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General Car Tips

Whether you are buying or leasing a vehicle, these tips will help you get the best deal and avoid problems.

  • Decide what kind of vehicle best suits your needs and budget. Read our tips for choosing a safe vehicle. To compare models and get car buying tips, visit Edmunds.com or InternetAutoGuide.com.
  • Consider fuel economy. A vehicle that gets more miles per gallon is good for your wallet as well as for the environment.
  • Check out the seller. For car dealers, check with your local consumer protection office and Better Business Bureau. If you're buying from an individual, check the title to make sure you're dealing with the vehicle owner.
  • Take a test drive. Drive at different speeds and check for smooth right and left turns. On a straight stretch, make sure the vehicle doesn't pull to one side.
  • Handle trade-ins and financing separately from your purchase to get the best deal on each. Get a written price quote before you talk about a trade-in or dealer financing.
  • Shop in advance for the best finance deal at your credit union, bank or finance company. Look at the total finance charges and the Annual Percentage Rate (APR), not just the monthly payment.
  • Read and understand every document you are asked to sign.
  • Don't take possession of the car until all paperwork is final.
  • Choose an auto insurance policy that is right for you.

Vehicle Financing

Most car buyers today need some form of financing to purchase a new vehicle. Many use direct lending, that is, a loan from a finance company, bank, or credit union. In direct lending, a buyer agrees to pay the amount financed, plus an agreed-upon finance charge, over a specified period. Once a buyer and a vehicle dealership enter into a contract to purchase a vehicle, the buyer uses the loan proceeds from the direct lender to pay the dealership for the vehicle.

Another common form is dealership financing, which offers convenience, financing options, and sometimes special, manufacturer-sponsored, low-rate deals. Before you make a financing decision, it’s important to do your research:

  • Decide in advance how much you can afford to spend and stick to your limit.
  • Get a copy of your credit report and correct any errors before applying for a loan.
  • Check buying guides to identify price ranges and best available deals.

The Federal Trade Commission has more information about vehicle financing, deciding what you can afford, and consumer protections. If you need to file a complaint about your auto loan, contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.