Car shopping can be fun and exciting, but it also has the potential to turn into a nightmare. Just think of your friend with the hellish story about buying a lemon or haggling with a dealership. So how can you avoid getting scammed when you go car shopping?
Jalopnik, the auto-enthusiast website, asked its users to submit their best tips to prevent car shopping scams. The next time you’re shopping for a car, follow these 10 tips to avoid a lemon:
Tip #1. Know What You Want
Know what you’re looking for and shop with a budget in mind. You don’t want to set aside $5,000 for a sedan and end up driving home a sports car. If you stick to your budget, you’ll have an easier time resisting the pressure from a salesman who wants you to spend more.
Tip #2. Research the Model
Don’t buy a lemon — research the car you’re considering. Know the flaws, typical repair prices, and market value before you buy any car.
If you really do your homework before you set foot on a car lot or answer a classified ad, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle.
Tip #3. See What People Are Saying Online
Virtually every type of car has an online forum where owners talk to each other. Google the make and model and join the discussion to get information the dealers won’t tell you.
And if you see a car for sale from one of the users, know that you’re buying from a community and you’re going to get a better price than shopping at a dealership.
Tip #4. Check for Local Used-Car Auctions
You’ll save a lot of money shopping at used-car auctions. While you’ll miss out on pre-sale vehicle inspection, the deal will always be better than what a dealership offers. Jalopnik user “POD” recalls their experience with used-car auctions:
My Dad has done this on his last 3 Volvo’s and despite the mechanical issues he ran into with 2 out of 3 of them, he was thousands ahead of the curve compared to what e-bay or dealerships wanted for the same make, model, and year.”
Tip #5. Find Out What “Certified” Means
“Certified Used-Car” might not mean much more than a cheap $350-$450 warranty power-train. Don’t put too much trust in a dealer that claims a vehicle is certified — only Honda, Mercedes, and Toyota offer truly extensive certified warranties.
Instead, look for a car that was purchased at the dealership where it was originally sold. Dealerships may have the service records on file and can answer more detailed questions about how the vehicle was used.
Tip #6. No Impulsive Buying!
Don’t make a decision before you’ve really looked at the car. This means no decisions before a thorough vehicle inspection — under the hood, under the vehicle, the interior — everything you can possibly check.
Tip #7. Use Your Own Mechanic to Check the Vehicle
You have a relationship with your mechanic. Use it. Ask them about the car you’re considering. You may get much more accurate information from your mechanic than the seller.
Tip #8. Inspect the Owner
Ask yourself if the owner seems trustworthy. Are they the type to sell you a lemon? Do they look like they could be hiding the bad stuff about the car? Does the owner look like someone who would neglect maintenance? Are they overly eager to sell the car?
If you can’t trust the owner, you can’t trust the car. Walk away if you’re not comfortable.
Tip #9. Don’t Use Dealership Financing
Rule of thumb in used car buying: Never finance unless it’s at 0%. If the dealership can’t offer 0% financing, use a bank or lending center to finance your purchase. Shop around for the best financing offer.
Tip #10. Be Ready to Walk Away
Don’t let your emotions get in the way. It’s your money and the ball is in your court. Walk away if you’re not completely satisfied with the offer. There will always be another car!
What Do You Think?
Are you in the market for a used car? Have any dealership horror stories you want to share? Any tips for Scambook users that we may have missed? Let us know in the comments section!