8 Tips to Know Before You Buy Your Car

car scam

The excitement of buying a new car can make even the most detail-oriented person want to rush through the process. Before you head to the lot, consider these tips from Forbes and Publiccounsel.org to help ensure you have a positive car-shopping experience.

1. Call before you go

Scenario: You see a vehicle you like in an advertisement or on the dealer’s website, but when you arrive at the dealership, it may already be sold or costs more than you thought. Or, you may find that the price on the sales contract is more than you expected.

Solution: Read the fine print on all ads and make a note of the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Before you visit the dealership, call to confirm the vehicle is still in stock – and have the confirmation emailed or faxed to you with the VIN.

2. Read the fine print

Scenario: The dealership’s contract may include some extras, such as warranties, service contracts and other items you may not want to buy.

Solution: Thoroughly review your contract before signing. Make sure it includes only the add-ons you want to buy. 

3. Avoid surprises

Scenario: You buy a used car that seems to be in good condition, but you discover later it needs various repairs.

Solution: First, always test drive the car. Have a mechanic conduct a thorough condition check. And request either the car’s maintenance and repair records or vehicle history report from a company like Carfax.

4. Know your options

Scenario: You think you’ve negotiated a purchase price for the car, but you actually signed a lease agreement.

Solution: Carefully read the contract before signing. If you’re buying a car, the contract shouldn’t include the term “lease.”

5. Trade with confidence

Scenario: You intend on trading in your car, but the dealer offers less than the wholesale value.

Solution: Before talking trade, determine your vehicle’s market value. Car value websites are a good place to start. Or shop around with other dealerships to get an idea of what they may offer for your car on a trade-in.

6. Understand co-signing

Scenario: You find out that you don’t qualify for financing on your own, so the salesman may recommend you get a co-signer.

Solution: Co-signers are more than just a credit reference. In the event that you’re unable to pay on the loan, the co-signer would be responsible for making payments. Make sure that person is prepared, educated and reliable for the responsibility.

7. Check added services

Scenario: You’re surprised to find additional fees on the sales invoice – cleaning, prepping, rust-proofing, fabric protection, paint sealant, etc.

Solution: Review all documents before signing, particularly those involving cleaning and prep; as these services may be unnecessary.

8. Review your warranty

Scenario: You assume the warranty that comes with the car is free, then you notice warranty fee charges on your monthly loan statement.

Solution: Before signing the contract, understand the cost of a warranty and what it covers. Review the contract carefully to make sure that you’re not charged for an unsolicited warranty.