In 18 states across the country, auto dealers are restricted or banned from operating on Sundays. In a number of them, there are legislative battles and mixed signals from the industry whether the ban should be lifted.
The restriction on car sales on Sundays can be traced back to blue laws, which banned certain activities for religious reasons. Although these laws first were introduced in the 18th century, a number of them still are enforced today. They encompass alcohol sales, as well as diverse other commercial services.
The initial goal of the Sunday ban on car sales was to ensure a day of rest for the staff. However, the sales restriction for Sundays has come to serve a different purpose for car dealerships. As Sunday is one of the busiest shopping days, many businesses would stay open to make sure they would not lag behind the competition. With a statewide ban, dealerships could close on Sundays without fear of losing customers to those deciding to stay open.
Today, there are 13 states in which car dealerships are forbidden to sell vehicles on Sundays. These include Colorado, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maine. Dealerships that make sales on Sundays are transgressing from their licensing and bonding obligations, and can face legal issues.
In another seven states, car sales on Sundays are restricted in specific counties or during certain hours. The so-called mixed states are Nevada, Utah, Texas, North Dakota, Michigan, Rhode Island and Maryland.
While seen as an unneeded government regulation by some, the Sunday sales ban is fervently protected by dealers. A few years back, lawmakers in Illinois, Texas and New Jersey made progress toward the removal of the ban. Car salespeople in these states raised their voices against the move. They claimed operating on Sundays is more complicated, because financial institutions do not work then. Dealers also stated that making their staff work on Sundays often resulted in high employee turnover rates.
Businesses from states without a Sunday ban also have expressed concerns over the 7-day work week. Since some dealerships would be open, many of them would feel forced to operate on Sundays as well.
In addition, many dealers do not believe the ban results in higher yearly sales, but it spreads the same volume of sales over a longer period of time.
Some dealers have chosen to close on Sundays to ensure a day for rest for their staff and reduce costs. They also state online shopping makes it unnecessary to keep a physical location open seven days a week when customers can gather information and make a purchase online.
At the same time, a number of car salespeople would prefer not having a ban on their activities. They see the restrictions as unnecessary government meddling in their business.
Lawmakers in some states also have considered the possibility of lifting the ban because they may lose buyers to neighboring states that allow Sunday sales.
In general, legislators and dealerships who want the ban removed say allowing sales would help competition and does not mean all dealerships need to opt for a 7-day work week.
In 2014, when Illinois was discussing the lifting of the ban, the Federal Trade Commission said that removing the restriction would benefit customers and improve competition.
How do you see the ban on car dealership activities on Sundays? If there are restrictions in your state, would you want them changed? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Todd Bryant is the president and founder of Bryant Surety Bonds.