By on May 9, 2014


2007 was a nutty time for my car business when it came to buying parts and supplies.

All the auto parts stores around my dealership were busy blowing their financial brains out in the pursuit of commercial business. I was retailing all the good cars I could find at the auctions, and it wasn’t long before I started to see an armada of amazing deals come to my door.

12 free gallons of coolant (8 store brand concentrates, 4 Dex-Cool) at Autozone. 16 quarts of free synthetic motor oil plus 24 more quarts of conventional oil at O’Reillys. Advance Auto Parts would guarantee the lowest price. Then O’Reillys offered “cost plus” deals that I could barely even fathom. While the parts stores were busy slashing each other’s throats, I was steadfastly collecting all the cheap and free products that came from the marketshare bloodbath.

Armor All, Meguiars, Turtle Wax, auto care products that were trying to get a retail presence… all were practically free for the taking if you were willing to keep up with the offers. 2007 netted me enough auto care products to handle the next three years of my business.

This ended in early 2008, and by 2009, you could often get better deals by lurking at the Bob Is The Oil Guy web site. That’s when I started noticing a nasty trend. Things started to get a bit too cute with the rebates.

I would apply for a deal, scan a copy for my own records, mail it in, and wait.

Nothing. One month would pass. 45 days. Then two months.

It got to the point where I had a spreadsheet on Google Docs exclusively dedicated to all the rebates that I saw as bait. At least 20% of which were financially AWOL on any given time.

I would call, email, and even complain if their word and my mailbox weren’t aligning themselves the right way. Eventually I got what I needed, but boy, did I get ticked off at that constant tug-o-war of time.

These days I only stock up on certain products off-season (i.e. Freon in November) and pretty much stick to the Bob Is The Oil Guy site for whatever else is worth my time. I retail less, wholesale more, and it’s rare that I see something that is truly compelling these days.

One deal today did catch my eye. This one.  The only problem is I can’t endorse it wholeheartedly because maybe, perhaps, that rebate may find itself in that netherworld called, “lost in process”.

Every rebate that isn’t online is a roll of the dice these days. So with the odds in flux, let me ask you a painful question. “Did You Ever Get Screwed On A Rebate?”

This is your time to sound off on what I consider to be an industry practice that should be taken out back and burned to cinders. Mail-in rebates are an inexcusable screwing of the general public.

If you were ever one of those screwed, here’s your chance to vent.

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54 Comments on “Question Of The Day: Did You Ever Get Screwed On A Rebate?...”

  • avatar

    “Breakage” is part of the rebate game. Who has not been screwed?

    In my uneducated opinion, this sort of business practice should be considered fraud and subject to criminal law.

  • avatar

    this happens a lot in the IT and electronics world

    you buy a $250 item and get $100 cashback

    i’ve even seen some like buy this item for $80 and get $100 cashback

    problem is if you send the cashback by normal mail its conveniently lost

    use registered or certified email

    and even then the person taking care of the offer is always on leave

    the big companies like Intel etc. wont screw you around because they have money and dont want their name trawled thru the mud but there’s LOTS of companies out there, big names, who just dont care

    • 0 avatar

      Does the electronics force you to buy up like the Wix filter in this senario? Personally I’d buy a less costly filter and pick up the oil on sale, braking even on the whole process instead of playing the stick and carrot game.

  • avatar

    Back in 2004, I built a PC from parts from Micro Center – a great place to buy electronic stuff, as we’ve used them over 20 years. After spending hundreds of dollars on everything I needed, which came to around $500.00 or so, I received all the rebates so that computer cost me approximately $120.00!

    You really have to be diligent when rebates are at stake, and buyer beware, for certain! Make copies of everything, follow instructions to the letter, and definitely use Certified Mail.

    BUT – always give every rebate offer the “smell test” to see how legit it really is. If it stinks in your mind, don’t do it.

    • 0 avatar

      Microcenter is awesome. Apparently, I had missed sending in a rebate for $150 for a laptop. Anyway, they said they’d send me a check if I confirmed my address. Sure enough, a few weeks later I get the check. I’m assuming it was some sort of store rebate because I don’t see a manufacturer doing something like that.

  • avatar

    Rebates are a scam.
    They sucker you in with the offer of a “lower price” via rebate.
    Many people forget to file the rebate.
    They keep the money.

    If you really wanted to sell it to me for less $, you’d have done that in the first place.

    And the worst type of rebate are these DEBIT CARD instead of check rebates.

    What if I just want to take my $80 and SAVE it instead of buying more stuff?

    • 0 avatar

      “And the worst type of rebate are these DEBIT CARD instead of check rebates.”

      You’re kidding right. You want to go through the minutiae of depositing a check to get your money. Even a bank by phone app is 3-4 minutes of your life snapping check images and waiting a couple days for it to post.

      You want that money for savings, use the pre-paid card’s full dollar amount towards a normal recurring life expense like gas or groceries, then pocket the money you would have spent that week on it. Paper checks are an anachronism from from an older, less developed age.

      • 0 avatar


        Giving someone a debit card or gift card is like FORCING them to spend immediately. Why can’t I save it if I don’t want to spend it?

        I could use it for daily expenses, but I use a cash-back Visa Black Card for all my purchases. Even gas- at locations that don’t charge extra for credit.

        • 0 avatar

          Unless you’re living under a rock, the average person has dozens of weekly expenses which the the debit card can be substituted for. The average person may not have the wherewithall to pocket and save the money normally spent on that recurring expense, but that is the simple answer to how you save money from a pre-paid card.

          As for gas stations ‘not charging extra’ for credit card usage, they do. It’s built into the price of a gallon of gas. In any major city, there is always the chain or local place that charges less for cash/debit vs credit card. Usually a few cents a gallon that may not be worth the forfeiture of rewards cards, sometimes it is.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, but try to find a way to spend $4.99.

        • 0 avatar

          Most any retail outlet you go to will split payment types. At the grocery store, or Fry’s like I did the other month, I tell them, $10 on this card (my rebate card) and the rest on this card. I’ve seen people at the grocery store do 3-4 card between their SNAP, debit, and credit cards.

      • 0 avatar

        Last year(14 months actually) Autozone sent me a $20 gift card as a rebate. I threw in the desk and forgot about it until last week when I cleaned out the desk. I was afraid that it had expired so I emailed Autozone and asked. I received a prompt reply, their gift cards don’t expire. I took it to the local Autozone and used it toward the purchase of some springtime maintenance supplies. Except for the fact the average Autozone employee isn’t very knowledgeable, I really have no complaints with Autozone.

    • 0 avatar

      “If you really wanted to sell it to me for less $, you’d have done that in the first place.”

      That’s the beauty of rebates, they put the lower price in the buyer’s mind without having to necessarily deliver that lower price. Enough buyers will fail to complete the rebate process that the mfr can honestly process those that they receive and still come out ahead.

      I’m more annoyed by the rebates offered by Menards (a midwest home improvement store). The rebates come (after a long mail-in delay) in the form of a merchandise credit only good at Menards, which I wind up using on another rebated item with its own merch credit. I’ve been on that merry-go-round for as long as a year.

      • 0 avatar

        If you have Menards, do you also have Farm & Fleet/Fleet Farm?

        Great stores, one-stop-shopping for my ilk. I was able to beat every internet price on a Generac 6500 there and cart it out the door.

        • 0 avatar

          I’m too close to Chicago for F&F, but I have lived in more rural areas that had them. F&F is one of those places that I can wander around in for hours marveling at all of the stuff they have, even if I’ll never need it.

      • 0 avatar

        Menards and their rebates are a total crock of shit! THEY RAISE ALL THEIR PRICES 11% BEFORE THE “REBATE SALE” BEGINS! That’s right, you pay 11% more and then have to waste TWO stamps to get the 11% you OVERPAID back. It’s a major ripoff and dishonest in the extreme. I’m surprised they haven’t been sued for false advertising for this scheme.

    • 0 avatar

      Mr. Big Truck
      A neighbor used to be a manager of a major chain restaurant. This restaurant sold gift cards during the holidays. My neighbor told me that only 30% of the gift cards were ever used. Thus, 70% free money to the company. With Debit Cards, you will always see an expiration date, so if you do not use the card quickly, it expires and so too does your rebate money. This is why you get a Debit Card, use it or lose it to the company.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I dabbled in the rebate world very briefly. I too did it with computer parts. I realized that after a certain amount of time the money I was waiting for lost its value. After 90 days, the $25 I wrote off the cost of the item I bought really wasn’t written off. Given a long enough time, that $25 was worth $0.
    So now I don’t buy anything based on any sort of rebate. And I actually don’t see rebate offers too much anymore. But all things being equal, if one store offers a product and another store offers the same product with a non-on-site rebate, my purchase decision will be based on which price is lower without the rebate or by which store is closer to me if the price is the same.
    It’s not worth getting angry about.

  • avatar

    That’s why I buy my groceries at Aldi, no rebates, they just ask for the price and everyone pays the same. Other people get 20% off at Copps and still pay twice than what they would pay at Aldi.

    These rebates are like the Nigerian prince who in order to transfer me $ 1mio, wants $1K upfront. why doesn’t that Nigerian Prince just deduct the $1K from that $1mio and wires me $999K right away without hassle?

    If I could regulate one thing, I would regulate that all rebates have to be included in the purchasing price immediately. I buy a $500 device and you give me $100 rebate? Great, so I just pay $400 and we are good. no paying $500 now and eventually getting a stupid $100 voucher or BS.

    • 0 avatar

      In DC metro, we have Trader Joes, which is Hipster Aldi; they’re actually owned by the same company. Exact same stuff as Aldi, 15% higher cost. And yet still cheaper than Safeway or Giant.

      • 0 avatar

        Not the same company, oddly enough. The US-based Aldi stores are owned by Aldi Süd; Trader Joe’s is owned by Aldi Nord. The two Albrecht brothers split the company in the ’60s over a disagreement about whether to sell cigarettes.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      *You* spoke to the Nigerian prince, too? Wow! What a coincidence!

  • avatar

    The better question is who has not been screwed by these. They really are deigned to make you suffer.

  • avatar

    When good ol’ CompUSA had the last page of their flyers chock full of free-after-rebate stuff Back In The Day, I did several thousand dollars worth of rebates that I tracked faithfully. I don’t have my spreadsheet on hand, but IIRC with a few hundred rebates worth around $7,000 processed I didn’t get 2 of them and that was because I didn’t follow up on those 2.

    BigWill’s Rebate Rules of Thumb based on getting friendly with a few fulfillment center reps (because, yes, some of those 8-10 week rebates were actually 12-14 week rebates):
    1) Follow the instructions.
    2) Write legibly on the rebate form.
    3) Seriously, write legibly on the rebate form. Several fulfillment center reps told me a ridiculously large number of rebates couldn’t be processed because they couldn’t figure out who to make out and/or send the check to.
    4) Staple the UPC code to the form. Don’t tape it (unless they say so), and especially don’t just drop it in the envelope. Reps who had gone to the processing room said at times it looked like it snowed because there were so many clipped UPC codes on the floor that fell out of envelopes. If the UPC code wasn’t with the rebate form when someone actually entered the form data, the submission was rejected.
    5) Send large rebate amounts with some form of delivery confirmation.
    6) Track your rebates.
    7) Keep copies.

    “If I could regulate one thing, I would regulate that all rebates have to be included in the purchasing price immediately. I buy a $500 device and you give me $100 rebate? Great, so I just pay $400 and we are good. no paying $500 now and eventually getting a stupid $100 voucher or BS.”

    It doesn’t work that way. Rebate fulfillment houses sell rebate programs based on fulfillment rates. Think about it – the fulfillment rate on a $2 rebate is WAY lower than the fulfillment rate on a $50 rebate. So, as a simplified example, if they know that $100 rebates have a 50% fulfillment rate then that $100 rebate from, say, HP doesn’t cost HP $100, it costs $50. That said, the option then isn’t between a $400 computer and $500 computer with a $100 rebate, it’s between a $450 computer and a $500 computer with a $100 rebate. Which price do you think HP would rather advertise – $450 or “$400 after rebate”?

    And that’s why rebates still exist.

    • 0 avatar

      Good info, thanks.

    • 0 avatar

      OK, pulled up old spreadsheet with my rebate stats. For a couple of years of rebating primarily tech stuff:

      Number of Rebates: 325
      Total Amount Received: $7,894.79
      Average Rebate Amount: $24.29
      Average Time between Submission & Check: 65.1 days / 9.3 weeks

      Rebates Not Received: 2
      Value of Rebates Not Received: $30.00

  • avatar

    I find rebates, especially the main-in kind are more hassle than their worth. Unless it’s a truly phenominal deal, I won’t bother. If there’s something I have to do in store to get a major discount, I’ll do that.

    In the case of the deal that Steve mentioned, I’d take the $15 gift card, but probably wouldn’t bother chasing down the deal on the gasoline.

  • avatar

    I got hosed on an electronics rebate as well. It was “lost in processing” Of course, the original barcode was required for rebate submission, so they wouldn’t accept the photocpy of it that I made.

    Never had a problem with any other product. I’m glad to see rebates gone.

  • avatar

    I hate rebates. They are just a brilliant way to *blatantly* play upon people’s inherent impatience and laziness. Free money because most folks won’t or are prevented from following up.

    When it became impossible to find casual consumer products with a simple, up-front price because *everyone* played the rebate game, I just stopped buying stuff I didn’t absolutely need. Nyah nyah.

    And then I found that was a very good way to go through the rest of my life. Read much, buy little.

  • avatar

    This is exactly why I simply ignore rebate deals. If your store can’t give me the deal in person, on the spot, no forms then your store can’t have my money. Period.

    As for a story, more of them are technology/office supply related than car related. Same song, different verse.

  • avatar

    Oh absolutely! The last time (the last straw, rather) was nearly ten years ago with a motherboard for a PC I was building. No rebate ever came and calling the number was useless.

    Now I don’t give a crap about rebates. I buy based on “cost to acquire.”. And I don’t send in rebates even if there is one. Why? Because once you cut that bar code off the box, you waive your right to return the product to the retailer. If you have to return or exchange, then you ship it back to the manufacturer at your own cost. No $10 check is worth that hassle.

  • avatar

    I vote with my wallet. I will buy the other product and pay more to avoid mail in rebate deals because I don’t trust people who offer them. Why would I eat something I don’t trust? Certainly I don’t want to be in a car with parts I don’t trust.

    Nope. Make a mental note of rebate scammers and don’t trust them. Scammers is scammers.

  • avatar

    Advertising a rebate and then deliberately not fulfilling it is fraud and should be punished as such.

    I have been doing rebates since the 1970s. I had people tell me they were a scam and I would say “you just aren’t filling them out correctly.” Never had a problem.

    Until, like you say, recently. “Lost” rebates are becoming more common. And yes, I would be wary of the BITOG rebate you link to because it is a SOPUS product. They are the worst ripoff artists, I complained all the way to the Ohio Attorney General’s office about a rebate they refused to honor and still got nothing. So I now see it like loaning money: don’t buy anything that has a rebate unless you can live without the money.


  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    The worst experience with rebates I have had was with Sam’s Club.
    But thanks to BigWill’s list, I now know what could have been wrong.

    Another thing I would add to your list: rebates sometimes come in what appears to be junk mail, which is mostly discarded unopened.

    So I would add to the list:
    8) If you are expecting a rebate, don’t discard ANYTHING that arrives by mail without close inspection.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. Along with the tracking info I’d have the rebate tracking link on my spreadsheet, and once a week or so I’d check the status of the outstanding rebates. Once the status changed to “Check mailed” or something similar, I’d watch my mailbox LIKE A HAWK for the 10 days after the check mailed date. Almost all rebates came as postcards, and more than one of them ended up stuck in the SmartPak flyers. I was stunned to receive a $100 rebate as a 4″x5″ postcard. Conversely, I have received $2 rebates in a #10 envelope.

      While I haven’t done nearly as many rebates recently (RIP CompUSA), there were some companies who were notably exceptional about fulfillment. (Yes, I tracked the time between the date I put the submission in the mailbox and the date I received the check). The top of the list was Microsoft. Of the 5 or 6 Microsoft rebates I did, every check was received within 10-14 days of my mailing the submission. Intel was roughly the same. Staples’ Easy Rebates weren’t bad either and they did a good job of keeping you apprised of the rebate’s processing status automatically.

  • avatar

    Rebates are one of the sleazier hooks a business will use to reel in suckers. The absolute worst are those that come in the form of ‘in-store credit’. That way, even if you get the rebate, you never actually get your money back because you have to continually buy more stuff from the same place.

    When a business resorts to this sort of chicanery, well, it’s usually best to just shop elsewhere. It reminds me of that outfit years ago that would refund the entire purchase price for anything that was bought from them. The way it worked was, on top of charging an abnormally high price for their crap products, it would took years for the money to be refunded. The scam was that the business would make their profit from the interest on the money originally paid that would eventually be refunded (if it ever came back at all).

  • avatar

    One time I was informed that an OfficeMax rebate I was waiting on had issues because they were unable to read my address.

    And how did I receive this information? A postcard mailed to my house.

  • avatar

    I hate rebates as a matter of principal. They are a marketing scam, counting on most people to blow it off or not follow up on it, so I try to avoid participating in the game. Now for Steve, maintaining a rotating fleet of cars, sure, then take advantage of what you can. But for myself, getting a few free oil changes in exchange for having to plan that far in advance and store the crap somewhere for months until I need it is basically too much trouble to bother with. I would rather support companies that offer legitimate sales and pay as I go. I feel the same way about “points” or “frequent shopper” cards. My wife diligently carries about 100 of those stupid cards and has to try to remember to use them when she shops. The only one I use is Starbucks, because they make it really easy and I go there pretty much every day.

    Now for some big ticket items, sure, I will play the rebate game. I got a $300 rebate for my television, it was painless too, I think it was even one of those easy online submission rebates. Tires are good, I have to buy them anyway so why not get the $100-ish rebate debit card? But I am not going to buy something I don’t really need or care about just because I can get it free or close to free if I wait out a rebate. Most people’s lives are needlessly cluttered with crap we don’t need anyway so why add to it?

  • avatar

    Only on one occasion did I not receive the rebate. It was for anti freeze. The rebate required that you send in the rebate form, copy of the store receipt, UPC code, AND the foil seal from the jug….that little foil thing you find on the spout when you take off the cap. I didn’t send the foil seal thingy the rebate company send me a notice that my rebate request was rejected for that reason.

  • avatar

    I won’t buy something just because of a rebate, but consider it “gravy.” I’m super anal by nature, so I’m pretty good at jumping through all their hoops and have never had one denied or failed to receive what was coming to me.

    This past Christmas, I was shopping for my foodie wife and walked into Williams Sonoma looking for gadgets. My wife has always wanted one of the top line Kitchen Aid Mixers but it’s been a “someday” due to the cost. Long story short, they were running a deal-of-the-day on those mixers, 40% off. On top of that Kitchen Aid was offering a $50 rebate AND Williams Sonoma was giving store credit based on what you spent (ended up being $70 I think). I figured I’d never get a better deal so I whipped out the charge card.

    After surprising her on Christmas Eve with the mixer, I carefully filled out the rebate and mailed it in. Got a rejection letter about a month later saying that I hadn’t made my purchase within the time frame of the offer. Knowing this was wrong, I called Kitchen Aid customer support and got a really competent person first try. Turned out the monkey doing data entry had used the date I had printed out the email receipt rather than the actual date of purchase on the receipt. They corrected it and I got my check about 10 days later. Stand up company and a great product, so I feel pretty good about that one.

    I always prefer a paper check, as the “Visa gift cards” are a pain with some funky rules. What I do when I get those is immediately go down to Walmart and buy a gift card in the exact amount of the rebate. No fuss, no muss from there.

  • avatar

    Yup, tires. They has a $100 mail in rebate and I never got anything back.

    My pet theory is they disguise the check to make it look as much like junk mail as possible, so even when they send it it gets thrown out.

  • avatar

    Staples, the office supply place, does all their rebates online.

    Other than them, I will purposely not buy an item with a rebate, EVEN if the cost BEFORE rebate is lower than any other. Not worth my effort.

  • avatar

    I once mailed in a $5 rebate for Armor All protectant back in 1988 or so. Never got my cheque.

    I responded by boycotting Armor All for 25 years. That $5 lost rebate has probably cost them at least $100 in lost business as I’ve shopped their competitors instead. And they will never be forgiven.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, screwing around with a customer’s rebate is not a long-term business strategy and an excellent way to lose a customer for life.

      Of course, to the business mind, maybe they were planning to go out of business all along and were just trying to clear out inventory in the sleaziest possible manner.

    • 0 avatar

      Not about a rebate, but how one bad experience ended up costing a company a lot of money over the next 30+ years.

      About 34 years ago, Budget car rental totally screwed up a trip I took to the LA area. Supposedly, a Mustang was reserved for me, but when I arrived, no car was reserved, and on top of that, they refused to rent anything to me because I wasn’t 25 yet, even though I had been assured it was “not a problem”, and they had taken my mother’s Amex card number. This caused me to have to come up with a $125 deposit to rent a car from National, pretty much all the cash I had with me, and then go through a whole bunch of crap to get a money order my mother had sent via Western Union cashed. To this day, I will never rent from Budget. That one thing soured me to the point I have ridden in an airport shuttle for an hour, just to avoid Budget.

  • avatar

    I bought a CD burner back around 2000 and sent off for the $30 rebate. I pestered them for awhile but eventually gave it up for lost. Then about 3 years later I received the rebate check in the mail. I’m surprised it even got to me seeing as I’d moved a couple years before. What was especially nice was the accompanying letter explaining how they’d experienced some legal difficulties that prompted them to make good on their rebates.

  • avatar

    The good old days weren’t 2007, it was ok back then. The good old days were 2003-2005. There were double rebates on Valvoline SynPower that goes through both CSK and Valvoline, and CSK print you 2 receipts for you to mail in both rebates, and when combined they pay you money to take their oil (something like negative $2 after rebate). There were also 39c / quart Chevron Supreme or Shell after rebate, every single week. They also always mail you the check too.

    People didn’t care back then. Oil was cheap and they were flooding the market with them, people were buying the best instead of the cheapest. Now people pinch pennies and oils are $5-9/qt instead of $2-4/qt, I’d imagine a lot of the refinery output gets hydro-crack into fuel instead of dumping into the engine oil retail market.

    The party is over unless oil spec or packaging changes and retailer has to flush out the old stuff.

  • avatar

    Anyone remember back then near the end of dot com boom there’s a phrase called “Tiger Direct’s rebate, run like hell”?

    • 0 avatar

      Yes. Also, as a general rule, the rebates directly from electronics companies themselves (vs a fulfillment house) were pretty flaky. MSI (the motherboard/peripheral manufacturer) used to have rebate submissions sent to their general office in CA, and of course they claimed they lost almost every one. IIRC the CA Attorney General got interested, and it go so bad that Newegg had to step in and honor MSI rebates. If you are/were a serious rebater, you recognize the submission addresses of the major fulfillment houses so if you saw rebates going to a street address in LA you skipped them.

  • avatar

    Read the fine print. Back in 2000, or so, I had a coupon for $5 off 5 quarts of Mobile 1 and a filter. There was a pad of rebate slips next to the oil display. Between the coupon and rebate the oil change was almost free. About two months later I received a letter saying the rebate could not be combined with other offers.
    So basically, I screwed myself.

  • avatar

    I don’t remember what the first item was that I didn’t get the rebate on, but the second was a wireless router that was like $14.95 after a $50 rebate. It was a great deal, or would have been. I followed the directions to the letter, but got a letter saying the rebate had expired as of xx/xx/xx. Problem was, the expiration date was over 3 months in the future! So I wrote them back and pointed that out to them, then they wrote back again, saying the model router I bought wasn’t one of the listed ones. BZZZT! Incorrect, my router was the top one on the list of 6 that they offered rebates on. I finally called the place I bought it from(Don’t remember where, but it wasn’t New Egg or Tiger), and told them what was going on. They knew about the problem, and eventually, I got an email message saying my rebate was on the way to me. Six weeks later, I finally got it, about a year after I had bought the router.

    The best rebate I ever got was on an old cell phone I bought from Amazon in the early days. The phone was $300, with a $320 rebate with a 2 year AT&T contract. I went for it, and followed the directions and about a month after the phone showed up, the rebate check did.

  • avatar

    I don’t bother with rebates in single digit dollar amounts.
    But I did get a 70 dollar one recently on four Bridgestone Tires which Costco takes “off the top” so it’s really an instant price reduction.

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