Anytime you go car shopping you get slapped in the face with dealer incentives swathed in bright colors and exclamation points. While many people filter out similarly structured sales pitches online, for some reason car dealers are given a pass on the use of ALL CAPS and big promises. Take for example the $500 in free gas which many dealerships are quick to offer. This "generous" offer is yet another way to convince the buyer that they are putting one over on the dealer and getting a better deal. One of the providers of the gas rebate service is FreebieGas.com, which still proclaims an all time high gas price of $2.50 per gallon. Like all dealer incentives there is a catch, and in all my years of dealing with rebates I don't think I have heard one with this many hoops to jump through.
What the dealer doesn't tell you about the gas rebate you just used to rationalize purchasing a more expensive car, is that it will cost you money just to sign up for the rebate program. From here the process only gets shadier and trickier, you must buy $100 in gas each month to receive a $25 gas card AND you have to make all these purchases at the same gas station. After you spend your monthly quota for gas you better head to the post office and overnight your receipts as they need to be received before the first day of the next month in order to count for redemption. Finally 2 grand and 20 months later -- if you are lucky you'll have recouped the $500 in gas incentives. In case this still sounds like a good deal or you feel like you can beat the system with your moleskin notebook and in-car stapler, the $500 in gas you receive still needs to be reported as income on your state and federal taxes. I like to consider myself a frugal shopper but a gas rebate process like this is too involved even for my stingy ways.
Heading out to purchase a used car soon? Be sure to read, Tom Barlow's latest post to learn how to make a car dealer your agent as you search for your dream car.
Free gas with your new car? Think again.