Car Price Vigilantes: Crowdsourced Effort Pushes Back at Dealer Markups

ACV of a vehiclePrices for new cars rocketed to record highs all last year as the auto industry coped with a shortage of microchips. Some dealers, able to count on fewer sales but higher prices, tested the traditional rules of car shopping with record-high markups.

The practice grew common enough to trigger some pushback from car companies themselves.

Automakers, with the exception of Tesla and a few similar startups, don’t set the prices for the cars. They set the prices they charge third-party dealerships, but those dealerships negotiate final sales prices with buyers. So the company that builds a car has limited ability to step in when a dealership overcharges for it.

Automakers Feuding With Dealers Over Markups

Some are trying. Ford has threatened to stop sending popular models to dealers that engage in questionable markups. General Motors has done the same.

Subaru, ever the love company, has tried gently requesting that its dealerships keep prices reasonable. It has expressed fatherly disappointment in those that don’t.

But there’s another party with some ability to push back at markups – buyers. That effort has apparently begun.

Crowdsourced Site Lets Buyers Push Back

Markups.org is a crowdsourced website out to shame dealerships that ask for absurd markups for cars.

The builders of the site remain anonymous. In the About Us section of the site, they say they started the effort because of the markups some dealerships were taking on high-performance truck models like the Ram TRX and Ford F-150 Raptor.

But the effort has grown, with users reporting dealerships for marking up everything from Kia Forte sedans (an alleged $7,000 dealer adjustment at a Nevada dealership) to an Audi RS 6 Avant (a $75,000 markup reported in West Palm Beach, Florida).

Users can search by dealership, state, or car make to find the worst purported abuses.

The effort is small for now, but it’s the first sign we’ve seen of buyers organizing resistance to the new wave of markups.

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