Money Matters

Stacked Deck


Keeping an eye on the dealer if you want a winning hand



By Robin Walton, CPA



A good number of car owners drive their rides in stock mode just as they came from the factory. Any aftermarket parts are simply replacements for wear items such as brakes and tires, or the basic necessities of a commuter pickup such as a toolbox and bedliner.

Pickup owners, however, are much more likely to modify their vehicles for business or recreational use, adding winches, lights and gooseneck hitches before the truck does its first day of work.

These upgrades can be parts you buy and have your company mechanic install or install yourself. They can also be ordered through, and installed by, a local upfitter. Or, as a number of companies are doing with new truck purchases, have the accessories installed through the pickup dealer’s network, which saves time on shopping and installation.

Automakers distinguish between “factory installed” options and the “dealer installed” accessory programs to sell that brand’s parts; Ford refers to their aftermarket parts program as Genuine Ford Accessories; the GM term is Genuine GM Parts; and the Chrysler system markets under the Mopar name.

Then there’re the accessories the dealer installs that don’t carry the vehicle manufacturer’s brand name.

While there is nothing wrong with the idea of dealers selling aftermarket parts so their customers can customize their vehicles before they drive off the lot, the reality of how it plays out in some dealerships can leave you with a bad taste in your mouth and a big hole in your wallet.



The closing hours of some vehicle transactions take on a circus sideshow feel with all kinds of sleight-of-hand tricks and last minute maneuvers to try to blindside the unprepared customer. Much of the latter is related to the sale of accessories, which is a profit honey-hole for car dealers.

Dealer-installed upgrades that have a big profit margin include:

Rust-Proofing              Fabric Protection

Paint Sealant               Window Tinting

Alarm System              Extended Warranty

Rear-Seat Video          Bedliners

Bug Deflectors             Alarm Systems

Navigation Systems    Running Boards

Wheels                           Bed Mats

Splash Guards              Bed Tie Downs

Cold Air Intake               Tonneau Covers

Bed Extender                 Tool Boxes

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have some of these parts on your vehicle. After all, aftermarket makes up lot of our talk here at ProPickup.

But you should question whether or not the dealership is the best place to get these, and whether or not the point of sale is the best time to make that decision.

Before you sign the sales contract, ask yourself this: Why here? Why now?

Think about it. The dealer is in business to make money – and there’s no better profit margin than selling “dealer-installed” aftermarket parts on a new truck.

(Did you know some popular parts frequently sold during a vehicle sale can cost two or three times more than what a buyer would pay if they bought them from a local upfitter?)

To avoid this type of overpayment, do your homework ahead of time. If money matters then go in to your fleet sales person with a “build list” and what it would cost to do it yourself and compare prices.

If you know what it would cost to upfit your pickups after purchase, you will be much less likely to have buyer’s remorse.



Of course not all dealerships are out to back you into a corner or blindside you in a way that will make you feel financially beat up.

Many view offering the upgrades as a convenience for the customer, and the dealer will stand behind the warranty in the event of a problem.

Some of the dealer-installed options that seem to have no purpose other than to improve the bottom line for the dealership include protective upholstery treatments, paint sealants, underbody coatings and etched glass for security purposes.

These are all items that have questionable value when compared to the prices that ­dealerships charge for the services and products that are being used.

It’s easy to see when you compare even the best quality of products available off the shelf to protect the car’s interior, exterior and undercarriage with simple do-it-yourself kits.



A common ploy of sneaky dealers is to spring an upgrade or add-on in an offer at the last minute.

Often it takes the form of “by the way, this truck already has an alarm installed.” It’s amazing how often these upgrades slip the mind of car sales staff until it’s a gee-shucks moment at the close.

Do your homework and find out which dealerships have the best reputation when it comes to completing the vehicle sales transaction.

Remember, you are the one who’s coming in with tens of thousands of dollars.

You’re the customer calling the shots as long as you come in prepared, calm, cool, collected and ready to walk if the prices don’t add up right.


About the author: Robin Walton has been a licensed contractor for more than 20 years and has 16 years of financial accounting and systems experience. With a degree in accounting/economics and hands-on construction experience, she understands the day-to-day business of contractors and landscapers.