Shopping for a used car isn’t always fun, but let’s face it nowadays you just plain need a car. Fortunately, there are car dealerships all over the city, so you’ve got your pick, right? Not so fast, savvy car shopper. Sometimes a carload of choice isn’t a good thing. Because now, instead of just figuring out what car you’d like to buy, you need to figure out which dealership to buy it from. Chances are good that when you search “used car dealership near me,” you’ll be led directly to a lot of used car dealerships.
There are pros and cons to everything, and buying a car has its share of both. Check out the dealerships in your area (there are over 15 in Buford alone) and see what their reviews look like. Go to Yelp. Talk to friends.
We’ll give you the rundown of what warning signs to look for to make sure the dealer you’re purchasing from has your best interests at heart.
As always, when you’re making a major purchase – and that definitely includes buying a used car – you should get a few things straight in your mind before you buy.
Know Your Needs
You may want a zippy hybrid or a sporty coupe, but if you’re hauling kids, food, or crafting supplies, a 2-door model might not be what you really need. Be honest with yourself. You’re going to be driving this car for years. It needs to fit your lifestyle as it is right now, not as you’d like it to be in ten years.
Decide Your Budget
This is good advice for pretty much everything, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind when buying a used car. Part of the appeal of a used car is that it’s new to you, but at a price that’s less than the original sticker price. Do your research based on a budget first, then your needs.
When you’re looking for a used car, you’ve got a couple of options. You can shop at a smaller corner dealership that only deals in used cars or go to a large dealership that has used cars in stock. The chances are good that you can find a decent deal at either, but you do need to know the risks of being pulled in by low sticker prices.
Here’s How to Spot the Signs of a Bad Dealership
Is the car you want suspiciously cheap? If you’ve done your research on the used car you want, then you’ll have a good idea of what price it should be going for. If your prospective car is priced for thousands lower than the fair market price, you probably want to think twice about the car and doing business with the dealership. That car either has something drastically wrong with it, or it’s bait to get you into the dealership.
Do you Deal with More than One Salesman?
Car salespeople are just like everyone else; they’re just trying to do their job. But if the dealership you’re working with keeps switching salespeople on you for no obvious reason, it’s a bad-faith tactic to keep you off balance. When it comes to car shopping, it helps to have some consistency, plus you can build a good relationship with your salesperson if you keep seeing him. He or she will learn your financial and driving needs, so you can drive off the lot happy and willing to come back.
Open Recall Cars
Ask what their policy on selling cars with open recalls is. If they’re willing to sell you a car that has known safety issues, what else are they willing to do? Remember, the dealer’s job is to get you into a car. Disreputable dealers won’t care about building a relationship with you, or about the family you’re putting into that car.
Do they have the title? Your used dealer should have the title to any car they’re proposing to sell to you. If they don’t, it’s because the bank has the title, not the dealer. That means that the loan on that car probably isn’t paid off.
This is a huge red flag. It’s also a warning of another scam altogether.
If you still have payments left on your current car, it’s usually better to try and sell it privately, so you don’t fall for the next warning sign on our list.
Watch Out for the “Dealer Forgot to Pay off Your Trade-In” Scam
When you trade in a car that still has a note attached to it, the dealer is supposed to request a 10 or 20-day payoff amount from the lender. After the deal has been completed, the dealer is supposed to pay your previous lender the amount they’ve been quoted before the due date of your loan payment.
If the dealer doesn’t handle it, you still have the legal responsibility of your old car loan and your new one. If the old loan isn’t paid in time, it’s your credit history that takes a hit, not the car dealerships. Make sure your dealership pays the old loan, or better yet, get a 10 to 20-day payoff amount from your current lender on the same day you plan to trade in your car.
If the dealer makes you sign an arbitration clause, that’s a possible warning flag. Arbitration clauses mandate that a designated “impartial third party solves any problems.” That’s the catch, though. Impartial third parties who are paid by one of the parties to the original agreement (i.e., the dealership) aren’t actually impartial. You might not get a fair arbitration.
Insist on an Inspection
Getting an inspection is especially necessary if you’re buying from a third-party seller. A good mechanic providing a thorough inspection will protect you from getting taken in by dealers selling cars with flood damage or other invisible-to-the-naked-eye electrical problems. If a dealership insists that the car you’re interested in can’t leave the lot without being purchased, look elsewhere.
Ask for a vehicle history report. Car dealerships have access to this information for free, and reputable dealerships will be happy to provide it. If your dealership drags its feet or tells you that the information isn’t available or that there’s a fee, you might want to reconsider giving them your business.
Pro-tip: You can also run your own Vehicle History Reports through the following websites:
National Insurance Crime Bureau (NCIB) to find if your new car has ever been reported lost or stolen, if it’s ever been salvaged, or if it was involved in an accident and declared a total loss.
Note: Only five (5) searches can be done per IP address within a single 24-hour period.
Vehicle History is another free VIN lookup that’s pretty darn comprehensive. Enter your VIN to find your car’s selling history, current recall information, expiration of manufacturer warranty, and even price predictions about the best time to buy
iSeeCars is a lot like VehicleHistory, except it adds a price history and analysis feature, projected depreciation, and the best times to buy and sell your vehicle. Just plug in your VIN and get your information.
Buying a used car is a bit more work than buying a new one, but it doesn’t have to be super stressful. If you keep your wits about you, use some common sense and keep an eye out for the warning signs we’ve listed, you’ll be able to steer clear of any unscrupulous dealers and enjoy your used car shopping experience.
Buy Used at Rick Hendrick Chevrolet of Buford
Here at Rick Hendrick Chevrolet, we are here to make sure you find the perfect used vehicle for you. Our vehicles are inspected, and any repairs or maintenance is taken care of before they go on the lot, so you know that what you drive off is road-ready.