Are Dealer Markups Going Away? The Future of Car Buying Trends

Dealer markups, often termed as “market adjustments,” have historically been a point of contention between car buyers and dealerships. These additional costs added to the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) by dealers are intended to capitalize on high demand for certain vehicle models. However, the practice has led to many buyers questioning the fairness of such surcharges. Prospective car owners are increasingly concerned about whether the trend of dealer markups will continue or if there’s an end in sight.

A car on a showroom floor with a large "No Dealer Markups" sign displayed prominently

In the recent climate, we’ve seen car prices approach record highs, with the average new car price nearing $48,759 at the end of 2023. This represented a slight decrease from the previous year, indicating that market dynamics might be influencing dealer strategies. We’re observing that some consumers are taking alternative routes to circumvent dealer markups by buying cars directly from automakers or seeking out transparent pricing models from alternative sales platforms.

Understanding the reasons behind dealer markups is key for buyers aiming to make informed decisions. While it’s challenging to predict with certainty whether these markups will disappear entirely, awareness and consumer resistance can play significant roles. Our tale with dealer markups is undeniably complex, entwining supply and demand economics, buyer willingness to pay, and steadily evolving industry practices.

Dealer Markup Trends

In our exploration of dealer markups, we’ll focus on key elements such as inventory and chip shortages, along with market adjustments and dealer strategies that influence these additional costs.

Influence of Inventory and Chip Shortage

Key Factors:

The availability of vehicles, or inventory, is directly correlated with dealer markups. When inventory is low, dealerships are more likely to increase prices due to higher demand and limited supply. A significant factor that has affected inventory is the global chip shortage.

The chip shortage has led to a drastic reduction in new vehicle production, pushing some dealers to mark up prices on the scarce inventory they have.

Market Adjustments and Dealer Strategies

Market Adjustments Dealer Strategies
Extra charges on top of MSRP due to demand Tactics to maximize profits on each sale
Used when inventory is low or models are in high demand Involves managing inventory, pricing, and customer relations
Understanding Dealer Adjustments:

We see dealers branding their markups as “market adjustments,” which suggest a pricing strategy that takes into account the current demand and supply dynamics. This is a common practice, especially for popular or new-release models in which the demand outstrips supply.



Dealers may leverage market adjustments to reflect the willingness of buyers to pay above MSRP, often justified by invoking low inventory or high-demand models.

Comparing Automaker Pricing Strategies

When buying a car, understanding the difference between the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) and dealer markups, as well as how incentives and dealer add-ons affect the final price, is crucial for us as consumers.

MSRP vs Dealer Markup

The MSRP is the price automakers suggest retailers sell their vehicles at, while the dealer markup is an additional amount that dealers may apply at their discretion. The markup varies and can significantly inflate the cost above the MSRP, as it compensates for dealership expenses and is influenced by demand.

MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price) Dealer Markup
Base price set by automakers Additional cost added by dealers
Reflects fair market value Affected by market demand and availability

Incentives and Add-Ons Impact on Pricing

Automakers offer incentives such as rebates or special financing to entice us to buy, which can greatly reduce the final price of a vehicle. Dealer add-ons, however, such as extended warranties or aftermarket features, often increase the final cost. It’s essential for us to distinguish between the two to understand how they influence the total pricing.

Key Takeaways:
  • Incentives can lower the overall cost we pay.
  • Add-ons typically push the final sale price above the MSRP.
  • We must be diligent about which add-ons provide value to us.

Navigating the Car Buying Process

We’ll tackle the car buying journey by recognizing key strategies within research and budgeting, as well as honing negotiation skills, to manage car dealer markups. Our approach ensures that we consider both the selling price and dealer practices, helping us steer through the process with efficacy.

Research and Budget Considerations

Gathering accurate data is our first step. We comb through reliable sources, such as Kelley Blue Book, to understand the fair market value of the car we are interested in. Aligning our expectations with current market trends is critical; it helps us set a realistic budget. Keeping in mind that the average new car price was $48,759 at the end of 2023, we adjust our budget accordingly.

Our budgeting doesn’t end at the car’s price; we also consider additional costs such as taxes, insurance, and registration fees. To ensure we don’t go overboard 🚨, we use this simple table:

Cost Amount
Selling Price Based on fair market value
Additional Fees Estimates for taxes, insurance, etc.
Total Budget Sum of all costs

Negotiating with Confidence

Negotiating is where we can significantly influence the car’s final price. Our confidence is underpinned by our preparation. We enter discussions with data, an understanding of dealer markups, and the knowledge of what we can afford. Acknowledging that dealers have marked up prices by an average of $4,000 with peaks up to $12,000 helps us to stand our ground.

Never be afraid to walk away if the price exceeds our budget or if the dealer won’t budge on a markup.

We keep these points at the forefront of negotiation conversations:

  • Knowledge of the average markup on the model we want
  • A clear cap on the price we’re willing to pay
  • Alternatives at other dealerships or buying directly from an automaker

With this information, negotiating becomes a tactical discussion rather than a stress-inducing one. Remember, the goal is to reach an agreement that satisfies both parties, where we obtain our preferred car without succumbing to exorbitant dealer markups.

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