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How to Drive a Hard Bargain When Purchasing a New Car

8 HELPFUL CAR BUYING TIPS

At Surovell Isaacs Petersen & Levy, we have represented many clients who have purchased a new or used vehicle from a dealership and seek legal recourse for the dealer's fraudulent actions in advertising, selling and financing the car. Buying a new car can be an exciting time, but it is well worth an investment of your time and effort prior to stepping foot on a dealer's lot to avoid being duped by an unscrupulous car dealer. Below are eight helpful tips from our auto fraud attorneys based on our experience and legal expertise to help make you a well-informed consumer.

1.  PLAN YOUR PURCHASE

What kind of vehicle are you looking for? Make a list of your love/hate relationship with your current car, and what things you need to have in your new car. Is the car for you or a family member? Do you take long trips frequently? How often do you have to deal with stop and go traffic? All of these decisions should be made prior to going to a dealership, where an overly aggressive salesperson can pressure you into buying something that is not a good fit for you, or that has none of the options you loved most in your current car. Researching car models allows prepares you to ask intelligent questions at the dealership and ensure that you're getting the car that is the best fit for you.

2.  DO YOUR HOMEWORK

If you're responding to an advertisement for a specific car at a dealership, it is well worth it to obtain the VIN and do some homework on the car. Go online and buy:

- A Carfax history

- A title history report from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System

- A Virginia Prospective Purchaser Inquiry through the DMV

For a few dollars, these databases can provide a wealth of information that some dealers might not tell you about in order to hide vehicles that have been reported as junk, rebuilt, salvage, and flood damaged. Bring these with you to the dealership so that you know what questions to ask, and to avoid wasting a trip on a lemon.

3.  ARRANGE FOR FINANCING THROUGH YOUR BANK, NOT THE DEALER

If you are financing the purchase of your new car instead of paying cash, go through your bank or credit union to seek approval for a loan you can afford. Banks almost always offer you a loan at a more favorable rate than a dealer, especially if you currently have a positive lending history with them. Dealers frequently profit when arranging financing for your car, which can make the overall price of the loan much higher. Having pre-approval for a certain loan amount allows you to avoid the misleading focus on the "monthly payment," and concern yourself with the overall price of the car. This also helps avoid the unfavorable situation of a "yo-yo sale", or spot delivery, whereby you go home with the car, but the dealer calls you a few days later to bring it back or re-sign the financing paperwork at a higher interest rate because they cannot finance it at the terms they originally promised to you.

4.  BRING SOMEONE WITH YOU TO THE DEALERSHIP

When you go to the dealership to inquire after the car you've researched, bring someone with you who you trust and will give you an honest opinion. They can help point out concerns or ask questions, keep the salesperson busy when you take the car for a test drive and act as a potential witness if the salesperson makes promises or guarantees that turn out to be wrong or fraudulent.

5.  TAKE IT TO YOUR OWN MECHANIC FOR INSPECTION

Ask the dealer to let you take the car to your own mechanic and have it inspected. This can cost about $100-$300, but could save you thousands in the long run. The "110 point inspection" that many dealerships offer is no guarantee that there are not major problems with the car that can surface as soon as you drive it off the lot.

6.  INSPECT THE BUYERS GUIDE

Federal and Virginia law require that a completed Buyers Guide be placed in the window of the vehicle at the time of the sale. If there is an existing manufacturer's warranty, the Buyers Guide must state what it is on that form. Dealers frequently attempt to disclaim all warranties and sell the vehicle "as is," in which case the Buyers Guide should be clearly marked as such. Virginia law also requires that for a car to be truly "as is," the consumer must sign the section of the Buyers Order disclaiming all warranties.

7.  READ THE DOCUMENTS YOU ARE SIGNING

Its not just the big letters that are important; the fine print includes many important contractual provisions. Virginia law presumes that you read what you sign, with certain limited exceptions. Consumers almost always spend hours on end at a dealership attempting to finalize the purchase of their new car, only to find that the salesperson is suddenly in a mad dash to have you sign the paperwork without giving you time to review it. Do not let them rush you! Read the documents, ask questions, and get an answer you are satisfied with. There are many important provisions in those documents that can make or break the sale of the car, if you know what to look for:

- Ensure that the terms are what you agreed upon and the blanks are filled in

- Be wary of "extras" in the purchase price (rustproofing, window etching, fabric protection, etc.)

- Mandatory arbitration agreements

- "No cooling off period" warnings (this is often the direct OPPOSITE of what salespersons tell you)

8.  BE PREPARED TO WALK AWAY

This is probably the most important thing to bear in mind when purchasing a car. If you are uncomfortable with the answers you are getting, you feel pressured to make a hasty decision, the car is not what you expected, or you find yourself compromising your original "wish list" for the car, be prepared to say no. This is especially important in the purchase of a used car, if the dealer refuses or tries to dissuade you from having your mechanic inspect the car. No car, no matter how fancy or how great the deal is, is worth the hassle and expense you may be signing up for if you are truly being sold a lemon.

If you feel that you've been cheated by a car dealer, call us today for advice about what to do next.

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