My Advice on Buying a Vehicle

From time to time folks ask for my thoughts on buying vehicles.  What to buy….where to buy….how to prepare….what to say……what to sign (and not to sign)..and the list goes on.  I could talk for hours on this topic but none of you would want me to do so.  Trust me….a few notes and a little patience could save you a lot of headache.

Vehicle buying tips….before you buy!

Here is a quick outline of my thoughts on buying vehicles.  It has been developed based on my own personal buying experiences as well as talking with hundreds of people who purchased or leased vehicles.  Hope it serves you well and feel free to share with those in your social media and other spheres of influence.

Rule 1:  Buy new.  Sure you lose money on depreciation but you gain a full warranty and no issues regarding a past owner’s failure to maintain or repair the vehicle.  Additionally you should get all recall notices for the vehicle so long as you update your address with the manufacturer as appropriate.  And you get the benefit of the relevant lemon law statute(s).  I do not like the “new car smell” but it fades away after a while. If I have the money I am buying new as it saves the consumer quite a bit of headache down the road.

Rule 2:  If you cannot buy totally new, buy a demo.  This should probably be Rule 1a.  Often dealerships have vehicles that have a few hundred miles on them.  These demo (short for “demonstrator”) vehicles have never been titled to any owner but may have been used for test drives and/or errands by dealership personnel such that the vehicles have too many miles to qualify as a totally new vehicle  You may save a few hundred dollars on a demo; not much but every little bit may help.  If you are interested in a particular new vehicle on a dealer’s lot you should ask the dealer if there are any demos available for purchase.  Just be sure you are getting the benefit of the manufacturer’s original bumper-to-bumper warranty and you should be good to go.

Rule 3:  If not new or demo, look at a certified pre-owned vehicle.  CPO vehicles have usually passed some checklist or criteria with the manufacturer to qualify for the CPO status.  The criteria can vary with the manufacturer so it is always a good idea to get a copy of all checklists the dealer/manufacturer states the vehicle has been through (and presumably passed).  Buying CPO saves you money over buying new or demo but remember CPO vehicles are pre-owned so they have been driven by another owner (or other owners) and may have several thousand miles.  Be sure to get your own AutoCheck report on a CPO vehicle before buying it…and having a mechanic inspect it is never a bad idea either.  And do not fall prey to the myth that an auto dealer is required to advise you if the vehicle has any open recall items—the dealer has no such legal duty.  This investigation falls to you.  Click here to search for recall information on your potential vehicle.

Rule 4:  If you are not buying new or CPO, do your homework before making a purchase.  The vast majority of inquiries and calls I receive are from people who have bought or leased a used vehicle and have had problems–often major problems.  Too few of the potential clients I speak with have done the basic homework prior to deciding to buy or lease.  Running an AutoCheck report and having an experienced mechanic inspect the vehicle are more critical the older the vehicle. 

In closing, if you do not heed the above advice you are definitely taking your chances.  Not sure how many of you are gamblers but you should know that even professional gamblers try to understand and minimize the odds against them.  When looking at vehicles do not just listen to the dealer’s promises and accept all information at face value.  When contemplating spending several thousands of dollars often over several years doesn’t it make just a little sense to tread carefully and not blindly roll the dice?  Failure to do so could result in you rolling snake eyes—-and, trust me, this is not a good thing.


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