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Note from Rep. Les Gara
Note from Rep. Les Gara  
Consumer Car Buying Alert and Health Insurance Deadline
Note from Rep. Les Gara

November 20, 2017

Voice Your Opinions!

Letters to the editor make a difference. You can send a letter of up to 200 words (shorter letters are more likely to be accepted) to the Alaska Dispatch News by email (; or by fax or mail (call them at 257-4308). Send letters to the Anchorage Press via e-mail or by mail to 540 E. Fifth Ave, Anchorage, 99501. Feel free to call us if you need factual information to help you write a letter.

Contact the Governor. The Governor can be reached at 269-7450; or

Contact us. My office can be reached at: 1500 W Benson Blvd, Rm 216, Anchorage, AK 99503; by phone: 269-0106; visit my website at; or email:

Want to Volunteer To Help A Child?

You can be a Volunteer Mentor to help a child, through a program we worked with foster care advocates to start, at Big Brothers, Big Sisters.  Just call433-4691. Have the time to do more?  Alaska has a major shortage of foster and adoptive parents, and you can help change a life by doing that.  To ask about foster parenting or adopting a child out of foster care call 1-800-478-7307.  And, of course, we are always asking people to donate tax deductible new or used (good condition only) laptops for current and recent foster youth.  You can contact us if you'd like to do that.

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Dear Neighbors:

I used to do a bit of consumer protection work, and in doing that learned a bit about car selling practices that, if you ever buy a new car, might help you get a more fair deal. In addition, I wanted to pass along some information about enrolling for health insurance before the December 15 deadline.

Open Enrollment for Healthcare

Need help with open enrollment for your private individual/family health insurance policy? Get Covered Alaska can help you navigate the private health insurance marketplace. Families have until December 15 to enroll and look at options to save money. Let’s ensure Alaska families are healthy in 2018! Insurance rates have down 21% this year in Alaska, and there are currently additional financial savings for those who qualify (unless Congress or the President change them). Free local help is available at, or at 1-844-PLANSAK (1-844-752-6725). THE DEADLINE TO ENROLL IS DECEMBER 15, 2017.

Next Time You Try To Buy A New Car and the Car Dealer Plays the “Rotating Car Salesmen Walking To The Mysterious Back Room” Game

Consumers should know the truth when they are negotiating for one of the most expensive things they will ever buy. It is no secret that car dealers often use strategies to overcharge consumers for a new car. I was once told by a salesman that he liked charging rural people more under the offensive suggestion that they are less educated. It was his way of saying he wanted to charge as much as he could for a car, which is his right. Your right is to have information so you can get the best deal you can negotiate.

Before I was a legislator, I did a bit of consumer protection work and learned a bit about car pricing strategies. Much remains the same. People find car shopping frustrating. Or a dreaded process. We know some dealers play, for lack of a better word, “games” in trying to get you to pay as much as possible for a car. The games often involve salesmen walking into back rooms, saying they can’t meet the consumer’s price offer, and then telling consumers they’ll have to talk to another salesperson who walks into a back room.  

Arming You With Some Needed Information So You Can Negotiate a Fair Price

A recent Legislative Research Division Report I commissioned shows what is known in the consumer protection world: Alaska dealers are charged the exact same price as all dealers across the country, even dealers located a mile away from a manufacturing plant, for shipping a car to their dealership. (You can view that report here: Alaska Dealer shipping costs are exactly the same as for cars shipped to Lower 48 dealers. And the price of a car is standard across the country, and no higher charge is paid by Alaska car dealers than is paid by dealers in the lower 48. Consumers, armed with true information, are in a better place to protect themselves and negotiate a fair car price.

In addition, some Alaska dealers charge an “Additional Dealer Markup” above the often already high “Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price,” a nationally uniform price that is posted on new cars at dealerships. Consumer advocates advise consumers to try to negotiate a price below that sticker price when possible. Resources like Consumer Reports and give you strategies for finding out what a dealer actually pays for a car, which is a price well below MSRP, and what price might be fair for a car you are shopping for: or

In addition, a common charge at some dealerships is pure profit, but strategically labelled a “Doc Fee.” Some people think this is a mandatory or government fee. It is not. It’s just an additional charge by dealers with a name made up by dealers. If you can’t negotiate that away, then try to negotiate a lower price on the car. The Alaska Attorney General’s Office’s Unfair Trade Practices section has also expressed concern about the charging of doc fees and has filed unsuccessful litigation trying to stop that dealer practice. 

Car dealers have a right to charge what they think is fair for a car. But consumers have an equal right to know the truth about car pricing, and to pay a fair price. At a minimum, you should go in to the dealer knowing Alaska dealers are charged no more for a car, or the shipping to Alaska of a car, than is a dealer who has a business in Detroit or Seattle.

As always, contact us with any questions or comments.


[signed] Les Gara

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