Legal Assistance Tip of the Week: Car buying tips|
Commentary by Capt. Nicholas Reyes
Air Force Flight Test Center Judge Advocate
6/8/2012 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A car purchase is a major event in your life, both financially and emotionally. As such, it is important to research the type of car you want very thoroughly and not make impulsive decisions that could later come back to haunt you. Under no circumstances should you simply walk into a dealership and purchase a car that same day. This article will highlight a few practices to follow in order to protect yourself as well as save money on your car purchase.
The Art of Negotiation
Car salesmen are very good at telling you what you want to hear and trying to pressure you to purchase a car. When you go to the dealership, don't tell the salesperson what you want your monthly payments to be right away. This will be difficult, because that is exactly what they're going to ask you. Be vague and negotiate off of the actual price of the car. You should know what you can afford in terms of monthly payments; however, there is no need to divulge that information right away. In terms of credit checks, you should always know your own credit score. In my experience, salesmen would tell me that my credit was worse than it actually was, and then "do me a favor" by somehow getting me a better credit rating for the loan. That's not to say this is typical, but just make sure you know your credit and where you stand.
The best thing you can possibly do when shopping for a car is to get car dealerships to bid against each other. The easiest way to do this is to visit multiple dealerships and look at the same/similar car. Tell the salesman what the other dealership is charging and ask them to beat that price. The more dealerships you can involve, the better prices you will get (of course, this is based on what you can handle). Continue with this cycle until you get the dealership refusing to budge and then simply pick the best price that you have. Car salesmen will try and make you feel bad for doing this, but in the end, you are perfectly entitled to do this and it will save you a great deal of money. Understand the time commitment though, this process can take a couple of weeks of negotiating and test driving cars.
The process above can be applied to used cars as well. The biggest thing to remember on a used car is to make sure that you get the car inspected by a trusted, independent mechanic, preferably before you purchase it. Most states have lemon laws that allow you to return the car after a certain number of days. In California, you have the option to purchase a two-day cancellation contract, which allows you to return the car within two days to the dealer for any reason.
When purchasing a car, ask to look at the contract you're signing. You should bring the contract to an attorney, either here at the legal office or your own, to make sure that the contract is fair and to clarify any terms that you might not understand. Do NOT purchase a car on the same day that you go into a dealership. Dealerships will try and pressure you to make the deal on that same day. Make sure that you have a number of different options, that way you can be flexible and won't feel the pressure to make the purchase at the dealership. Car buying can be a harrowing experience, but if you do your research and come into the dealership well-informed, you should be able to get a good deal and take a lot of the pressure off.
For more information, please contact the Base Legal Office at (661) 277-4310. Legal assistance attorneys are available on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., and on Tuesday and Thursday from 3 to 4 p.m. Paralegals can provide power of attorney and notary services on Monday through Thursday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Friday from 8 a.m to 1 p.m.