Be Cautious Of Enticing TV Car Ads

Ryan Gutierrez is still haunted when he goes through the paperwork from a car he bought five years ago. He's still fighting in court over a purchase that started when he saw an ad on TV.

He recalls the infomercial: "Big, flashy number, $249, zero down, big letters, give us a call."

But, as CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone reports, in his lawsuit Gutierrez says he ended up getting caught in a bait-and-switch. It's a tactic long used by car dealers, says consumer advocate Ken McEldowney.

"What they want to do is get you inside the door because they know that when they get you inside the door they have a really good chance of you walking out with a car," he says.

Once Gutierrez was inside, the salesman told him the Dodge Durango he wanted, one that seats seven, would cost much more than advertised.

"He said it would be $589, I believe, a month" says Gutierrez.

It was far more than the $249 a month the ad promised.

"Yeah, well, they said that it would be another car without the third row seat and with nothing in it," he says.

And as for the zero down, well there was some fine print in that TV ad specifying a hefty "drive-off fee."

How can they say zero down then in the small print charge a $3,500 "drive-off fee?"

"Because no one monitors, no one enforces deceptive advertising claims," says McEldowney.

In an e-mail response, Auto West says it "acknowledges the challenges … in presenting advertised offers" in and industry where there can be "multiple options … as well as varied financing incentives."

Gutierrez says under the salesman's pressure he ended up leasing the Durango for $489 a month, nearly double the advertised price. He had second thoughts soon after and has been in litigation ever since.

"It's not a good feeling to know that someone knowingly took advantage of you and cheated you," says Gutierrez.

Gutierrez and his wife Jamie replaced the Durango with another car long ago but they are now better consumers, having learned that if the deal that brought you in the door isn't there, turn around and walk out the door.
  • Jaime Holguin

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