good dealer.     

Hint #10

Watch out for  "Invoice Abuse, Tactics & Scams"

Invoice price tricks are more prevalent today than ever before.  When a dealer advertises all of their new vehicles are sold at invoice price, you assume that's a great deal. So you rush down to the dealership to take advantage of this offer. You check out the car and decide you want to buy it. Now here is what you have to watch out for: If a dealer advertises invoice pricing it usually means they are charging a "to be determined" amount over invoice. and you have to make sure they say factor invoice if they just say invoice then usually this means they are making up their on invocie, this is not good for the consumer. This is where the start to mislead you. Watch out for
1. Made-up Invoices  

Dealers have been known to make and print their own invoices and tell you they are the manufacturer's invoice price.  This is totally dishonest!  However, it is very easy for a dishonest dealer to print a fictitious manufacturer's invoice because manufacturer's invoices are not printed on official company stationary.


How to Avoid this Scam

The simplest way is to check the creditability of the dealership. Before you go to or call a dealership, check the internet and see if there have been any complaints about the dealership from previous customers.  Simply type into your internet browser "complaints about (dealership name, city, state)".  If there has been complaints by customers or complaints to the Better Business Bureau will appear. Ask around work or check with your friends or family to see if they have heard anything negative about the dealership.   

Websites such as Consumer Reports ( and Kelly Blue Book ( can provide actual dealer invoice costs. This might cost you $10-20 dollars but it is worth it if you are not sure the dealer you are dealing with is reputable or not.

One of the newer websites that have a big advertising campaign on TV is  Dealers who are members of the True Car network are suppose to sell you a vehicle at what the average vehicle in the area is being sold at, but this is not "true invoice price" It's what the average sale has been which can be misleading and be up to $1000 over invoice. You need to also understand that True Car charges the dealer between $300-400 for every vehicle they sell. With this type of additional charge participating dealers have to figure out how to make up this added expense.  True Car shows the MSRP and lowest price paid for the vehicle you inquire about but again this is not "True Invoice". However you can use this information to get what the invoice price is so you can compare it to what the dealer gave you. Just compare the dealer's invoice cost to the cost shown on True Car.


To see more tricks about True Car approved dealers, Google Truecarscams// or True car complaints.

One word of caution when using any of the above mentioned websites to check manufacturer's invoice cost, make sure you are carefully comparing each invoice from all of the dealers. Use the same packages & options for the vehicle that you are considering. It's critical that each  invoice obtained from each dealer must contain the very same packages and options because omitting a package or option can cause the invoice price to be substantially different.  You must compare "apples to apples" as we say in order to get an accurate comparison.  You may have to add or delete packages or options to get the "apples to apples" comparison you need.

We have seen dealers tell customers the vehicle was the same as the vehicle they wanted to buy only to discover they were comparing two different vehicles because the vehicles didn't contain the same packages and options.

A vehicle can have 100's of different options and variations on the same model which can add up to a different total cost for each variation.

As you can see, a dishonest dealer has too many ways to confuse you by using all the  different options. If you get confused, we'll be glad to print out a comparison sheet for you to compare and to use in your research.

Also, do not forget to check if the dealership is in good standing with the local Better Business Bureau (BBB).  There should not be any outstanding complaints unresolved by the dealership. The BBB is also a good place to see what type of complaints have been filed against the dealership and how they were resolved.

Then  watch out for when they:

  1. Quote a Higher Invoice Price then the Actual "True Invoice"

Dishonest dealers assume you will not challenge them on the advertised invoice price, so they will quote upwards of a $1,000 or more over the actual Invoice price.  If a dealer is advertising a sale based on Invoice, you have a right to ask for a copy of the actual invoice. Don't be shy about asking for a copy. It will tell you a lot about the dealer and whether you should buy your vehicle from them or not.


How to Avoid this Scam

To protect yourself, check the dealer price out as suggested above in #1. When in doubt ask several dealers for an invoice for the same vehicle. Then compare them, they should be the same. If they are not the same start asking why.

Then watch out for

  1. Added  Delivery (Destination) or Advertising Fees

Dealers will tell you they have to charge you for delivery (destination) and/or advertising. They may even show you that "Consumer Reports" acknowledges that the dealer has to pay destination and delivery charges and they need to pass this cost onto the consumer.  

However, what you need to know is that the "True Invoice" already includes these charges. Do not let them double charge you.

How to Avoid this Scam

Do not let them tell you or convince you that you have to pay for delivery,  handling or advertising. Unless they have to go and get the vehicle from somewhere out of the area. The facts are these charges are already included in the original "True Invoice". If you do not feel comfortable, go to another dealer.

And don't forget the: High Document Fees

Some dealers will try to pull you in by advertising "True Invoice" then charge you extra  high document fees so they can make additional profit.

How to Avoid this Scam

Consumer reports states that any fee over $125.00 is too high. Do not agree to pay anything higher than $125.00 or you will be paying extra profit to the dealer.

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