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20 questions to ask a car dealer before buying a car

Buying a car is an important decision, and you shouldn't rush to make it. This is most likely the biggest post-home purchase you will make. It's important to know exactly what you are buying, what safety features come with your vehicle, and how - and how much - you will pay for it over its lifetime. GOBankingRates offers expert advice on what questions a dealer needs to ask before deciding on a deal.

Photo: Shutterstock

Ask yourself first

Before heading to a car dealership, it is important to have a clear idea of ​​which car you want, how much you can spend and how you plan to finance the purchase.

Alain Nana-Sinkam, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, TrueCar, recommends that potential buyers ask themselves the following questions: “How long do I plan to own this car? Do I want to buy it and drive it to wear, or do I think that in 3 years I will need a new car? How do I want to see a monthly payment for a car? What is the upper limit of such a payment? How am I going to use the vehicle? What fuel consumption is important to me? What are the requirements of my daily trips to the car and fuel? ”

“If you are honest with the answers to these questions, it will be more convenient for you to ask questions as well,” he said.

After that, prepare a list of questions for your car dealer.

What you need to know about the safety of this car?

“It is becoming increasingly important for car buyers to learn about advanced safety systems and to ensure that any vehicle they consider has the technology they want,” said John Vincent, senior journalist at US News Best Cars. "Different automakers call systems (such as automatic emergency braking) differently, which can lead to confusion and lead to mistakes in purchasing."

What other features are there?

From tech features to a sunroof, a car can come with many extras - things you may or may not want. Keep in mind that these "bells and whistles" can increase the price, so make sure you really need them.

Can I do a test drive on the highway?

“When you go for a test drive, you should try to drive in the conditions in which you normally drive,” says Nana-Sinkam. - If you drive a lot on the highway, you should test the car there. And if in the city - then on the city road. Then you don’t have to find out one day that you don’t like the way the transmission works at high speed, and so on. ”

Can I test a used car version?

“When you go to test drive a new car, you should also ask to test a used version of that car,” said Nana-Sinkam. “Every car is good when it's new, but you want to understand what it will all be like in 2,5 years. Will you still love this car? Most likely, they will have an approximately three-year-old version of such a car. Get behind the wheel and see if the car meets all your needs. "

On the subject: 20 car purchase secrets known only to dealers

What incentives to buy do you offer?

Nana-Sinkam said buyers should ask about current incentives, how long they are available, and which ones can be combined.

“There are certain incentives that you only get if you rent, and others only if you go through the manufacturer's own finance company,” he said. - Understanding the compatibility of these incentives is really important. Sometimes it may be factory and dealer promotions that are not advertised. This happens at the end of the month, or if there is a high-stock model that dealers want to sell off. Then they can help make the car more affordable. ”

Are there any discounts from the manufacturer?

“This is a refund [of discounts] paid to [you] after purchasing certain models,” said Lev Barinsky, CEO of SmartFinancial. - Ask to see these cars first. Keep in mind that despite the discount, you can still pay tax on the full price of the car. "

Can you lower the price?

“While automakers set a manufacturer's recommended retail price (MSRP) for each vehicle, smart buyers plan and ask to negotiate a different amount,” said Matt Smith, senior editor at CarGurus. - Instead of MSRP, find out the purchase price - this is the price the dealership probably paid for the vehicle. Taking into account incentives and 'delays', most dealers will have the opportunity to cut the final cost closer to the purchase price than the MSRP. "

Is there any special funding?

“Find out if there are special interest rates or special rental programs,” Nana-Sinkam said. “Ask what rates will be available if you finance the purchase through their bank rather than your bank or credit union.”

Am I eligible for tax credits on this vehicle?

“All electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles can bring you $ 2000 to $ 7500 in revenue in certain areas,” Barinsky said. "There are federal tax breaks, too."

What warranty is available?

“Ask about the available warranty,” advises Nana-Sinkam. "You want to understand what else the warranty covers in a new car, besides what might break in it."

Does the warranty cover any kind of service?

Nana-Sinkam recommends that you find out whether the warranty covers components that wear out or require regular replacement, such as oil, brakes and wipers.

“This will help you understand the real cost of owning this car, because after 2000 or 3000 miles some things will change,” he said.

On the subject: 5 classic traps when buying a car from a car dealer

What maintenance costs can be expected after the warranty expires?

Even if maintenance is included in the warranty, these costs can only be paid for the first two years or 20 miles. Ask for typical oil change costs, new tires, brake changes, and other maintenance that you will need to pay regularly during the life of the car.

Is wrap-around coverage available?

Wrap-around coverage (optional car parts insurance) is not included in the price of the car, but may provide additional protection that is not included in the standard warranty. This usually extends the warranty from bumper to bumper.

“You can negotiate the price of that coverage if that's what you're interested in,” Nana-Sinkam said.

How much will you pay for my old car?

If you are selling an existing car and do not want to do it yourself, you can sell it directly to the dealer. However, different dealers may offer you different prices. Use online resources to determine how much your car is worth. You should also ask several dealers how much they are willing to pay for the exchange.

Can I see the full purchase agreement?

Before you agree to the down payment and monthly fees, ask for a purchase agreement for a breakdown of costs, including any fees and services. If there is an add-on or accessory that you do not need, be sure to mark it so as not to pay for it.

What are the conditions of the loan?

“Buyers need to know the specific terms of any car loan they sign up for,” Vincent said. - This includes the number of months they will pay, the interest rate, the presence or absence of a penalty for early repayment of the loan. The best way to get a great auto finance deal is to get a pre-approved car loan long before you head to the car dealership. If you have no offer, the dealer will have no incentive to find you a better deal. ”

Vincent also noted that it is important to pay attention to how long the loan is provided - the longer the term, the more interest you will pay.

“If the dealer shows you a loan term of more than 72 months, ask him to re-enter the numbers with a shorter term,” he said. "If you cannot afford to pay off a six-year or shorter loan, you cannot afford a car."

Has my loan been approved?

“Before signing any loan documents other than a loan application, it is imperative to ask if your car loan has been approved by the lender,” Vincent said. - If they cannot provide proof of this fact, do not sign the loan documents. If you leave the dealer before the loan is finalized, you will face fraud. For example, when a dealer calls you about a week after you drove your car home to tell you that your loan is overdue and you have to come back to sign new papers. When you do this, the amount will be much more than what you initially agreed to. "

On the subject: Fatal crashes and huge traffic jams: worst US cities for motorists

Can I get a car in return when I leave mine at a car dealership?

Nana-Sinkam said that you should speak with the dealer's technical service department to see if they offer any amenities to help you if you need to leave your vehicle in the showroom for repairs - such as a shuttle or shuttle service.

“We're talking about using the car after purchase,” he said. “If the dealer says,“ I’m always ready to offer you a replacement car or provide a shuttle service, ”then you can buy this car in this showroom and use it day in and day out.”

Can you deliver a car?

If you buy from a dealer who is far from your home, or from an online dealer, delivering a car will save you a lot of trouble.

Can I take the time to make a decision?

“While the terms of sale for new cars may seem available in just a couple of days, in reality they tend to be up to date throughout the month,” Smith said. - If you are offered a deal for a limited time only, but need a few more days to think about it, tell the seller that you will be back. Most often, this offer will continue to be available. "

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