Buying a Car? Follow These Tips to Avoid Getting Ripped Off

By Tayon Mitchell

It’s happened before. You needed a new car so you went looking for your best deal. But somehow, you ended up leaving the dealership in a car that wasn’t your top choice. And you paid way too much for it. “What just happened?” you wondered as you drove away.

Wouldn’t you love to pay what you want for the vehicle you choose, rather than the high-priced car the dealer wants to get rid of?


Following these tips will help ensure a better experience the next time you buy a car:

1. Do your homework. Think about cars you’re interested in before you go shopping.

Jot down makes and models you like. Note specific features you want.

  • Look at car manufacturer’s websites. Notice the features, specifically
    those that matter to you. Make notes. Eliminate cars that don’t fit your criteria. Make a note why you’re rejecting those cars. Later, you can look back on your notes, if necessary.

2. Familiarize yourself with the top 2-3 cars you want.

Watch for them on the roads. Do you like how they look? Ask friends and neighbors who have a car you’re interested in if you can look at the dashboard and interior space.

3. Check the website.

This website tells you what the car should reasonably cost you. You can select the interior and exterior colors and any extra options you want for pricing.

  • Find out what the car manufacturers are offering for cash incentives or buyer’s rebates on the cars you like. This info can also be found at the Edmunds website. Completing this step will arm you with expert
    knowledge about what the car should cost.
  • If a car dealer tells you the Edmunds figure isn’t accurate, move on. He’s most likely trying to rip you off.

4. Never pay the sticker price.

Car salesmen will try very hard to get you to pay that price. However, you can negotiate to pay less. If you already did your research, you’ll know what to offer. Don’t pay a penny more.

5. Consider shopping from home.

If you’ve been held captive at a car dealership for 3+ hours being pressured, cajoled, and manipulated, you’ll appreciate this suggestion. Examine internet sites like or

  • If you prefer, go to the manufacturer’s website and request a price on a particular vehicle. A salesman will respond back by e-mail. Then, negotiate back and forth by e-mail or phone to obtain the car, features, and pricing you seek.
  • Determine if they have the exact car in your desired color with your
    preferred options on the lot. This point is important because salesmen will try to get you in to test-drive any vehicle in hopes they can give you the hard-sell routine.
  • Save a lot of time and frustration by shopping from home.

6. Never get financing through the dealership.

Dealerships advertise low percentage rates then pump up “miscellaneous” fees in excess of a reasonable percentage amount. Therefore, get your car loan through your bank or credit union.

  • Seek a pre-approved loan before shopping. That way, you’ll know how
    much you’ll pay monthly based on the figure you were pre-approved to borrow.

7. Remember you can walk away or say, “No.”

Avoid falling into the trap of doing everything the salesman says. After all, you’re the customer and he’s there to fulfill your needs, not the other way around.

8. Find out your state’s policy on returning new cars.

Car dealerships will tell you that once you sign the papers and drive the car off the lot, you can’t return it. However, many states have a “buyers’ remorse” clause, which allows you a period of time, like 3 days, to return a vehicle you don’t want. Take time to read the fine print on whatever documents you sign.

  • The best way to avoid buyers’ remorse is to shop within your budget and avoid saying, “yes” to just any car or deal. Wait for the deal you want.

By following these strategies, you can avoid getting ripped off the next time you shop for a new car.

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