auto

Is deposit on vehicle a binding contract?

q_v2.gif I put a $1,000 deposit on a new Dodge 2009 Challenger. The sales manager told me they were a limited-production car. He said he already sold eight out of the nine he expected to get all year, so I'd better hurry ... He said $4,000 over sticker price was a great deal, and a lot of other baloney. I'm 55, and this was the first new car I have ever bought. Three months later, I was in Chicago and the dealer up there seemed to have plenty of Challengers, and he'd sell me one for list price. I tried to cancel the first car but the dealer told me he won't refund my money because he would have to sell the car as a used car if I don't take it. Is it time for Judge Judy? What is the law pertaining to new-car deposits?

a_v2.gifYou seem to be combining two different scenarios here.

Scenario one would be simply putting down a deposit. Assuming you got a receipt in writing, you should be able to tell if it's nonrefundable. You did get a receipt in writing, didn't you?

If it's not refundable, you might be out the $1,000. If you can get the second car for $4,000 less from another dealer, you're still better off than if you bought the first car. I can't think of any way the first dealer can compel you to take delivery just because you put down a deposit. That's the whole idea of a deposit; the dealership knows they have a serious customer because you risk losing the deposit if you cancel the deal.

Scenario two would be that you made a down payment, not a deposit; signed a finance contract, took out a loan and put the car in your name. It sounds pretty unlikely that you could sign a contract without knowing it and without taking delivery, so I'm assuming you only put down a deposit.

The dealership could be trying to muddy the water by claiming they can't resell the vehicle as a new car if you don't take it. That's baloney unless the title is in your name. Once a new car's title is transferred to a customer's name, it can't be resold as a new car.

Speaking of baloney, nobody should ever pay above sticker price for any car. In the auto industry, that's called "gouging." It happens sometimes, but only when a car is a really hot new brand and when it's not available in all markets during the rollout. It doesn't usually last long, so it pays to wait a few months. Nowadays, it's rare for anybody to pay sticker price, let alone more than sticker price.

An additional slice of baloney: You saw with your own eyes that a big Dodge dealership in a big market is going to get more Dodge Challengers to sell than a little dealership. But that doesn't make it "limited production."

Unfortunately, it sounds like this dealership saw you coming, and it was more interested in a quick sale than a long-term relationship.

 

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