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Many of us depend on our cars — for work, errands, shuttling kids, and visiting loved ones. Maybe we love the freedom and convenience cars give us — but many of us find the car-buying process frustrating because of sales and financing practices. 

Yesterday, The Federal Trade Commission released two reports highlighting some of the challenges people face while buying and financing cars — especially when it comes to charges for add-on items after price negotiations, which can lead people to pay more than expected. 

If you’re thinking about buying a car, here are some steps to increase your chances of buying only what you need, while avoiding the pitfalls. 

Before you shop for a car, shop for financing. You don’t have to finance the purchase through the dealer. Check with banks, credit unions, and finance companies first. Then take your best financing offers to the dealer. You can still negotiate and see if the dealer makes a better offer. 


Discuss the “out-the-door” price of the car before you talk financing with the dealer. That means the total price, before financing, including taxes and fees. Don’t get distracted by discussions of the monthly payment first, without considering the “out the door” price.


It’s ok to say no to add-ons, or at least ask the price. Add-ons are not free. They’re extra things you buy and finance along with the car. Common add-ons include gap policies, window etching, extended warranties, and service contracts. Ask the dealer to list the price of any proposed add-on. If you’re financing, you’ll want to know how much it costs each month and over the life of the loan. Ask about any limits or conditions the add-ons may have — they might not cover what you expected. If you don’t want or need it, say no.


Review the terms before you sign for the purchase and financing. Don’t be rushed. Ask the dealer to slow down, especially if they’re moving quickly and using an electronic process like an iPad or tablet to show you the agreement. Tell them you want to see the terms clearly before you agree. 


Before you head to the dealership, read the BCP report, learn about buying and owning a car, and check out this video to understand more about add-ons.

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July 31, 2020
This is why I refuse to buy a new car. I would gladly get a new model with some of the features I would really like---but I will NOT put myself through this torture---not one more time in my life. It is absolutely one of the worst experiences of my life. In the end these negatives really do effect car buying. But I have known several car dealership people over my lifetime who are extremely wealthy, so clearly there is a lot of money being made no matter what they try to tell you.
August 03, 2020
Much needed information , I’ll past this information onto social media networks Thank you
July 31, 2020
July 31, 2020
This needs to be extended to the truck and RV purchases. We are all in this, not just cars.
July 31, 2020
I just wonder why the cost of vehicles seems to have more than doubled in the last 10 or so years. I know the cost of EVERYTHING has gone up but SERIOUSLY? $75,000 for something to drive! Just sayin' .
Don't uMac.pse…
July 31, 2020
Good advice
Car Buyer
July 31, 2020
It’s quite frustrating to buy a car these days. The game’s dealership play to get you to buy extras. Not to mention the non disclosures. I purchased a used car in SoCal and there is a crack on the windshield which we discovered immediately after getting on the road departing from the dealership and they refused to replace the windshield siting I got a good deal.
Calamity John
July 31, 2020
Re the warranties: IMO, extended auto warranties are generally a waste of money. Take reasonable care of your vehicle & put the unpurchased warranty money into a savings acct. to use for any out-of-the-ordinary expensive repairs. If you follow your car's recommended maintenance routine, you'll probably never have to tap into the acct.
Disappointed Buyer
August 01, 2020
I bought a new car last year and was swindled by the Ford dealer I got it from. The dealer changed the sales price on the closing document and ripped me off for $2,000. I didn't catch it because I didn't have my reading glasses with me and I didn't think they would be so dishonest. When I went back the following day I met another victim at the reception area who also bought a car the night before and they had changed the sales price on him as well. When I finally met with the sales manager and the salesman they had the nerve to dismiss me by saying, "you signed the document". I said, yes I signed it because I trusted you. What a mistake that was. When I contacted Ford they told me that the dealer is a private business and they couldn't help me. I was robbed, swindled and hoodwinked. Car dealers will rob you blind if they think they can get away with it.
FTC Staff
August 03, 2020

In reply to by Disappointed Buyer

You can report that to the FTC at The information you give goes into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigation. You can also report to your state attorney general. Find your attorney general on this page.

August 02, 2020
My new car is a lease and it came without a spare tire. The dealership states that cars no longer come with a spare tire; even if it is a lease. Is this a new law?