Is a dealer charging exorbitant markup? We’re here to try and help.
I’ll sound like a broken record by saying this, but it’s still true — the new car market is absurd right now. Not just with supply shortages and production delays, though those are painful all the same. It’s the markups, or “market adjustments”, that some car dealers will tack on to popular cars. In some cases, even ordinary, mainstream cars are feeling the pinch. In this spotlight feature, we’re here to call out some of the more eye-watering examples you sent in (check out the video below for that call-to-action), but also — and more importantly to the car buyers in the market right now — the dealers that don’t engage in high markups, and will actually sell a car at or near MSRP.
Now, to be clear right off the bat: We are in no way suggesting this practice is out-and-out illegal. Dealerships are largely free to set their own pricing (hopefully without running afoul of consumer protection laws, where they’re applicable) based on market forces. That’s the justification some use to increase prices, especially in times when inventories are tight. A Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price is just that — a suggestion, and dealers can negotiate that price with consumers in either direction. You can either save money buying closer to invoice, or…in times when certain cars are thin on the ground, you may be stuck with a higher price tag for the privilege to own the car while it’s still red-hot, before supply stabilizes.
A couple things to keep in mind
Even with all that in mind — some of you guys may well bring in the supply and demand argument — you, the consumer, can still exercise your power in working with car dealers. Depending on your personal stance toward markups, you can vote with your wallet by doing business with dealers that make it a principle to avoid adding “market adjustments” to make the most money on a single sale. That may be tougher in some places than others, especially if you have no alternatives. But, hopefully some of the featured dealers here will help you find a better deal on your next car.
If you have some examples of good deals (or gut-wrenching markups), send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com! Make sure to include some images of the car, if possible, as well as the window sticker if it’s accessible. On a side note, we will not identify individuals who send in information unless you specifically ask us to.
If you want to skip the markup stories and look at the other side of this coin, check out our “at MSRP or below” stories by clicking here.
Brace yourself — these are your markup stories
Even in actively researching the topic, I’ll miss a fair amount of heartbreaking dealer markup with all the dealers scattered across the U.S. You guys did a bang-up job finding some exceptional markups, and the first story comes from Price Ford in Turlock, California. Right now, the dealer has a (single) brand new 2021 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 in their inventory. Sounds cool, right? It’s the daddy of all current Mustangs, with 760 horsepower on tap and a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. It’s decently expensive to begin with, but then you factor in a $30,000 “market adjustment”. Now? That car just became a $126,485 proposition — and that’s before taxes.
The reader who sent in this example kindly provided a copy of the car’s Monroney (sticker) below. It does indeed show that Ford’s MSRP for the vehicle — with $24,990 in options, mind you — is indeed $96,485. Could you stomach paying a 24% premium above and beyond that to have a GT500?
Don’t think you can escape it by putting aside delusions of grandeur and just buying a standard Mustang GT, either. This dealer is charging a still-not-insubstantial $2,000 markup on those models as well. What about a Bronco Sport? That’ll be an extra $1,500.
If that’s not rich enough for your blood…
You know what? Let’s take a look at something like a 2022 Chevy Corvette Stingray. The C8’s been out for a little while now, so that early adopter tax surely must have passed by now, right? Right!?
Wrong. Another reader sent in this gem — A loaded Stingray 3LT with the Z51 package for a cool $149,980. That’s sitting at Romans (funny coincidence, but no relation) Chevrolet Buick in Independence, Kansas. To put that in perspective, let’s say you finance that car for 5 years. Even with amazing credit, you’re still paying $2,500 a month — about triple what your mortgage would be for a 4-bedroom house in that area — to own a Stingray. This dealer’s hardly alone, either, as we highlighted the case of expensive-as-all-get-out Corvettes earlier this summer.
Then there’s the Bronco…
Oh, the Bronco. This one’s partially understandable, as the car is insanely hot and Ford just can’t get them out the door quickly enough. There are also other issues the Blue Oval has to contend with, so it could be awhile before Broncos actually make their way out to everyone currently holding a reservation.
But let’s say you want to get one now — at least among the Broncos that are trickling out to dealers. Then you’ll run up against some outfits like Holzhauer City Ford near St. Louis. I have a theory (and again, I want to stress it’s just a theory) on this one, but first let’s get to the pricing. If you want, say, a Bronco Outer Banks — this dealer’s asking $87,325 at time of writing. Again, so far as we can tell that’s before dealer fees, before taxes, before registration…well short of an “out-the-door” price, you’d pay nearly double that car’s $47,325 MSRP.
On balance, I want to stress two things on this example. First, this dealer doesn’t appear to be engaging in markups across their entire inventory (unlike the earlier Mustang example). In fact, it looks like they’re only doing that with the three Broncos they have, which leads into my theory. In some cases, dealers will exorbitantly mark-up demo models so they won’t sell, and the dealer is transparent in that they intend the Outer Banks to be a test drive model only. Still, they do have a Bronco Black Diamond that is not marked as a test unit priced up to $83,530 at the moment, so the main premise largely still applies here. That is a $40,000 markup over that Black Diamond’s $43,530 MSRP.
This dealer’s not alone, of course: Check out this $58,150 Bronco Wildtrak being advertised for $98,150. Ouch. Some examples you guys sent in — not to mention eBay listings for Broncos — peak well north of $100,000.
That’s just the beginning
I could go on. Like I said, you guys are blowing up our email inboxes with your markup stories — and not even more mainstream models are safe. Let’s say you want a Hyundai Palisade or Kia Telluride for your family. They’re popular, but dealers surely won’t hit them with five-digit “market adjustments”? $10,000 over MSRP smacks a bit steep for a three-row crossover, doesn’t it?
Some good deals can still be had — here are your stories!
Of course, not all dealers mark up strong-selling cars — even if it feels like that’s the case, after reading the stories above. Take our friend Nick, who bought a Highlander from AutoNation Toyota in Tempe, Arizona — below MSRP.
Even upon cursory inspection, this dealer looks flush with new Highlanders hovering around Toyota’s MSRP, so check them out if you’re looking around.
Toyota of Seattle straight up says it — “We will not sell a vehicle over MSRP*”
Another reader sent in Toyota of Seattle as a dealer that doesn’t mark up their vehicles. They say it point blank on their website and social media channels — but there’s one fine-print exception. That promise, they say, “Excludes Toyota Supra.” Take that for what you will. That may come across as understandable, so long as markup (if there is any on Supras the dealer gets in stock) isn’t egregious.
By and large, this dealer seems to be true to their word, at least on cars like the Corolla Cross and even the 4Runner.
Ordering a Jeep Wrangler 4xe…UNDER MSRP?
One more story, and this involves a Jeep Wrangler 4xe — another hot SUV on which you may be hard-pressed to find a deal right now. Another viewer reached out to us with the following story (and more to come):
Thanks for your continued support, and we’ll keep an eye out for that package!
There are many more examples than what’s listed here, and if you enjoy this series, we will combine your stories and further research into an update soon. Check out more from our original video below: