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Beware of misleading and deceptive ads when buying a car

Posted at 6:01 AM, Apr 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-12 08:20:09-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nothing is better than finding a great deal on the car you want.

But nothing is worse than finding out later that deal wasn't such a deal after all.

So, how do you keep that from happening to you? It all starts before you even step foot on a car lot.

When you're buying a car, you don't want to be taken for a ride. So, experts say, keep an eye out for misleading or deceptive car ads.

"The state has some very specific guidelines for motor vehicle dealers and salespeople when it comes to advertising vehicle sales," Kevin Walters explained.

Walters is with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, which oversees the state's Motor Vehicle Commission.

He said the department has seen a big jump in complaints about bait and switch ads.

"The plan is to get the consumer hooked on the deal and lure them in and then switch it out for something else at the last minute," Walters added.

If you find a car you like in an ad, call the dealer and make sure that specific car is still available. Ads for new vehicles must include the vehicle’s stock number. And make sure you mention that number when you call.

But that's not all.

"So the process is you see the deal, you love the car and you want to get it, take a screenshot of that deal so you have proof this car is what is advertised," Walters recommended.

Walters said the department has also seen an increase in complaints about so-called hidden fees.

"So what you’re paying and what they're advertising that you will be paying to buy the vehicle isn’t really what you’re going to be paying," he said.

So, email the dealership about the car and negotiate your deal ahead of time so you know how much you'll be paying and you have it in writing

And whether you're buying new from a dealer or a used car through an online ad, don't be afraid to walk away, especially if it sounds too good to be true.

"Don’t let the thrill of a good deal override your sense of judgment. Because in the long run, it may not be a good deal for you. It may be a good deal for a scammer who is going to separate you from your money and leave you with a car you don’t want," Walters stated.

And before you buy a used car, whether it's online or from a car lot, make sure you take it to your own trusted mechanic and get it checked out.

All too often, consumers who buy a used car, then discover it's got major problems. Once you drive it off the lot, it's yours. And the seller is under no obligation to take it back or fix it.

If you feel you’ve been the victim of an unfair practice or you’ve been taken advantage of while buying a car, you can file a complaint with the Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission by calling (615) 741-2711 or emailing at They will investigate the complaint and if they find a violation of state law, they can't get you your money back, but they can take disciplinary action against the dealer or salesperson.