Buying a car? Remember five rules to prevent being taken for a ride.

October 04, 2006
By: Robert Silverman

Fall is an ideal time to consider buying a new car. Between the 2006 leftovers and the shiny new 2007 models, the selection is at its finest. But before you take that leap, remember five easy steps to prevent being taken for a ride:

1) KNOW YOUR NEEDS–Sure a fire-engine red convertible may be the ideal cure for a mid-life crisis, but not for the doting dad of three. Before you head out to the dealership for a test drive, figure out exactly what you need from your new car and create a list of the features that are most important to you. Are you frequently on the road for business? Perhaps, you need more trunk space.

Will you go crazy without a sunroof? How much leg room do you need? Are you looking for a coupe? a sedan? a station wagon? a minivan? Do you take long road trips?

You may want to check out the cars which receive the best mileage per gallon. If you live in an area known for its white winters, check out the vehicles with four-wheel drive. Once you can narrow your sights on the vehicles which best fit your lifestyle, you can zoom ahead to the next important step…..

2) RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH! It’s so important we have to say it three times. An educated consumer is an effective consumer. The internet offers some wonderful websites such as Edmunds and Vehix (site is no longer active), where you can compare vehicles side by side.

Our award-winning lemon law website (self promotion alert!) offers some very useful data from the Center for Auto Safety: The 2006 Car Complaint Index, which lists the cars that receive the most complaints per sales, and this year’s Best Buys, which take into account everything from mileage to warranty to customer satisfaction.

Plus, make sure you find out the MSRP (manufacturers suggested retail price)–in most situations, you should always pay below the MSRP. Soak up as much information as you can before setting your sites on that shiny new car. The knowledge you possess may be worth its weight in gold.

3) TRY IT BEFORE YOU BUY IT! As you enter the sun-soaked lot of shiny new vehicles, you see it–your dream car…there in the distance…you must have it…you talk with the dealer, you look over the car, you agree on the price…everything is moving along so smoothly…you are about the sign the paperwork and drive your dream car off into the sunset…STOP!!!

Before you sign on any dotted line, it is important to try out the car. Put the pedal to the metal and take that baby out on a decent test drive. Try to sample the car both in city and highway settings and also make sure you examine every feature. Turn the AC to full-blast and open the sunroof–even if you are in the middle of March.

Turn on the radio, press the horn, lock the doors, move the seats back–make sure everything is working perfectly and do not purchase the car if you find something wrong. This is your one chance to demand perfection. Do not settle for any IOUs.

4) UNDERSTAND YOUR WARRANTY. Every new car comes with a manufacturers warranty. Before you purchase your car, make sure you understand the terms of your warranty–how long does it last? what is covered?

Most manufacturers also offer an extended warranty on the powertrain components. Some even offer free maintenance, including oil changes and service. Know what is offered and take advantage of it. If your car is giving you problems and you are under a warranty, you will void that warranty if you go to the neighborhood mechanic or if you don’t change your oil. Plus, keep all of your records, because you will never know when you need to…

5) FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS! Here’s the bottom line–When you purchase a new car, it comes with a manufacturers warranty which is supposed to insure that problems are fixed efficiently and effectively.

But what happens when they are not? That’s why every state has a Lemon Law and in most states, these laws have fee-shifting provisions, providing consumers with completely free legal representation. We even have state specific pages to help you understand lemon laws. If you are having a problem, do yourself a favor and look into hiring a consumer attorney. Just make sure that they do not charge a retainer or take a percentage of your winnings.

Why would you represent yourself when you can someone experienced working with you to help you achieve your desired result? Lemon Law America provides a wonderful on-line resource to learn about your State’s Lemon Law and to connect with a consumer attorney in your state. If you do find yourself in a jam, this website will help you get back on the road to recovery. also offers a list of lemon law attorneys throughout the nation.

Well, there you have it….five easy steps to help you when you are looking for a new ride. Here’s wishing you safe driving in your new car!

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