It’s a stereotype as old as cars themselves; a pushy, fast-talking salesman standing on a car lot, bad suit on his back and fake smile on his face, ready to sell you a lemon and then never return your calls. Thankfully, the car buying industry has changed substantially over the years, and the slick, sleazy huckster is largely a thing of the past. But that doesn’t mean that scams aren’t still out there.
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Let The Buyer Beware
The con artist out to simply rip you off completely is becoming rarer and rarer as the law cracks down and the Internet roots them out and holds them accountable for their behavior. A little research will often point you towards the car lots you shouldn’t be shopping at. But other scams are a bit harder to spot, because they’re not so much just an attempt to take your money and leave you with nothing, but more attempts to make sure your car costs you as much as possible while staying inside the law and exploiting what they think is your ignorance of the process.
For example, did you know that dealerships can, perfectly legally, add a percentage point to the interest rates they offer when you finance through them? Not only is that OK under the law, they don’t have to tell you about it either. They can just present you the rate, and they don’t have to show you any of the materials or any of the discussion that went into determining that. It’s a fee they don’t have to explain … or tell you that you don’t have to accept.
So how do you fight back? By being a smart consumer.
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How To Thwart A Scam
We all know the basic rule for spotting a scam; if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is. That’s a good place to start, but how else can you stop scams?
First, do your research. Car lots that take customers for a ride quickly garner a bad reputation, and if that’s the case, you’ll know to avoid them. Secondly, keep an eye out for high-pressure tactics, even in their advertising. If a dealership is telling you that this deal will only be here in an eyeblink, and you must act now, immediately, don’t think, just sign the papers, you shouldn’t sign the papers.
The most effective method, though, is to break the link between financing and car buying. You’re not obligated to finance through a dealership to buy a car, and in fact, most of the time the deals offered as an incentive aren’t really worth it for you in the long run; either you won’t qualify, or it just makes the bill that comes due more expensive.
So, finance first, by looking for the best rates and best deals online. Once you’ve secured financing, you can shop for the car, and you’ve changed the landscape of the deal; now the sales team just has to find a car you can afford and that fits your needs. A reputable dealership won’t have a problem with you buying up front, and you’ll be sure you get the best deal. Now that’s smart shopping!