Buy Buy Buy! But Be Careful.

July 25, 2009
By: Robert Silverman

No, we are not talking about that ridiculous boy band song.  We are saying that if you have some money in your pocket, now is the time to consider buying a new set of wheels. The incentives are very attractive, there are many dealers out there who are hungry to make a great deal with you, the cash for clunkers program is in effect, and there are still plenty of 2009 models out there for the picking.  Heck, you can even consider a certified pre-owned car, but as we have repeatedly reminded you, if you buy a used car, please make sure it has a manufacturers warranty.

Just remember the five golden rules you need to keep in mind when aiming to buy your next auto:

KNOW YOUR NEEDS.  Identify what you need a car for.  Is it to get to work an hour away and use as little gas as possible?  Consider a hybrid.  Is it to taxi your brood of children from soccer games to ballet to Chuck E Cheese and then back to ballet because you daughter forgot her slippers? You may want to consider a minivan or crossover.  Figure out your daily schedule and that will help you narrow down the search immensely.

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH.  It’s so important we say it three times.  The internet provides so many incredible opportunities to gather information about cars.  There are reviews on such sites as (edit: site no longer exists), where you can even put together a side-by-side comparison.  There is a complaint and defect database at the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) website. Every manufacturer from Kia to Jaguar has a comprehensive website where you can examine a model inside and out, review its features and its pricing.  Plus, there are so many automotive forums out there, the king being at And lastly, don’t forget about our car complaint index and best bets, furnished by consumer advocate Jack Gillis and the good people at the Center for Auto Safety. Before you drive to the dealer, take a trip down the information superhighway and learn everything you can about the car you are looking at. Remember, an educated consumer is an effective consumer.  (And if you do have a gas guzzler you are thinking of trading in, read up on the Cash For Clunkers program before going to the dealer.  Don’t rely on the salesman to give you the most accurate information.  Know your stuff beforehand and correct him if necessary.)

TRY IT BEFORE YOU BUY IT.  And we are not talking about a car like the one you are planning to buy; we are talking about the EXACT car you are buying.  BEFORE you sign on the dotted line, take the car out for a long test drive and go through every single feature from the air conditioner to the trunk release.  Make sure you ask every question and if something is not working, tell them to fix it NOW.  Never settle for an IOU.  This is your one chance to demand satisfaction.  Take advantage of the opportunity. 

UNDERSTAND YOUR WARRANTY.  Every warranty is different.  You need to know the terms of the warranty and what it covers.  Is it cheaper to buy an extended manufacturers warranty when you first buy the car or can you purchase it later?  If this is a used car, is it covered by the company who is manufacturing your car? (We get so many folks calling the 1-800 LEMON LAW hotline who are driving a used Toyota with a Kia warranty. Make sure if you are driving a Toyota, you have a Toyota warranty.)  Are there deductibles?  Is it bumper-to-bumper or does it just cover the power-train components?  Is roadside assistance offered?  Are loaner cars provided?  The warranty is your insurance that if something goes wrong with this car, and chances are it will at least once, you are covered.  Which bring us to…..

FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS.  If something continues to go wrong with your car, or the car is in the shop for an extended period of time, contact a lemon law attorney to find out about your rights.  The State and Federal Laws are on your side and help you go against the billion-dollar automobile manufacturers. Remember, the legal help is completely free, so take advantage of it.

Now, without further ado, get your motor running, head out on the highway, and good luck!

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