Whether you’re looking at a brand new vehicle or scanning through used lots, shopping for a car is an exciting time. But you shouldn’t let that excitement steer you wrong. Finding the right car takes pointed research and patience. You don’t want to pick the first decent vehicle off the lot only to discover manufactural problems after a month.
As you go about your car buying journey, keep these six red flags in mind to avoid getting scammed.
Used Cars Without a Car History Report
The benefit of a used car comes from finding a safe, reliable vehicle at a fraction of the price of a brand-new one. But you have to wonder, why was this car sold to a used lot in the first place? The answer to this question is found in the car history report.
Here’s the important information you’ll get from a history report:
- Damage that occurred due to car accidents
- Any fire or flood damage
- Covered bumps or scratches
- The registration information
- If and when the car has been serviced
- When and where it was sold
- Any manufactural recalls
- Whether the car has been salvaged before
- Number of previous owners
- What mileage should be displayed
Not Being Allowed to Test Drive
This is a glaring red flag. Not being allowed to test drive a vehicle is like not being able to see the inside of a house before making the purchase. Cars are meant to be driven. If the seller doesn’t want you test driving it, there’s probably some problem they’re trying to hide.
Dream Car Syndrome
We’ve all got a dream car, and for many of us, that car comes with exorbitant prices. Unless you’re ready to put down that kind of money, you shouldn’t let dream scenarios cloud your judgment. Remember that this is an important financial investment. If it’s not in the budget, your dream car may remain a dream for now.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean luxury cars are out of reach. It is possible to find deals on luxury vehicles, you just have to have the patience and put in the effort needed to garner a good price. In many cases, you’ll have to extend your search outside of your hometown. For example, if you live in Fort Lauderdale and can’t find the M-Class of your dreams in your price range, check out a Mercedes dealership in Pembroke Pines or Miami Gardens. The further you extend your shopping area, the more likely you are to garner a good deal.
Too Good To Be True Car Loan
If the car loan you’re getting seems too good to be true, it probably is. Car loans are designed to make money off the interest. This means high-interest rates and extended payment periods are ways for the loan to increase in value. In general, the more you can afford to pay per month, the better.
Watch out for enticing offers like:
- No interest for the first year
- Low monthly payments over an extended period
- Being allowed to drive off the lot before finalizing the loan terms
In some cases, these “great deals” will come back to haunt you later.
The age of verbal contracts is no longer viable. Sure, maybe thirty years ago you could talk about a deal, shake hands, and have that be as binding as a legal contract. Today, though, verbal agreements are perfect for quick tongues and trusting car buyers.
To protect yourself in any future legal dispute, make sure everything is written out in detail. If you’re buying a car online, be sure to save all email chains and take diligent notes when speaking over the phone. Send these notes to the car seller and have them sign the sheet, agreeing to what they’ve said. These extra steps can save you time and a headache if any disputes arise.
Getting pressured into buying things is never a good feeling. Nor is it a good tactic. When that decision has huge financial implications, that raises a serious red flag. Buying a car is a time-consuming process, but that’s no reason to rush things along. You should only consider deals when you’re in a healthy headspace. Which means, if a car salesperson gives you an ultimatum, always remember you can walk away from the deal.
Let the Fun Begin
Once the researching and comparing phase is over, the only thing left to do is make the purchase. By avoiding the most common red flags, you can be sure your shopping experience will be as painless as possible. Now, it’s time to plan your next adventure and let the fun begin.