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Buying a new car these days can be a complicated process. The semiconductor chip shortage has left buyers scrambling to find new cars, which leaves car dealerships with the upper hand. Consumer Reports investigates the issue of dealership markups and other price changes. Can a car dealership change the price of a car on you after you ordered it? One document could be the difference between MSRP and dealership markup.

A car dealership shouldn’t change the price of the car if you signed a purchase order

Can a car dealership like this Ford one change the price of a car?
Ford Motor vehicles parked in an overflow car dealership lot | Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If you have watched the news or participated in car buying in the last year, you probably noticed the chaos in the automotive market. Automakers have been trying to keep up with demand for new cars, but it hasn’t been enough. That drives the price of popular vehicles up simply because the car is in demand. The Kia Telluride and Ford Bronco have been victims of this, seeing $10,000 or more in dealership markups added to the MSRP.

Consumer Reports says one way to avoid this is to order a car, sign a purchase order, pay a deposit, and take delivery whenever it is ready. But what happens if you place an order and the dealership wants to charge you more upon delivery? Can a car dealership change the price of a car?

If you signed a purchase order that states the final price of the new car, this could work in your favor. Paying a deposit doesn’t confirm the price you pay at the end. A purchase order is a binding contract that the dealership should honor.

What can you do if the dealership tries to change the agreed-upon price?

Consumer Reports asked Dan Blinn, a consumer attorney in Connecticut. He noted that if the car dealership tries to get more money than what your purchase order says, that could be a breach of contract.

If you signed a contract with the car dealership, use that to your advantage. Show the dealership your contract and see if that helps. Consumer Reports says one of the issues here is a limited amount of inventory right now due to the semiconductor chip shortages. If the dealership tries to change your price, you can walk away. That isn’t a great option for those who ordered a vehicle long ago and are dependent on it arriving sometime soon.

If that fails to work, try contacting the automotive manufacturer know. It might take a few calls, but you should be able to work your way up the food chain to speak with someone.

Brand loyalty is a big thing these days

Automakers like Ford have been attempting to fix this dealership markup issue from the top down, but not all dealerships have complied. Loyalty is a big thing right now, and some manufacturers are working hard to earn and keep customers.

If you manage to get the price adjustment fixed, keep an eye on other mysterious fees. Extended warranties, nitrogen-filled tires, rust protection, and many more are a good way to trick buyers.

Blinn says, “If somebody’s quoted a specific price and they come in, and they’re told they have to purchase something else, that’s a switched price, and that is in most places an unfair trade practice.” Don’t pay extra for a car for no reason, and used these tips to help you avoid dealership markups and other scams.


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