I am not your typical car fanatic, for the most part I’m not really into cars at all. My father, his father before him, and my brother are super gearheads but I’m in the tech field. However, when I was a kid my uncle had a ’67 Challenger and to me that was the greatest thing I’d ever seen on wheels. From the moment Dodge reintroduced the new Challenger I knew I wanted one one day.
I make decent money, but as a young single dad I didn’t make the best decisions credit wise years ago. Over a year ago I financed a car with a sub-prime loan in order to establish good credit in hopes of one day purchasing the car I want. I went to a Dodge dealership in January to finally test drive and possibly buy a Challenger but at the time my credit wasn’t where it needed to be and though I was due for a jump in pay from my job, it hadn’t come through yet. Although I was a little discouraged I kind of knew that going in but wanted to gauge where I was and map out what needed to be done. This was at Musselman’s Dodge in Baltimore, I have no issues with them they’re very upfront and a great dealership to work with.
Fast forward to this month, I visit another Dodge dealership after a bump in pay and some work on my credit. I was approved for a Dodge Challenger SXT at a great price and they gave me a great deal on my trade as well. While I was super excited, my optimal car is the SXT Plus. They didn’t have any on that lot so while negotiating I came across one at the Koons Dodge dealership in Vienna, VA for the exact same price as the one at the dealership I was working with. I put that deal on hold for a couple days so I could research Koons a bit.
I went to the Koons website to chat online with a salesman. I told the salesman from the beginning that I had another offer but their car was the same price, I asked would it be possible to move the approval over to Koons in hope of getting the car I want. I also explained to him that I was still working on my credit so I was leery of having my name shopped to a bunch of banks, he told me that as long as I got a car within 30 days that multiple checks on my credit wouldn’t affect my score. Finally, I explained to him that their dealership was over an hour from where I lived, I did not want to make the drive unless we were absolutely sure I was approved for financing. Again, I’m a single dad, I’d most likely be headed there from work and I’d have to make arrangements for that evening drive so that my son would be taken care of. The salesman had me fill out their credit app online and provide all information. He then both called and text my phone and told me that I was approved! This was great news I was finally getting the car of my dreams and getting from under a car that I did not want.
The next day, the salesman called me to confirm I was coming in. I again asked him was I approved and was told I was, all I needed to do was bring in my trade. I told him again how far I was traveling, how excited I was, that I did not have any room for a lot of gimmicks, and what I was offering to put down (which was also on the credit app). The salesman told me I was good to go and to come down that day.
What is usually a little over an hour drive was over a 90 minute drive as I drove through the first big thunderstorm of the summer in our area, now this isn’t a storm designed to enhance my story this was an actual storm where parts of the highway were flooded and cars were on the shoulder. I normally wouldn’t have made the trip in this weather but I wanted to get my Challenger as soon as possible. I arrived at the dealership and the car was pulled up for me. I took it for a test drive and it was everything I imagined it to be and I was ready to close the deal. We pull up to the dealership and I turn to the salesman and say “So I’m approved and all set to go, right?” and he replied “Yeah well, we got your approved on the price of the car we just have to run the numbers through the bank and take a look at your trade”. At that point I sensed a bit of dread and anger but I decided to remain positive. Surely he wouldn’t have me drive 90 minutes in a storm just to bait and switch me. While we were back in the dealership, they had other potential buyers looking through the car I was in the process of buying. This really bothered me but what could I say? I didn’t have the keys yet.
I owe about $11,600 on my car at the time of sending this letter. Again, it was a subprime loan with 19% APR designed to get some positive credit going. The car itself is a Honda Accord and while it’s not in phenomenal shape, the previous dealership I worked with offered to pay off the loan without me carrying any negative equity over. Koons offered me $1500 for my trade-in. Carrying over $10,000 to the new loan putting the final price of the car at around $38K. I drove 90 minutes for this car in a storm, I want this car. As I stated previously, I’m not a car fanatic and this being my dream car, I’d probably have it until the wheels literally fell off and I had to upgrade. I worked out the scenario in my head, the monthly payment was projected to be high but I could afford it. I could refinance in a year and even begin to pay off the car in lump sums. So I asked to proceed on the deal. The salesman then told me “great, I’m going to get this over to the finance manager and we’ll run your credit through the banks and see what we can do.”
At this point I’m angry, I didn’t project my anger but from the internet, to the phone, to the test drive I’ve been told that my credit was approved and the financing was a done deal. I explained not wanting to be run through a bunch of banks. I’ve been reassured at every turn that I was good to go I just needed to arrive and yet here we are in the 4th quarter after I’ve talked myself into purchasing this car that now you’re running my information through the banks? Ok, I tell myself, I’ve gotten this far and I’m sure they wouldn’t lie about me being approved. Maybe this is a formality and I’ll be all set after we confirm my information. An hour of waiting later, the salesman introduces me to the finance manager. The finance manager tells me that “with my negative equity along with my credit” that I would need a cosigner or more than half down on the car. Other than that they’d have to sell me a car $20K less. I tell him none of that is possible and he sends me on my way.
Why, why, WHY would you have someone lay out all their information to you beforehand. Tell you how long the drive is, provide all of their credit information only to have them come down and you lie to them? A car that was $20K less? But you originally tell me that I’m approved for a car that was priced at $25K? Let’s do the math with this. The final price of the car with taxes and titling would’ve been $38K. 11K of which was my trade-in after appraisal. So you wanted to put me in a car valued at 18K, but really 7K because 11 would be negative equity from my trade? So the truth of the matter is I was never approved for the car at 25K like I was originally told and why I took the drive in the first place. I was lied to and sucked into a salesman game. And at the end of the day, I could do nothing but stew as my I made the 90 minute drive home as the storm made it’s way north and I drove through the flashes of it’s remnants.
I am about 98% sure that this letter means nothing to the people who make these cars, nor to the people that sell them. I told my brother yesterday on the way home that dealerships do things like this all the time. I just wanted to place in my words how frustrating this makes the consumer feel. I don’t understand the point in playing games with a customer. If I apply and give you all the necessary information, tell me from there hey you’re not approved or there’s nothing we can do (Musselman’s did this perfectly!). Don’t think for a second that I’d get wide-eyed after 10 hours at work, a 90 minute drive, and minimal sleep and start begging nonexistent people to cosign. And if I had 20K to put down I’d be negotiating to buy the car outright!
In closing, if you’re reading this, I’m just sharing my frustration. I’m no longer enamored with the idea of owning a Challenger. The games played by your dealers have left the worst taste in my mouth. I’d rather drive my car with my terrible loan than deal with someone who’s whole idea is deception.
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