Buying and Maintaining a Car
Buying a car – whether new or used – is one of the biggest purchases we make. It is important to take your time in deciding which car to buy and not be pressured by anyone who simply wants your money or your signature on a contract. Once you decide on the vehicle that best fits your needs and budget, shop around for the best price, know the vehicle’s history (if used), and be prepared to walk away from the deal if your questions are not being answered. Before you buy or lease a vehicle:
- Know the value of the vehicle by checking vehicle pricing guides, newspaper ads, the Internet, or by comparison shopping. Popular publications include the National Automobile Dealers Association’s (NADA) Guides, Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, and Consumer Reports. Some may charge for this information.
- Always read and understand your purchase contract. Carefully review the vehicle’s price, fees, and finance charges. Don’t sign anything you don’t understand.
- Make sure you understand the manufacturer’s warranty or any extended warranties offered by the dealer at extra cost. Because the cost of an extended warranty can be expensive, you should find out what it covers before you buy it.
- When getting a loan, compare interest rates. You may pay more money when a dealer obtains a loan on your behalf than if you go directly to a bank or lender.
- Protect yourself from fraud and unsafe used vehicles. The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) provides important information about a used vehicle’s history. You can obtain a NMVTIS report at www.vehiclehistory.gov. Licensed dealers selling used cars must have a NMVTIS report to show you.
- Understand the restrictions when buying an out of state vehicle: the car must be certified to meet California smog laws to be registered in California. See Buying an Out of State Vehicle on the California DMV website.
- Find out if a vehicle has a safety recall notice and whether it has been repaired by checking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Center for Auto Safety websites.
Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights
The Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights gives you certain protections when you buy a new or used vehicle from a licensed California dealer:
- Buyer Disclosures. No charges may be added to your contract without full disclosure and your consent. Dealers must give you an itemized price list for optional “add-on” items such as service contracts, insurance, anti-theft devices, or other products.
- Credit Score Disclosures. If you are obtaining financing from the dealer, the dealer must provide you with your credit score and a written explanation of how it is used.
- Limit on Markups. When a dealer obtains financing on your behalf, it sometimes adds a hidden markup to increase the interest rate on your loan. The law caps the amount of compensation a dealer can receive from the lender.
- Certified Used Cars. Used cars advertised as “certified” must meet specific requirements. Dealers must perform a complete vehicle inspection and