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Why Can't You Buy a Car on Sunday?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro February 2017

Hello and welcome to today's version of Ask Doug, your favorite weekly post that allows you to ask Doug some sort of automotive question and eagerly listen while Doug provides a long, often incomprehensible response fueled by insomnia and Doritos.

If this sounds like something you want to get in on, you can! Just email me at OversteerDoug@gmail.com, and I'd be happy to read your question. I can't promise I'll answer it here on Oversteer, but I can promise I'll read it -- and possibly forward it over to my friend Peri so we can laugh at your misfortune.

Anyway, today's episode of Ask Doug comes from a reader who's inquiring about days of the week. I've named him Alvin. Alvin writes:

Doug,

The wife's lease is up in June, and she's researching her next vehicle or keep the one she has now. This made me think of our search 3 years ago and trying to find time during the week to look at cars. She worked 90 minutes away at the time, so that pretty much left only Saturdays. We walked into a Nissan dealership one night at 6:30, and they literally asked us to come back earlier.

Now that you've lived in Pennsylvania for awhile, I am sure you know you can't purchase a car here on Sunday. WHY IS THIS?! One would think that offering two full days of buying time for the vast majority of folks who work Monday through Friday would be great for dealerships!

It's been driving me nuts for quite awhile. Should I write my congressman?

Alvin

For those of you who do not want to read Alvin's entire question, presumably because he used the term "awhile" twice in the span of 138 words, allow me to sum it up: Alvin says he and his wife don't have much time to shop for cars during the week, and they wish that automobile dealerships were open on Sundays to provide them with extra time to buy a vehicle when they're not rushing home from work. So he's wondering why car dealers aren't open on Sundays.

Well, Alvin, first of all, I think we should back up here and inform people in many U.S. states that, in fact, car dealers aren't open on Sundays. In the vast majority of the United States, car dealers are legally permitted to operate on Sundays, so many people don't even know this goes on. But indeed, it does go on, and it's been the law in two U.S. states where I personally have lived: Colorado and Pennsylvania.

So why is it?

Here's the situation, Alvin and others: Laws mandating that car dealerships close on Sundays were enacted ages ago to enforce religious standards. The initial thinking was that Sunday was the day of rest, so many businesses shouldn't be open on Sundays. For one reason or another, many of these laws -- dubbed "Blue Laws" -- have now been repealed, to the point where the only things you can't buy on Sundays in the vast majority of places are cars and alcohol.

Interestingly, some of these laws are a bit more nuanced than you might expect. In Iowa, for instance, you can't sell cars on Sunday -- but you can sell mobile homes. In Maine, there's no hunting on Sundays. And in Massachusetts, all retail employees working on Sundays are paid overtime wages.

Now, I know what you might be thinking: This country has separation of church and state, and these religious-based laws should be repealed immediately. This would allow car dealers to sell more cars and make more money, and it would give people a chance to test drive and purchase cars on their days off. It's a win for everyone!

Not quite.

I've worked at several car dealerships over the years, and each time, the dealer has supported remaining closed on Sundays, even if the law were to change. In fact, I worked at a Saturn dealership in Georgia, where there aren't any Blue Laws related to car sales, and we were still closed on Sundays. So were the bulk of our competitors.

And the reason for this didn't have anything to do with religious beliefs. Instead, the dealership simply wanted to give its staff the day off. If you've ever worked in car sales, you know the hours can be grueling, tiresome and long -- and yet, salespeople still come in to work, occasionally on their off-days, because each day you're present is another day you can make more money. As a result, Sunday was the only refuge dealership salespeople had from, well, selling cars.

And so, Alvin, the laws remain in place -- largely to give employees a little bit of a break. You'll have to do your best to make it in on a Saturday.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Why Can't You Buy a Car on Sunday? - Autotrader