Car Buying Best Practices
22 February 2012
This is a collection of best practices for buying a car, compiled from several dozen Internet sources.
- Write down what features you must have, want to have, and don’t care about.
- Do Internet research on which cars fit the bill.
- Eliminate all cars that don’t have your list of must-have features.
- If there are more than 8-10 cars remaining, eliminate the ones that barely fit your list.
- Test drive the remaining cars. Take notes about what you like and don’t like. Remove any cars you don’t like.
- Collect information about specific cars. Find the top deals.
- Call car dealers and sales folks, make them bid for your business
- Test drive the specific car you like. Inspect it carefully. Have a professional mechanic to inspect it for problems.
- Buy the car.
When test driving a car, check on:
- Acceleration from a stop
- Engine sound when cold
- Engine noise
- Does the car drift left or right when driving straight?
- Hill-climbing power
- Turning radius
- Rattles / squeaks
- Agree to the price on the phone, before arriving
- Run a history check on the car
- Ask salesperson to email all of the taxes, fees, and price first
- Call your state DMV and ask about liens against the vehicle
- Ask about the warranty
- Ask about return policy
- How worn is the brake pedal? Too much, and it’s shady
- Check outer edge of driver’s seat for wear
- Go under the floor mats. Check for water damage (leaks)
- Check the outer edges of the tires. If they’re worn, the front end is out of alignment
- Check for paint on the moldings/lights. Sign the car has been re-painted
- Check the engine. Is anything dirty, rusty, or worn?
- Always be ready to walk out
- Don’t get attached to any car
- Dealerships - end of the month is better
- Don’t sign up for add-ons
- If you don’t get it in writing, it does not exist.
- With a finance-and-insurance person, don’t get upsold. That’s their job, after all.
- Read the contract carefully
- Make sure you get a clean title
- Ask about return policy, get it in writing.
- Do not sign an ‘as is’ paper. Anything that says that needs to be removed
- Ask for the car’s maintenance record.
- Only go for normal fees
- License fees (title, registration, price set by each state)
- Documentation fee
- Smog (price set by each state)
- Sales tax
- Based on average fair market value of the car
- Not the purchase price
- Comes from Price Digests
- Rate is .65% from the state, .30% from King County
- Clark County is .12%, for a total of 0.77%
- Fees to question/call BS
- Dealer fees
- Dealer Prep
- Advertising fee
- “Internet” fee
- Window VIN etching
- Still under factory warranty?
- Does warranty transfer to new owner?