Whether you’re looking to buy a car from a dealership or a private seller, there will always be some shady SOBs that want to squeeze every possible penny out of your wallet. Or worse, sell you some lemon that’ll die the minute you drive away.
So , we’re gonna teach you how to be a NEGOTIATING MACHINE! By doing the research and knowing all the tricks of trade that salesmen use every day, you can get your car at the fairest price possible and never regret a second that you spend cruising in your new ride.
The first tip on this list involves highway flying on some wheels that you don’t even own yet! And the last tip is the Sword of Excalibur of car buying.
Dishonest dealers beware! Here are 8 mistakes to avoid when buying a car.
#1: TEST DRIVE BEFORE YOU BUY
This should be a no-brainer, but the amount of people who actually buy a car without ever driving it first is just downright terrifying. How can you know anything about the quality of a car without taking it for a spin?
Do a bit of stop-and-go to test those brake pads, rip it down the highway, hell, do some donuts around the parking lot if the seller OK’s it. Just make sure you put every part of that car to the test before you even think about buying it.
And while you’re behind the wheel, test out all the bells and whistles. I don’t care if you’re buying a car in the middle of the a frozen tundra in nothing but your underwear, crank up that A/C and make sure it works! Try the locks, crack the windows, blast your favorite radio station until the seller goes deaf. The last thing you want is to be driving home with your new wheels and find out the brakes sound like scratching a chalkboard.
If you ask the seller for a test drive and he says no? CUT AND RUN! This is a sure-fire sign of a scam artist, and a lousy one at that.
Don’t play the fool, take the test drive.
#2: MEET ME IN THE MIDDLE
If you plan on buying a car through Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or any other listing service, make sure you meet the seller somewhere not-so-sketchy. No, I’m not talking about meeting a seller in a dark alleyway at midnight (which is obviously a terrible idea), I’m talking about meeting them somewhere where you can keep them accountable.
Most of the time, private car transactions go perfectly smooth. However, you can never really be sure if someone’s trying to pull a fast one on you. So meet the seller in a public place where there are other people around.
Meet them in the daytime. Bring your roughest, toughest looking amigo with you so they know that if they even think about crossing you, there’s gonna be hell to pay. I’m kidding, of course. You definitely don’t want to scare your seller.
But having someone else with you is always a good idea, especially if you don’t know very much about whoever’s trying to sell you their ride. If the shit doesn’t hit the fan in the first meeting, then maybe you can ask the seller to meet you at your house or theirs.
But remember, listing services such as Craiglist have virtually NO buyer protection whatsoever. So even if you meet up with a seller and the car looks alright, make the extra effort to ensure that the car is really what they say it is.
#3: GET IT INSPECTED!
If you’re reading this right now, chances are you know a thing or two about cars. But if you are anything less than a professional auto inspector, please, for the love of all that is good, get your car inspected before you buy it.
C’mon, it only costs like $30, and it could save you thousands on repairing a car that you never should’ve bought in the first place. A pre-sale inspection will uncover any hidden defects the seller didn’t want you to see, and will help you feel confident if you do decide to pull the trigger on the deal.
Even if you’re shopping at a dealership that tells you their cars have all been pre-inspected, get another set of eyes on the guts of that car before you buy. Because, as we all know, even certified pre-owned dealerships have some not-so-nice tricks up their sleeves.
Find a mechanic you trust and bring him down to check under the hood before you even think about pulling out your wallet. It’ll be the smartest $30 you ever spent.
#4: IGNORE THOSE “LIMITED TIME OFFERS”
Now, if you plan on buying a used car from a dealership because it seems safer or whatever, there is one major sales trick you need to be aware of. That’s right, those annoying “limited time offers” they throw at the end of every car commercial ever made.
0% FINANCING IF YOU BUY IN THE NEXT THREE MONTHS! REBATES UP TO $5,000 IF YOU BUY TODAY!
If they’re willing to toss you a $5,000 rebate today, then they’re for sure going to give you that same rebate when that car’s still sitting on the lot tomorrow. In fact, that rebate usually goes up the longer that car sits unsold.
These limited time offers are designed to rush you and get you to buy before you consider the actual fairness of the deal. The idea that these offers are going to expire and you’re gonna miss out on a sweet deal is just plain false.
So take your sweet time. Sleep on it. Tonight. Tomorrow. For the next two months. Chances are that “limited time offer” will still be there when you feel ready to buy.
#5: JUST SAY NO
One of the reasons that buying from a used car dealership is a bit shady is that cars aren’t the only thing they’re trying to sell you. After you actually decide to purchase one of their bargain-lot beaters, they’re going to try to sell you every possible add-on imaginable.
And they’re gonna try to convince you that every single one is absolutely necessary. I’ll let you in on a little secret: THEY’RE NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!
Alarm systems, paint protection products, interior sealant. Some of these products are actually awesome additions that can help keep your car looking like new, but if you’re buying them from a dealer, you’re probably paying too much.
The Taj Mahal of car dealership scams, though, is theft protection, particularly VIN etching. This is one of the most expensive add-on services that the dealership will try to sell you, and time and time again, it has proved to be pretty much useless.
Charging up to $400 to etch a number on your windshield (that you could do yourself with a rusty nail) and that only comes in handy if your car is stolen and taken apart? Sounds like the dealership isn’t much better than the thieves they’re claiming to protect you against.
So when they try to sell you on that theft protection, tell them no way Jose! Or maybe the dealer’s name is Steve…I don’t know.
#6: PAY ATTENTION TO THE TITLE
Doesn’t matter if you’re buying from a car dealership or from Joe Schmo with the Silverado. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS ask to see the title before purchasing a used vehicle.
The best power move you can make early in a car transaction is ask the seller if the title is actually in their name. If it isn’t, they’re probably a secret agent from a dealership trying to pose as an average pedestrian. But their sneaky tactics won’t fool you. You’re too smart for that.
And chances are, if they tried to lie to you about who the real owner of the car is, they’re definitely going to lie to you any chance they get. Walk away from that fraudulent fool!
The other super important thing to check the title for is if it says one of these two words: “salvage” or “refurbished”. If you see one of these two terrible words, run for the hills!
Salvaged or refurbished cars are cars that have been totalled and super-glued back together. If you care at all about living to see tomorrow, don’t drive one of these hunks of junk.
#7: FIGHT ‘EM ON FINANCING
If you’re applying for an auto loan to finance your next car, do some research before some sleezeball at the dealership gets you to slap down your John Hancock. Auto loans have become of one the most predatory markets in the world, because many people fail to do their due diligence before agreeing to the terms.
Go to your bank first. Ask them what kind of terms they would put on an auto loan. Get them to print you a quote that you can bring to the dealership. get printouts of your credit score and history and slap them on the dealers desk and shout: “I SHALL NOT BE SCAMMED!”
And do not, under any circumstances, start the negotiation by telling the dealer how much you want your monthly payment to be. Dealers are tickled pink when they hear this, because they know they’re going to be able to sell you something that is significantly less valuable than what you’re paying for.
The best way to avoid auto loan scams altogether is either to pay for your car outright, or make the biggest down payment that you can.
It’s common sense: the less financing you need, the less opportunity there is to get f***ed on your financing.
#8: SHOW UP WITH A SCAN TOOL
What if there was a way you could see everyone else’s cards when you’re in the middle of a poker game? In the world of used car buying, this is called a scan tool.
You can pick one of these up for under $100, and my favorite is the BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro, and it will tell you if there’s been any foul play with the car’s code.
Here’s how it works: You just plug it into the data port, which is below the steering column in most cars, and check the numbers for DTC and Readiness INC. DTC’s are diagnosed problems that should have you lacing up your running shoes and leaving that deal in the dust. Readiness INC means that there are diagnostics in the car that have not been run, and probably mean that the car’s code has been tampered with.
If there is a number other than zero for either of these, get out while you still can. Sheisty sellers may think they have you fooled, but pull out that scan tool and they’ll go white in the face.