Skip to main content is exposing how greedy car dealerships really are – here’s how (and why)

Who are the masked vigilantes behind logo and feature image - a laptop showing the site

While it’s lean times for global carmakers, scrounging for scarce chips and parts, it’s prosperous days for auto dealers. Sitting in the Goldilocks zone between cash-fat post-pandemic consumers and a shortage of vehicles coming from atop, car sellers are living through an ascendant present, getting the most out of car sales.

Profit reports from the first quarter of 2022 indicated dealerships were seeing an upswing in profits. In May 2022, Haig Partners, which advises both buyers and sellers of car dealerships and dealership groups, found that the average gross profit per new vehicle sold was $6,244. In turn, the average publicly owned dealership made $7.1 million in the 12 months leading up to March 2022. Unfortunately, money begets greed, and there have been reports of price-gouging. Consumers who were already dealing with higher fuel prices, elevated interest rates, and declining GDP now had to deal with more expensive vehicles. Fortunately, a solution for those looking to buy new cars emerged. lists thousands of specific vehicles, the dealers selling them, and the dealers’ markup in an easy-to-navigate, searchable database. After launching in January 2022, the site’s dealer markup listing has gone viral, with the worst markup offenders on getting written up on Car and Driver and Jalopnik this summer. Markups, co-founded by siblings Tiffany Soucie-Howren and Trey Soucie are looking to disrupt an entire industry through crowdsourcing — the foundation for and its competitive advantage.

“The problem with the majority of other new car search sites is that they are not using crowdsourced data — they are using the data dealerships provide,” Soucie-Howren said. “We have found that the majority of dealerships do not display the true markup data or mandated add-ons.” began as an individual response to a car seller trying to extort exorbitant profits from a pickup truck. In mid-2021, Soucie traveled across Maine to purchase a Chevrolet Trail Boss pickup only to find the price not at MSRP, but marked up by $10,000. After wasting a day driving across the state, Soucie responded like a true car guy, funneling his angst into a novel solution. For the next few months, Soucie compiled a data set listing 500 to 1,000 self-sourced car prices and confirmed live numbers from forum posts.

From left to right, founders and partners, Dustin Howren, Tiffany Soucie-Howren, Dorothy Soucie, and co-founder Trey Soucie.

Where Trey provided the research, Tiffany provided the know-how. Her background in scaling businesses and elevating them with subscription-based site marketing expertise convinced Trey to take the plunge to form an LLC in November/December 2021 to purchase a hosting site and start building the crowdsourcing software. Since then, the concerted effort has generated considerable national exposure, allowing to grow as an industry disruptor.

“It’s a great start, but the United States is a huge territory,” Soucie-Howren said in a conversation with The Manual. “We’d like to be able to help people on a granular level. If you’re searching for a dealership in Houston, Texas, we want to have enough data to look at every single dealership experience, so they know the best fit for them.”

Providing consumers with legitimate data not only fulfills the Soucie siblings’ mission, but these numbers are also sourced from primary research at dealerships.

“Oftentimes, consumers are not even seeing the real, out-the-door prices, with overpriced mandatory add-ons or markups added, until they are sitting in the finance office,” Soucie-Howren stated. “We believe this is the real data shoppers want and deserve to see — the data that’s only brought to light by consumers firsthand, after spending time in the dealership or on the phone (or chat) with a sales rep.”

There was an expected pushback from dealers threatening to sue to recoup profits, but to date, there’s been no formal legal action taken against Markups for posting untrue or proprietary information. These are the prices that are put out to the public and the site only aggregates that data. For the time being, the founders moderate all posts. In the future, there are plans to employ third-party moderators. About 80% of disputes to date have been matched with consumer proof and there is a “report ad” feature to dispute listings.

“That triggers a more in-depth review of a post. We contact the user that made the post and begin the process of collecting proof and asking about the interaction with the dealership,” Soucie-Howren said.

This will be a more strenuous process in the near future for the website. One of its future product features will be a verification badge identifying the lister as a dealer, a verified user, or an unverified user. Incorporating all commercial parties is an important vision for Markups.

“We created it to become a tool of value for not only the consumers, but the dealerships, the OEMs, and data analysts,” Soucie-Howren said. “Dealerships can use our tool for competitive analysis. OEMs can use it to track their brand reputation and get use cases from [it]. It enables data analysis and economists to have transparency into what is really going on in this part of the automotive industry.”

Looking at the cars listed on right now, Soucie-Howren sees an odd consistent dichotomy — the same car brands and similar locations overlap between the worst offenders and most honest dealers. She estimates that Kia and Hyundai are both averaging around a $7,500 markup. Approximately 10-to-15% of Kia and Hyundai dealers, however, are not charging any markups.

California and Texas share the highest number of non-markup dealers on Markups and some of the worst offenders (though this is likely tied to high urban populations). Luxury car buyers also need to beware, as the listings for Cadillac, Mercedes, and Lexus consistently average higher markups, probably thinking that high-end consumers are willing to pay a premium.

As the market continues to boom, data suggests that deals are worth the research. A $1,000, $2,000, or $12,000 dealer markup is a major blow to dodge. While some supply chain problems continue to exist, J.P. Morgan Research said the microchip shortage that had plagued the industry since the COVID-19 pandemic, is easing.

While the outlook for production seems to be improving, auto dealers are expected to continue to inflate new car prices. And the data suggests there are no brands not guilty of taking advantage.

“Toyota seems to be about 50/50 markup to non-markup right now,” Soucie-Howren added. “We would say (it’s) in the lead for non-markups, but even 50% isn’t a great number.”

Saving money image

How to avoid (or at least reduce) markups

There are ways to avoid dealer markups, or at least knock the price down to something more affordable.

Many dealers add accessories to new cars to bump up the price, sometimes by thousands of dollars. According to a report in U.S. News and World Report, Edmunds, an online guide for car buyers, the markup on these accessories is generally 40% to 50% higher than the retail price. Some of the add-ons, such as wheel locks and nitrogen-filled tires, could possibly be removed from the car, but most dealers are reluctant to remove them, though they may be willing to reduce the price. And some add-ons, such as specially treated paint, can’t be removed.

One of the easiest ways to get around a dealer markup is to order a car directly from the manufacturer. While ordering direct will result in a longer wait time for the car, most cars ordered direct from the factory will be sold without any markup.

Another way to get the best price for a new car is to shop around, As shows, markups can vary by individual dealer, so doing a search of dealers within a reasonable distance could lead to finding dealerships with a lower markup or even no markup on the same car. Once again, this process can take longer than just going into a local dealership, but a little bit of work and patience can save you thousands.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified as a nonprofit. We apologize for the error.

Learn More

Editors' Recommendations

Nate Swanner
Nate is General Manager for all not-Digital-Trends properties at DTMG, including The Manual, Digital Trends en Espanol…
Mercedes-Benz adds ChatGPT for in-car voice control
Mercedes-Benz is now offering ChatGPT for MBUX equipped cars
Mercedes-Benz ChatGPT interior

For those old enough to remember Skynet from the Terminator franchise, we are one step closer to seeing artificial intelligence coming online and taking over the world. At least, that's the conspiracy theorist side of things. Of course, if you are a bit younger, another movie called iRobot showed us that AI can lead us into a new understanding of what it means to be human (after some dramatic Will Smith-inspired action ensues).

So it should not be surprising that a new press release from Mercedes-Benz revealing they have begun adding ChatGPT via Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service to over 900,000 vehicles is somewhat polarizing.

Read more
Here’s how to live in your car comfortably for a few weeks (or longer) like a pro
Living in your car isn't much different than extended car camping. Here's how to gear up for it like a pro.
Relaxing in the back of a car on a mattress

The van-life movement has evolved beyond short-term escape into a way of life in the most minimal and sustainable sense. Should you decide to spend days or weeks traversing the country on four wheels sounds appealing, then this one is for you. We’ve put together a starter kit of essential tips and gear — most of which is similar to any extended car camping trip.

Here’s everything you’ll need to stay safe, sane, and happy when living in your car (or truck or van) for a few weeks or even longer. Whether you're trying to fully embrace van life or just planning an extended road trip to get out of your house, here's the low-down on how to live in your car.
Learn how to get a good night’s rest

Read more
Report: Only one-third of car dealerships have an EV available for purchase right now
An electric vehicle being charged.

An electric vehicle being charged. myenergi/unsplash

Many of those searching for an electric vehicle in the past year have concluded that there are slim pickings at their local car dealerships. According to a recent study released by the Sierra Club, those deductions are accurate. It’s been determined that the auto industry is sadly failing to meet consumer demand for electric vehicles in the United States.

Read more