A sad story out of Canada reminds us that paying attention to fine print and fast talk is extremely important when buying a car.
Jalopnik has all the sordid details, but the short story is that a mentally-disabled woman in Canada was tricked into buying a car when she went in for routine service for her current vehicle, and she overpaid by a large amount for the new car, which was actually a slightly used demonstrator. Folks who have commented on the story have recounted similar horror stories.
Now, you may be saying that something like that could only happen to a mentally-disabled person. But the truth is, plenty of dealerships put one over even the sharpest car buyers.
So, here's a quick refresher course on how to avoid getting scammed.
- Read the fine print: Yeah, it's boring. But it's necessary. You'll know what you're signing, and what recourse you may have if things go wrong.
- Know what you're paying: Not only will this help you avoid being overcharged, but it will help you know whether you can afford the car or not. Don't just look at the monthly payments. Look at the total cost of the vehicle, the interest, and the insurance. Do your homework and research the cost of ownership for the car you like.
- Don't hand out the keys to a trade-in vehicle until after price is negotiated: This will prevent the dealer from "losing" your keys and keeping you in the store, and it gives you more negotiating leverage.
- Think twice about extras: Service contracts, rustproofing, undercoating, and GAP insurance often serve as pure profit centers for dealerships. Don't spring for these extras if you truly do not need them.
- Do your homework: Know what the car you want to buy should cost before going to the dealer. If you can, research the average transaction price for similar cars in your area. This will help you guard against prices that are artificially inflated.
- Research the dealer: The dealer in the Canadian case didn't rate well with the Better Business Bureau. Checking out the dealership before hand will help you determine how much you can trust its employees.
This list is by no means comprehensive. But it will help you avoid situations like the one that occurred north of the border.