How car dealers scam you, & how you can avoid being scammed

A car is the second largest purchase that a person is likely to make in her/his lifetime. Naturally, the stakes are high and there’s a lot of money involved. Like many real estate agents, there are a number of “oily” car dealers operating in India. They’re out to make a quick buck out of you, and if you’re not wary, you can easily end up losing money. Here are some ways in which car dealers, and their service centers, try to scam you, and how you can avoid being scammed.

Demo cars

Maruti Swift Demo Car

Dealers buy demo cars to showcase to potential customers. What happens to this demo car after it gets old or a facelifted car arrives? Honest car dealers sell them off at massive discount, with the buyer clearly knowing that s/he is buying a demo car. Unscrupulous dealers scam an unsuspecting customer, and pass off the demo car as a new car. Dealers dress up a demo car by repainting scratched bits, doing up the interiors, tweaking odometers and generally making an old car look like new. The poor customer drives off paying full money for a car that’s been used and abused countless times. Now, this is why a solid Pre-Delivery Inspection done by you the car buyer is a must.

Handling charges

Handling Charges

Handling charges are illegal. Yet, dealers routinely continue to charge car buyers this. When confronted, dealers refuse to issue receipts for this as most of the money collected as handling charges is used to bribe RTO officials. Some part of the handling charges may also be used to pay for the car’s transport, which in any case must be borne by the dealer and not by you. So, you’re well within your right to refuse to pay the so-called “handling charges”. If the dealer insists, try another dealer. If all the dealers are out to scam you with “handling charges”, approach the car maker through regional sales managers or official helplines. When car makers intervene, dealers usually fall in line and waive off the handling charges. Meanwhile, the courts have clearly termed “handling charges” illegal.

Teflon/polymer coating

Teflon Coating

Hours before, or a day before taking delivery of a new car, owners often receive a call from the dealer. The person on the other end will usually start off by congratulating you for the purchase, and then ask you if you want “teflon” coating to be done to your car. Now, this is a scam as most coatings that are done under the name of Teflon are either sub-standard, or not done at all. This is just an easy way to scam the customer as there’s no way to really verify this “polymer” coating on a new car’s body. The car’s factory paint is more than enough to resist all kinds of weather conditions in India. Say yes to Teflon only if you want to gift your hard earned money to an unscrupulous dealer.

Inflated service bills

Fraud service bill

Car dealers don’t make much money selling cars. They real margins come from servicing them. Service is a big money spinner for car dealerships, and also the place where a lot of scams happen. The most common scam is overcharging or inflated service bills. It’s not uncommon to find spark plugs replaced in a diesel car (which doesn’t use spark plugs in the first place). Get the drift? So, every time your car gets serviced, go through the bill with a fine toothed comb. You’ll be surprised by how often you get inflated bills.

Performing unnecessary service tasks

Skoda Service Center

 

Now, this is another easy trick service centers pull upon unsuspecting customers. As you’re dropping off your car for service, the service advisor will rattle off a long list of optional, and mostly useless “engine treatments” and its likes. He’ll say that “your car will last longer or look better, etc”, but are these treatments such as engine flush and decarbonization needed every 10,000 Kms? The answer is a straight no.

Nowadays, new dealer scams include brake cleaning every 5,000 Kms, EGR cleaning every 10,000 Kms and clutch setting (by the way, a hydraulic clutch is self adjusting) every 5,000 Kms. So, simply open the service manual of your car and ask the service advisor to perform only those service tasks that are mentioned in the manual’s maintenance schedule. “Sticking to the book” is the way you need to approach car service.

[Demo car image courtesy Motorbeam]

[Service bill image courtesy Team-BHP]