For many of us a car — new or used — is the single most expensive purchase we will make. It’s a trying process that can be full of hurdles, as aggressive sellers try to take advantage of even the most savvy of customers. In2012 alone, the Attorney General’s Office received nearly 1,000 complaints related to auto-buying transactions. By doing your homework before walking onto the car lot, you’ll be better prepared to navigate the car buying process.
Here are a few tips:
Determine the car that’s best for you. What kind of car is best for you and your family? What is your monthly budget for car payment, gas, insurance, and maintenance? Knowing your budget and the car that’s best for your lifestyle before you shop will prevent you from being upsold into something you can’t afford.
Identify your target sales price —walk away if you don't get it! Research a fair price for the car you want before visiting the dealer. Establishing your target price will give you confidence during negotiations with the dealer.
Check out the car dealer's reputation. Before you walk into a dealer, make sure they're in good business standing with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org). This is the first way to avoid a scam.
Watch for aggressive or deceptive sales tactics — buyer beware. Remember you are in charge and are free to walk away! Some things to watch out for are:
Holding keys. Watch out for the salesperson who avoids returning your keys or driver’s license after evaluating your trade in. The goal is to keep you from leaving. They have no right to withhold your property.
Requiring cash deposits. You do not need to provide a cash deposit to show that you are serious about buying.
You can sign up for the Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or by calling 800-646-2283. By joining the Fraud Watch Network, you’ll receive alerts and notifications about new scams as they emerge.
File a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s Office at www.atg.wa.gov.