16 Red Flags You’re About to Fall for a Terrible Car Deal
Learn the warning signs that should make you slam on the brakes before you make that big purchase.
The seller is rushing you
“Car salesmen use pressure tactics like making you think you’re going to lose out on the car because of another buyer or they start throwing a lot of last-minute information at you to encourage you to act fast. These high-pressure tactics are usually salesman specific. Your best option is to just walk out of the dealer and go somewhere else. Never get pushed to make up your mind under time pressure.”—Lou Haverty, Financial Analyst Insider
They won’t give you a Carfax report
“A viable dealership or private seller has nothing to hide, and will often provide a Carfax history report when they know a buyer is serious about a purchase. If they don’t provide a report, I strongly suggest the buyer walk away. No one wants a lemon or previously totaled vehicle.” —Alex Lauderdale, EducatedDriver.org. Learn these 34 car-buying secrets dealers know but you don’t.
There are CAPA stickers on it
“The most common way to grossly overpay at a used car dealership is to pay good money for a vehicle that’s in bad shape. Look out for a CAPA sticker applied to any part of the vehicle. CAPA stands for Certified Automotive Parts Association, and it means that the labeled part was replaced as a result of collision repair. Vehicles involved in collisions are more likely to develop any number of automotive issues even years after the collision took place.” —Jim Milan, Communications & Organic Search Manager, Auto Accessories Garage
Your test drive feels stiff
“When you test drive a used car, pay close attention to how it feels when the vehicle changes gears and how the power steering feels. While you can attribute a wide range of differences between makes and models, if the shifting or steering feels stubborn or unreliable, the car you’re driving likely has serious issues that will only get worse.” —Jim Milan, Communications & Organic Search Manager, Auto Accessories Garage
They keep changing the offer
“After you decide on a car, some dealers will throw a bunch of new features and options at you without giving you the proper time to consider whether you need them. The easiest way to avoid this is to use a service like AAA. AAA’s car buying service allows you to pick out your car and features in advance and receive a firm price. If you print out the form, the dealer is obligated to honor the quoted price. I used this service to purchase my last car and it was very easy and hassle-free. The AAA rate is usually lower than the dealer’s starting rate, too.” —Lou Haverty, Financial Analyst Insider. Check out the best car deals for under $18,000.
They tell you to ignore the check engine light
“One of the most bald-faced lies a used car salesman will tell customers is that the check engine light is malfunctioning and it isn’t a big deal. The check engine light is a valuable tool that tells drivers when something is wrong under the hood. When a car really starts to fall apart, it will be difficult to keep the check engine light off. It is rare for a check engine light to routinely malfunction, and even if it does malfunction, it really needs to be fixed. If a salesman ever tells you the check engine light is malfunctioning and not to worry—run!” —Jim Milan, Communications & Organic Search Manager, Auto Accessories Garage. Check out these 74 car maintenance tips that will save you money.
You see signs of rust and gunk
“Always check underneath the car for signs of rust—this can be a big indicator that the car has been overused and could bring trouble in the future. Also check for gunk around the oil filler and the transmission oil—gunk can be an indicator that something is wrong or something will be wrong soon.” —Adriana Raigosa, owner of Raigosa Auto Sales in Greenville, South Carolina.
They’re pushing extended warranties
“Dealerships will often try to push bolt-on items at the end of what you thought to be a great deal on your new or used car purchase. These add-on products come in the form of extended warranties, car service agreements, undercoats, fabric protectant, gap insurance, etc. Listen, we live in a time where one can easily get 200,000 miles out of a car if it is properly maintained. The cost vs. use of these extra items is often one-sided in the dealer’s favor.” —Alex Lauderdale, EducatedDriver.org. Use these simple tricks to outsmart car salespeople.
They’re negotiating your monthly payment, not the sale price
“It should be a red flag if the salesman is more concerned about the monthly payment instead of the price of the car. The price of the car can be too much but the customer doesn’t realize it because the customer is focused on an affordable payment.” —Adriana Raigosa, owner of Raigosa Auto Sales in Greenville, South Carolina.
The price is out of whack with the market
“One sign that you’re getting a bad deal is if the price is significantly different from the car’s Fair Market Value as indicated by Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book. If you’re having any doubts about the reputation of the dealer, contact the local Better Business Bureau.” —Roslyn Lash, RoslynLash.com, financial consultant. Keep these items in your car to be insanely more productive.