About Real Car Tips
Profile Pic
Find the Best Car Deals Near You ⤵
GuideNew Cars

How to File a Complaint Against a Car Dealer

Car dealers have a bad reputation for ripping off consumers. While this may have been the norm in years past, many dealers try to treat customers better these days.

However, that doesn't mean you won't run into any problems or that you won't get ripped off. It's still common to find "errors" in paperwork or problems with a new car after you've driven off the lot.

In most cases, dealers will try to rectify the situation when you contact them, but there's always a few that require a heavier hand to get things settled. If you encounter a problem, your first line of defense is to use the Customer Satisfaction Survey as a negotiation tool.

The CSS is a survey that is sent by the manufacturer to each new car buyer in order to get feedback on the dealership. They usually arrive via mail after a few weeks. Unlike many other product surveys, this is actually very important to dealers. Manufacturers use these surveys to determine how many cars to allocate to dealers, and to determine bonus amounts that will be paid.

If a dealer consistently gets high marks on these surveys, they will usually get large bonus payments and first dibs on the hottest selling cars on the market. The way to use the CSS is to call the general manager or sales manager at the dealership. Let them know you're not happy with the situation and that you will be filling out the CSS soon. Tell them you will be happy to give them high marks if the problem is fixed.

This will usually do the trick if it's a small issue, but sometimes dealers are very hard-headed and you have to take it to the next level.

One thing dealers fear most are customers who file complaints with the State Attorney General. If a dealer gets too many complaints, they could be fined or even have their franchise license revoked, so they take these very seriously.

Let them know that you will be filing a complaint with the State Attorney General and also the Better Business Bureau. That will certainly get their attention. You can take it even further by threatening to leave bad ratings on several dealer review web sites. Most dealers feel it's very important to have a good online reputation, so they will want to prevent bad reviews online.

If none of this works and the problem is serious enough, you can hire a lawyer or try to contact your local news to see if they will do a story. Hopefully, you won't need to resort to this - and in most cases you shouldn't have to if the dealer is smart.

3 Steps Every Car Buyer Needs to Take to Save Maximum Money

The key to getting the best deal is to gather price or lease bids from as many local dealers as possible. Then shop that best price around until no one can beat it. Here are the steps:

Step 1 Get Prices From My Trusted Network

Select the vehicle you're interested in to see if there are local dealers in my network who will provide you with their best upfront price. You will get direct access to an internet sales manager who you can further negotiate with online (no need to visit dealership).
Select Vehicle to Get Local Pricing

Step 2 Get Prices From TrueCar / CarsDirect

TrueCar, and CarsDirect are my top 2 online price quote recommendations. These services show you pre-negotiated prices from dealers closest to you - and the deals are usually pretty decent. But remember, you can still negotiate further.

Step 3 Complete my Checklist

Follow this up with my checklist to make sure you squeeze out every last bit of savings.
- Gregg Fidan

Each week, I'll keep you up-to-date on the latest car deals and news that might affect your purchase. This includes...

  • Best Rebates, Incentives, and Lease Deals
  • Latest Car Buying Scams and Tricks
  • The Best & Worst Time to Buy a Car
  • Which Cars You Should Avoid

(Absolutely NO SPAM, easy to unsubscribe)

About The Author

Gregg Fidan Gregg Fidan is the founder of RealCarTips. After being ripped off on his first car purchase, he devoted several years to figuring out the best ways to avoid scams and negotiate the best car deals. He has written hundreds of articles on the subject of car buying and taught thousands of car shoppers how to get the best deals.
Got a Question About This Article?

Your Zip Code: