Smart Spending

How To Not Get Ripped Off When You Buy a Car

Allison Martin
Written by Allison Martin

If only you could walk on the car lot, select the car of your dreams, hand over the check and drive-off in minutes.

Wishful thinking.

The reality is that buying a car, whether new or used, can be tedious. But don’t fret. We’ve got you covered with some tips that will streamline the process.

Research a Car

Once you’ve crunched the numbers, decided on the year, make, and model, and located the exact car you’d like to purchase, it’s time to do some major legwork. But before moving forward, be mindful that the research conducted for new and used cars may vary a bit.

How so? Well, what you see is pretty much what you get with used cars. However, buying new will afford you the opportunity to customize your ride. This could be anything from selecting a more sleek body style to requesting a specific paint color or entertainment gadget.

How to Rate Your Top Selection

Whether you buy new or used, it’s pertinent that you evaluate the following components of any vehicle you’re considering:

  • Exterior features, including the body, hauling capacity, doors, windows, glass, lights, wheels and tires
  • Interior features, including the seats, headliner, cooling and heating system, and all the bells and whistles
  • Under the hood, including the type of transmission, engine, drive, fluid levels, belts, leaks and safety features
  • The manufacturer’s reputation, based on reviews from industry experts and consumers.
  • Gas mileage, and how it stacks up to that of its competitors
  • Service records from the owner and vehicle history report.

For a comprehensive checklist, see 21 Things to Look for When Buying a Car. Lastly, don’t forget to test drive the car.

Which Sites Rate Cars Best?

You wouldn’t purchase any big-ticket item without doing a little digging, so don’t be inclined to take the seller’s word for it. Instead, have a professional vehicle inspection (like mentioned above) and retrieve a vehicle history report. According to Edmunds, AutoCheck and CarFax are your best options.

About the author

Allison Martin

Allison Martin

Allison Martin is a digital content strategist and personal finance junkie. Her work has appeared on on a number of reputable sites, including The Wall Street Journal, Investopedia, Daily Finance, MSN Money and She also travels around the nation facilitating financial literacy workshops for nonprofits, governmental organizations, colleges and universities.

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