I know what you're thinking. "Why on earth wouldn't I want to win a $30,000 car? After all, even if it's not the car that I want, I can sell it and get my dream car."
See, that's the problem. If you dig out your magnifying glass and read through the terms and conditions and sit down with your accountant, you'll find that winning one of these isn't so simple. In almost every case, the following things are true.
- You get to pay the government taxes on the full price of the car. In this case, about $10,000. Oh crap. I guess I do have to sell it to pay the taxes.
- Not so fast. Many of these contests actually make you agree not to sell the car for at least a year. In large part this is to avoid the PR problem of talking about how happy you were to win the car only to have the local news follow up and report that you actually aren't that happy and you sold it.
- You now get to insure a $30,000 car. And, since many of the cars given away in these contests are highly desirable, they're high on the theft risk charts at your insurance company and you get to pay through the nose for the priviledge of driving your new boat anchor.
- By the time you can sell it, it's now depreciated at least $5000 or more.
Unlike contests where actual cash is given away, you can't just take part of the prize to pay everyone who needs a cut. Win the lottery and you just deposit the whole works and write Uncle Sam and Uncle Minnesota for their cut and move on with the rest. Win a big, expensive object instead and you get to bear the extra burdens yourself for at least an entire tax year before you can get at the value.
You gotta love how companies will do something that looks generous and you get screwed over. A lot like many of those TV shows that do major house renovations and the homeowner (selected because they were in dire straits) gets to pay for the increase in property taxes, etc. Or people who buy cellphones or satellite dishes as gifts and leave the recipient with a monthly bill. Thanks but no thanks.