It pays to be a smart consumer when you are shopping for a car. Check out Edmunds 10 Steps for Buying a Used Car which identifies key areas first-time car buyers should know before stepping foot on a dealer lot.
- Before you sign anything, review the sales contract carefully. Make sure it is the right vehicle, at the price and terms you negotiated. Once you sign a contract, you have committed to purchase the car. There is no time period during which you can return a car once you sign the contract.
- Understand the financing terms. What is the interest rate? How long is the loan for? What are your monthly payments? Does the payment amount change? How much will the loan cost you in interest?
- Check out the seller. Ask your friends, co-workers and neighbors about their experiences. Check the business complaint history with CAP.
- Get it checked out by your mechanic! Have a mechanic you know and trust carefully look over the car and let you know what issues may need to be addressed. Also, having the vehicle looked over by a competent body shop can provide more information about the body repair history.
- Don't rely on vehicle history reports alone! Vehicle history reports can be helpful, but none contain complete records for all vehicles. In fact, many will not even have complete accident and insurance history information. While no current database is complete, the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System provides information directly at VehicleHistory.gov
- Review the warranty: is it "As-Is"? An as-is sale means if something goes wrong with the car, even as you are driving home, you may not have any recourse with the dealer to get it fixed.
- Take your time! Don't rush the purchase. Car purchases can be exciting. Take the time to think about it and make sure it is the right car for you.