Dealer tricks with “due at signing” v “money down”


Just signed a lease deal on a new Ford Explorer and wanted to see if my experience was normal. I had done my research and emailed a bunch of dealers to find what I felt was a fair price on a very specific build that my wife wanted.

I emailed a local dealer that I saw on their website had ordered an almost exact match to what we were looking for, and offered the exact break down of the price I wanted and $2,200 “due at signing,” which I knew would cover the taxes and fees. I knew it left them just a little bit of profit, but was hopeful they would jump on an offer from a buyer that was ready to buy the same day.

When the dealer emailed back, they said they could meet my price +$5 a month with the same amount I asked for “as a down payment.” I was okay with the extra $5 - it’s a local dealer and would be easier than traveling somewhere else - so I said okay. I didn’t realize the “down payment lingo” from that email until the day I took delivery (two weeks later).

When I went to sign the papers, sure enough the finance guy said “so due today is the $2,200 down payment + the $485 first month payment.” I immediately said “no, it’s just $2,200 due at signing.”

Finance guy calls in salesman who said “here’s the email where I said $2,200 as a down payment.” I showed him my email where I said “if you can do $480 a month with $2,200 due at signing, I’ll sign today.” He said “sorry, miscommunication, but I can’t sell it for $500 less. That’s literally almost my full profit on this car.”

I said thanks anyway, and that I was going back to the other dealer that wouldn’t try to trick me. He gave in and agreed and they took that $500 off.

Now I know he had more than $500 profit (they have a $700 dealer fee on a Ford), so my question is … is this tactic normal? Was it really just a miscommunication or were they just trying to be sneaky?


Any answer provided will be pure speculation. What are you seeking to gain from the replies?

/Goal is to hold profit.

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1 word — Communication

This is why you always have to ask for a breakdown to ensure what your breakdown consists of. First payment, DMV, dealer fees etc

I always ask for a breakdown so there are no surprises on both ends


I know there is no way to really know. But practically speaking, I have a friend who is looking for a similar car. I think I got a great deal, but I was hesitant to refer anyone to a dealer that does this kind of stuff. So was trying to get opinions on if this is shady dealer behavior, or if it was more likely just a miscommunication.

Yes - agree. I think it’s one of the downfalls of my approach to just offer a certain price per month and due at signing, not really caring how they get there. Once they agreed to the price, I should have asked for a breakdown to confirm. Lesson learned for sure.

And it’s dealers fault



How do you figure? The issue here is that they changed the monthly and das. What difference would knowing how they got there make here?

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I’ll have to agree with @mllcb42 and @Bostoncarconcierge. It will be pure speculation what we say, as you can already see, you have gotten different answers.

I for once, would agree that this was user error and not the dealer. If they clearly said $2,200 down payment in the email, that is not the same as $2,200 DAS. If you had asked to clarify that $2,200 and they said that’s what you’ll pay when you sign then I can see the miscommunication. It worked out for you in the end, but I wouldn’t blame the dealer for this one.

To your other point: there is really no downfall to the way you offered IF you calculated what you could’ve had the car for and they offered that price; you have to state that clearly though. Emailing them saying I want X car for $150/mo with $500 due at signing that covers my tax, tags, title, dealer fees, and first month (JUST AN EXAMPLE), it souldn’t matter what they pulled to get there as long as your payment is $150/mo and you paid $500 DAS.

It’s definitely confusing, both in how dealers present lease offers and even how some members talk about deals they got. Due at signing simply means, the money owed based on the fees and agreed upon elements of the deal. If a cap cost reduction (aka money down) is part of a deal, it will be part of what is DAS. The best thing to do is reinforce the point that you want a deal with no cash down and only fees (which sometimes can be referred to as drive offs) + first month due at signing.

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Yea, this has nothing to do with your strategy of offering the dealer $X payment with $Y DAS. It has everything to do with the dealer’s sales tactics and/or just a miscommunication/misunderstanding between sales and finance.

While LH’ers know the difference between a true down payment and DAS, 9 times out of 10 when anyone says they will do “$1k down” or “$1k due at signing” it is understood that that is ALL you’re willing to pay up front. Not $1k plus 1st month or plus taxes/fees or anything else.

That said, I have seen some dealer quote systems that automatically quote 1st month DAS in addition to anything else on the quote sheet. I tell them I will do $1k DAS, I get a quote sheet for $1k + first month DAS, for example.

Just another example of why you have to be vigilant, know your deal and the numbers, and of course review the deal sheet before setting foot in the dealer to sign.

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Unfortunately, this down payment vs. DAS is commonplace. Down payment is a capitalized cost reduction on the lease. DAS is the down payment as well as any taxes and fees at signing. Not sure why the dealer did not clarify this from the start, though.

Either way, it is nowhere near as bad as a dealer “making $1,100 of the DAS disappear out of their own pocket” only for me to find it when they recalculated it into a 0.4% discount reduction :laughing:.

Lesson is to always be clear in your communication. Today I asked over the phone for a “zero down, zero due at signing” quote on a vehicle. The response was “Oh, so you want to put zero down and only taxes and fees up front?” My response was “No, I want to give you literally no money at all up front, just sign my name and drive off the lot”.


Chasing that LT1 still?

In Minecraft.

I didn’t mean to imply it was their fault. It was my fault for not reading their email more carefully. I was merely wondering if this was a common dealer tactic, or just seemed like an honest miscommunication.

If I had seen a breakdown of the numbers, I probably would have seen the extra money DAS since I had seen a few quotes from other dealers by that point.

Makes sense. Thanks. Appreciate your opinion!

Yes, lesson learned for sure. I thought I had it down by simply saying “due at signing,” but certainly a good call out to be a specific as possible.

I’ve said things like, “you run my card for $2200 and xxx per month, right”.