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Car Buying Process: Tips to Avoid Traps

When you first see your new car it is exciting!  With its paint gleaming, alloy wheels shining and an alluring fragrance wafting from the interior – it can be intoxicating.  So much so that it’s easy to drop your guard and miss vital clues alerting you to potential problems that could turn your dream into a nightmare.

When buyers set out to buy a new or used car, most approach it with the caution needed for such a large and important purchase.  We do our research, select the car that best suits our needs and then hammer out the best deal we can.

But too often buyers abandon caution once they have signed the contract.  It’s important to think of the delivery day as the final phase of the purchase process.  The deal isn’t complete until you’re completely satisfied with the car as it’s presented to you.  There is plenty that can go wrong before the car is handed over, and there is plenty of room for negotiation, so it’s important to maintain your vigilance to the very end.

Here are some tips to make sure your new or used car purchase goes smoothly:

Get it in writing

Before you sign the contract read it carefully and make sure it includes everything the sales person said that they would throw in as a sweetener to close the deal.  Sales people offer extras such as floor mats, headlamp covers, alloy wheels, extended warranties and so forth to seal the deal, so make sure they are written into the contract before you sign it.  That way you have a comeback if you find they’re not fitted when you pick up your car.

Book in

Don’t rush down to the car yard as soon as the salesman phones you to tell you that your car is ready.  Make an appointment so that you know you will have their full attention.  Avoid the times of the day when you think they may be busy or distracted.  Definitely don’t go at the end of the working day because they’ll try to rush you  and push you out the door.

Go for a spin

As much as you want to drive your new car, resist the temptation until you’ve thoroughly inspected it both inside and out.  Look for minor dings and scratches that weren’t there before and any sign of repairs and touch-ups, such as color mis-matches and overspray.

On the inside look for tears in the trim and greasy stains on the seats or carpets. 

Upon first start-up take note of any squeaks, rattles, vibrations or any unusual mechanical noises that may need to be fixed.

Get expert help

If you’re not confident you can identify any problems, take along an expert.  A trusted mechanic could help you out, or get an independent auto body representative to check the car out for you.  This should give you the confidence that you’re not going to end up with a lemon.  At the very least take along a friend or family member who is not as emotionally involved in the purchase as you are.

When was it built

Make sure the build date on the identification plate corresponds to the date on the car’s papers.  Ensure that the date is what the sales person quoted to you.  Otherwise if it is an older vehicle than you were led to believe then you may get less at resale.

The Manager

Once you’ve taken delivery of your car you will be dealing with the service manager, not the sales person.  So make sure you meet them at the time of pick-up/delivery to discuss servicing requirements.  Check on the timing of the first service and on any special procedures you may have to follow.  It is always best to establish some sort of relationship with the service manager because that is the person you’ll be dealing with if something goes wrong – or even if it doesn’t.

Warranty

Always review the warranty cover for your new purchase.  Thoroughly familiarize yourself with it.  Make a note of anything you feel isn’t right with the car when you first notice it.  Then don’t leave it until the warranty is about to expire before you bring the problems to the attention of the sales person or service manager.  Contact them straight away to try to have the problems rectified immediately.

Also, when the warranty is coming to an end consider getting an independent expert evaluation so any potential problems can be documented before the warranty runs out.

The overriding message for delivery day is simple: use caution and take your time when you go to collect your new car.  That way you’ll minimize your chances of being stuck with a lemon as well as being able to relax and enjoy your new toy.

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