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Car commercials are an integral part of marketing for automakers. In fact, when people think of a specific car, often the first thing that pops into their head is a memorable commercial, jingle, or the face of a celebrity spokesperson.

But just like any kind of advertising, what is promoted in a car commercial must be taken with a grain of salt. Often, what’s said in a car commercial is a half-truth or a fib — sure, maybe it’s not a blatant lie, but it also happens to be far from the truth.

In this article, we’ll examine a few of the most common lies told in car commercials as well as the reasons they’re used. Unfortunately, this kind of false advertising often works in attracting consumers’ attention. We want to make sure you know the whole truth behind these common lies so the next time you’re out car shopping, you can stay focused on the reality of what you’re buying.  

Fuel efficiency

Everybody wants to save money at the pump
Everybody wants to save money at the pump | Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In today’s market, a lot of people are concerned about fuel-efficient driving, and for good reason. It makes sense to want a car that can go farther for every gallon of gas you purchase. The people who design car commercials are aware of this. That’s why they almost always make sure to mention a car’s efficiency rating. 

As our friends over at HotCars advise, “When you see what a car can achieve in terms of miles per gallon, be sure to take it with a grain of salt. Sure, the mileage is possible, but only if you drive like a grandma.”  


Many car commercials or dealership advertisements mention the inclusion of free “lifetime warranties.” We put that last part in quotes because what you end up getting is rarely a true lifetime warranty.

If you ask the dealer for more information about this so-called lifetime warranty, you’ll soon find out that it covers almost nothing (usually none of the most important parts) and that you’ll become ineligible for the warranty if you miss just one oil change or have maintenance performed somewhere other than the dealership.


Whether the vehicle advertisement features celebrities or “real” people, either one can con you into thinking things that simply aren’t true. For example, just because Brad Pitt is featured in a Toyota commercial does not mean that he drives a Toyota on a daily basis or even that he believes Toyota makes good cars. Remember, he’s being paid to say these things. 

Similarly, when commercials have “real” people in them, people who are supposed to be just like you and me, these individuals are also promoting a false narrative. They too have been cast by an agency and are expected to say things that the car buyer wants to hear. And they’re also getting paid to act in these commercials. 


When you’re watching a car commercial, you’re usually seeing a top-of-the-line version of the car, one that has all the add-on features and premium upgrades. Then, when the price is displayed, it looks super reasonable!

However, the price being promoted is the starting price for the most basic variant of the vehicle — the one without the leather seats, advanced safety features, and all the other trimmings. When you actually factor in all of those upgrades and premium features, the price you’d have to buy is going to be a lot higher. 

This kind of false advertising also applies to those great incentives you see when you’re watching TV. Usually, this sounds something like, “0% financing for 18 months plus a cash bonus.” Familiar? Yep. Sounds great, too. But then you remember that at this point in the ad, there’s usually about 6 inches of teeny tiny fine print at the bottom of the screen.

That fine print masks how difficult it can be to actually qualify for these great incentives. Sometimes you have to be an active member of the military; other times, your credit score has to be just a few points away from perfect. The reality is, you probably don’t qualify for these great incentives, or you’ll have to do a lot of research to find out how to. 

Want to find out what’s true before you buy a new car?

Instead of accepting everything that a car commercial or dealership advertisement tells you, do your own research. Don’t expect to drive off the lot in the exact same car that was featured in your favorite ad, and don’t believe everything the car salesman tells you.

Make sure you read the fine print and have data from external, unbiased sources that can help support your negotiations. Above all, have patience. It may take a little time to find the car of your dreams, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.