...making everyone a savvy car consumer!

    Car Care for the Clueless

  • There are multiple ways to choose a used car. Traditionally, people use newspaper ads and car magazines. These are available at the corner convenience store. Although not as popular as they once were, they can be a valuable source. Some dealerships like to place ads in these with special pricing and coupons so they can see if their print advertisements are working. Then there is the Internet. Caveat emptor (buyer, beware).

  • Make sure your potential car purchase deposit is refundable. You are making the deposit to hold onto a product that you are almost sure you want. But you need to think about the pros and cons of the purchase. Don’t take for granted that the dealership you are working with is going to give you your money back. A lot of dealerships consider the deposit to be a rental fee—it just takes the vehicle off the potential vehicle purchase list. But your “deposit” vehicle can still be shown to other prospective buyers. If you change your mind and don’t want the car or truck—and you haven’t confirmed that your deposit is a refundable deposit—you could lose that hard-earned money. And, at the same time, the car dealer can turn around and sell the vehicle to someone that had test driven it hours beforehand. They just made money off your little contribution.

  • So you found your dream car. It’s time to pay for it. But what type of financing will you choose? There are all types: bank loans, loans from friends or family, or dealership loans—and they all need to be investigated. You will have to let the lender know how much you plan for a down payment and then figure how many months you want to spread out the loan. The average is sixty months (five years), but car loans can go as long as seventy-two months (six years). The more time you take to pay it off, the more the vehicle will cost.

  • It is up to you as a responsible car owner to determine what is right for you.There are dozens of payment factor calculators that can tell you how much your payments will be, depending on the time and the percentage rate. And don’t forget your insurance, as you want to know how the total amount you will be spending on this car or truck for your monthly budget.


  • Believe it or not, it’s good to choose your top four favorite colors. This is important because for the next four to six years you will be looking at the color you choose. If you don’t like the color of your car or truck, you’re likely going to end up abusing the vehicle. When you hate the car, you’re not going to maintain it—and that attitude cost money. Also, keep in mind that certain colors are unpopular (depending on the manufacturer and model). If you are okay with those colors, you may get a better deal. To find which vehicles sport the most popular colors, look in any annual auto almanac or online search engine.

  • Just as you chose the colors for your truck or car, you need to choose several options that come with the make and model. Again, you need to choose what type of options will suit your everyday needs. Even though you may not be a great fan of a minivan, it may be what matches your activities. But step back, and take a second look at things. You need the versatility of a minivan, but maybe a crossover can do the job too. Remember to keep in mind the activities you do daily or weekly. How much room will you need? How many people will you be transporting? How many miles per day and per week will you be driving? These are all important questions you need to ask yourself.

  • OK, you made your semifinal choice. Let’s see if it fits your lifestyle.

  • Ask the dealer if renting the car for twenty-four hours is an option. They will require some type of deposit and personal information. This makes sense. The car dealer wants to protect his property, his investment. If that particular dealership does not provide that type of service, see if a rental car is an option for you. Various rental agencies allow you to choose your make and model. Explain to the rental agent that you want to see if this make and model is a good fit for you. Also, rent-a-car companies sell vehicles, so ask them if they have your particular make and model available for purchase as well.

  • Don’t bypass the extended test-drive process. Keep in mind the story regarding the tall man looking to purchase a vehicle. He would have purchased the newer car with less legroom—what a horrible mistake!

  • This is the situation—wanting to buy a car and needing to buy a car. You are either someone who is looking for a used car or someone who is in need of a used car due to an accident.Before you choose your dream machine, you need to consider how much you can afford for a down payment. And let’s not forget about that monthly loan payment. Your first step is to run your credit report. Of course, everybody knows that the higher your credit rating, the better interest rate. Now is the time to choose between financing the vehicle through a banking institution and utilizing the dealership for funding. You can get a good idea of the going interest rate by checking out various free Internet programs. Don’t forget that they may ask about your credit rating. (Note: Never give out personal information on the Internet unless you know exactly who is receiving it.)

  • It’s time to take a hard, honest look at your ride. Let’s start with the exterior. Has it been damaged from a previous wreck? Does it need a paint job? Is the paint dull from lack of wax? You’ve heard about first impressions, right? Well, this is the first impression that your vehicle is going to give the receiving dealership. They are looking at all these issues and are immediately deducting the repair from what they intend to give you for the car. If you want to know how much body work is needed, get an estimate from a respected body shop. Having talked to a bump shop, you may find that all it needs is an exterior refinish—in a color you prefer—to give it that “new car” feel. But you need to have the mechanical portion checked over before pouring money in this vehicle that you are considering trading. 

  •  Your signature is the most powerful item you will every own. Protect it! 

  • There is a forest full of papers to sign. Each state has different rules, but you will be required to sign the items of your particular state—or the state that you are purchasing the vehicle in. Read all the text of each one carefully. Do not go off someone’s interpretation of what they think or off what you to think is included in the text of each document. And having someone talk while you are reading—forget it! Tell them that you want time to read and ask them to talk to someone else in another room. You want to make sure you understand what you are signing.

  • You would rather have a silver crossover than that green minivan. You just really hate looking at the one-time red, but now pinkish blob that’s waiting for you at the end of each workday. Boy, what you wouldn’t give for a black sports car. Is it economically feasible to trade now, or should you wait for a better financial opportunity. In other words, what’s your car worth? How much can you get for your trade?

  •  A vehicle is one of the biggest investments that you will make in your lifetime. So why not treat it as such? The key is to get the most car for your cash. They say knowledge is power. And this includes knowing how to play the crazy games of the car sales industry. There is no time like the present, so let’s get started.

  • You just purchased either a new or used vehicle. Now is the time to start keeping your car or truck looking and running like the day you picked it up from the showroom.Remember, if you don’t like your vehicle, that’s when mechanical problems occur. Think about it. If it makes a little noise, that’s just something else you can “moan and groan” about. Well, that new noise is the beginning of a little something. And that little something can balloon into something larger if it isn’t addressed. (We call that a domino effect. And, yes, it happens on cars and trucks too.) That extra money you are going to spend on the bigger repair could have gone as a down payment on a newer used vehicle—or a new car or truck. Plus, the neglect just decreases your vehicle’s resale value. In other words, maintain your vehicle, because it will pay off in the end.​

  •  No matter how nice the present owner of the vehicle is or how much maintenance paperwork he provides—you need to have the vehicle checked out before you consider purchase. ​Don’t take it to the seller’s choice of a repair shop. Take it to your repair facility, or if you are out of town, to an ASE–Blue Seal shop. Just be sure to take the vehicle to someone not familiar with it. You want a fresh set of eyes checking out your new ride. Remember, you will be paying for this safety inspection, so remind the technician checking out your prospective vehicle that he is working for you, not for the owner of the vehicle. There are more times than I care to remember when the owner of a used vehicle has talked to me or another one of my technicians, trying to make us believe that his vehicle was in superior working order—and it was anything but...