The true value of a car is not on the sticker of a vehicle's window.
Timothy Boyer's picture

New Car MSRP Window Sticker Scam Car Buyers Need to Understand

Looking at buying a new car and want to go over the MSRP window stickers before talking to a car salesperson? Chances are good that’s just exactly what a predatory salesperson wants you to do. Here’s a car window MSRP sticker scam that car buyers need to understand that could be tricking the unsuspecting buyer regarding the actual value of a new car.

Even New Cars Warrant Close Scrutiny

Recently we’ve learned about shopping and saving money with discounted new cars as well as how to spot hidden problems in a used car. But did you know that while there may not be any hidden problems to look for under the hood in a new car, that there are subtle scams pasted in plain view on new car windows alongside the MSRP sticker that could be a problem for the new car shopper?

MSRP Sticker Basics

Credited to Oklahoma Senator Almer Stillwell “Mike” Monroney, who sponsored the 1958 Automobile Information Disclosure Act, the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price ) sticker you see on new car windows today was created as a way to ensure proper pricing disclosure on the sale of new vehicles back in the day when gouging car buyers was a real problem. Today, it is illegal to sell a new car at a dealership without a Monroney label affixed to the vehicle.

Basically, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) is implied in its name---a suggestion by the manufacturer of the vehicle to new car dealers about what price to sell a specific car model. Dealers then, can do almost whatever they wish to the suggested pricing ranging from adding discounts or inflating the number as they see fit toward the sales of their vehicles. Buyers should view the MSRP as a negotiable base price of the model with the understanding that any added features will cost extra.

The MSRP does not include taxes, fees, and registration costs. These essentially are non-negotiable expenses toward the purchase of a car that a car dealer will add to the final cost of a vehicle after the buyer and seller have agreed upon a selling price. What is negotiable, however, are all the other things a car dealership may add to the final cost of the vehicle that can include, but are not limited to:

• Extended warranties
• Special trim and paint color
• Protective undercoating
• Vehicle delivery freight charge
• Alarm systems

All of which are negotiable items and features for the buyer and seller to haggle over.

MSRP Sticker Scam

However, other things that are actually negotiable, but appear as part of the MSRP and thereby infers to the buyer that these additional charges are part of the MSRP in reality are not MSRP-related. Rather, they are just a scam tactic some car dealers use to inflate the potential customer’s perceived value of a new car.

Referred to within the industry as “Bump Stickers,” these stickers are created by the dealership to mimic the look of the MSRP sticker and are typically placed right against the edge of the MSRP sticker on the car window to make it appear as if it were part of the MSRP.

In fact, this is a double entendre of sorts where the sticker is “bumped” against the MSRP sticker while at the same time, bumping up the price of a car. The only indication that it is not part of the MSRP may be a small fine print disclaimer on the “Bump Sticker.”

A kinder name for the “Bump Sticker” is the “Addendum Sticker” in which the new car dealer adds in dealer-installed accessories, add-on products, documentation services, and a variety of fees, including a “market adjustment fee” or “additional dealer markup.”

Regardless of what name is given to the additional sticker, it is a tactic to try to move the salesperson’s opening offer higher to the unwitting buyer, who may not realize everything on the addendum sticker can be ignored or at the very least negotiated over. But since it appears to be part of the MSRP sticker and may include some creative wording on costs that sound like normal non-negotiable costs like the aforementioned, “…taxes, fees, and registration costs,” it can fool the uninitiated.

Here is an informative YouTube video explaining in more detail about how to identify the MSRP window sticker scam, identify bogus fees that pad the cost of a new car’s perceived value, and how you can avoid being taken by these type of sticker scams.

How New Car Dealers Scam You: Fake Window Stickers, Prices

How to Find the Real Value of a New Car

Finding the real value of a new car is as simple as a few clicks of the mouse. You can go to websites that offer new and used car values such as or to get a good idea. Or, just search using keywords like “MSRP” along with the model of the car to get you started on the right direction toward figuring out what the actual value of a new car really is before going to a dealership.

Furthermore, it would be prudent to check out sites like this one that offers multiple reviews and the latest news on the most recent models of new cars available.

For more about ways to save money when buying new or used cars, be sure to check out past and future Torque News articles that could make a big difference in your savings.

Coming Up Next: Tire Center Brake Scams

Timothy Boyer is Torque News Tesla and EV reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily Tesla and electric vehicle news.

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These aren't scams as long as the customer is informed of them. Vehicle prices are driven by market conditions including inventory availability. If a store needs to make X profit a month to stay open and has half the number of cars to sell, they need to make twice the profit. It's supply and demand. Usually dealers compete for buyers. These days, especially with vehicles that are highly sought after, buyers are competing for vehicles. If one customer refused to pay the market price, another one will. MSRP is a good deal these days.