Commentary

July 3, 2014

Buy used cars with confidence

Staff Sgt. Rochelle L. Schwarz
U.S. Air Force Warfare Center Office of the Staff Judge Advocate

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — As we bustle into summer and permanent change of station season, please be wary of used car dealership scams. Scams can be difficult to identify and can finically impact an individual for several years. Below are helpful tips to avoid auto dealer fraud:

Research ahead of time. Always research the dealership and the vehicle ahead of time. In the end, researching will save you time and money. There are several resources available to ensure there are no undisclosed defects that may surface after purchasing a vehicle. While some of these services cost more, these up-front costs could save you hundreds of dollars on the back end.

Be skeptical of “as is.” Purchasing a vehicle “as is” means the buyer agrees to purchase the vehicle in its current condition, regardless of any defects. Typically a dealership sells a car “as is” when the dealer bought the car at auction and cannot warranty against any defects. Further, buyers should never purchase a car without reviewing the vehicle’s title first. A vehicle’s title shows legal proof who the rightful owner of the vehicle is, and a dealer will never have a valid reason to withhold title documents from a buyer. It is extremely crucial to complete all sales and financing paperwork before leaving the dealership with the vehicle. Finally, request copies of all documents signed prior to leaving the dealership.

1st Lt. John M. Cane, U.S. Air Warfare Center chief of legal assistance, stated, “If you are unclear about the terms or services offered in the contract, please come see someone in [the Legal] office or speak to a knowledgeable person about this subject.”

Never agree to additional, unwanted services or warranties. Extended warranties can be beneficial, but some warranties are not required when purchasing a used car. Be very cautious of statements by car salesman obligating a buyer to purchase extra services that are normally optional, and never agree to additional services or fees unless you believe they are necessary to enjoy the new vehicle.

High interest rates. It is extremely important to educate yourself about financing when you are shopping for a car. You must understand, the loan is another product the dealership is trying to sell. Don’t be fooled into thinking they are doing you any favors so that you can drive off in a new car. Car loan terms have recently increased to as much as five or even six years because people think a lower monthly payment is a good thing. Watch out for 72 or 84 month loans; you will pay too much interest. You can often get better interest rates from different lending sources before you walk into the dealership.

Beware of guaranteed auto protection insurance. GAP insurance covers the difference between the actual cash value of a vehicle and the balance still owed on the financing. GAP insurance is voluntary and it is illegal for a dealership to force a buyer to purchase.

Personal identifying information. Credit checks are essential to purchasing a vehicle if the buyer chooses to finance through the dealership, but a salesman has no right to run a credit check if the buyer chooses to finance elsewhere. It is very rare that a dealership can offer a buyer a better interest rate than a credit union or bank. Only release sensitive financial information when necessary to complete the purchase. Typically, the average interest rate for a used car is less than eight percent so keep that in mind when shopping for interest rates.

Don’t be afraid to say “no” and walk away. Buyers always have the right to say “no” and walk away. By using this simple tactic, a salesman may drop the price or include incentives to close the deal. Be wary of the classic salesman’s pitch, “today only;” the deal will likely still be there when the buyer returns the next day after thoroughly doing research on the vehicle.

Advance fee loans. Advance fee loan scams prey on consumers who may be under financial duress and may be seeking quick and easy loan approval and funding. The scam typically involves the lender making false promises to arrange for a loan in return for fees paid upfront by the loan applicant. Normally people with bad credit are targeted. The scam starts with “bad credit no problem,” loans available by applying online or calling [a telephone number].” The consumer is told they are qualified, but must send a fee to process the application; pay a security deposit; pay for insurance; etc. Protect yourself and thoroughly investigate loan offers.

Nevada buyer law. Buyer beware: Nevada has a no return policy or grace period on used vehicle sales, so be sure to read the contracts and agreements carefully before signing. Do not sign a contract or document with blank spaces in it.

1st Lt. Cane added, “We have seen an increase in used car scams and unfortunately our office can offer limited assistance as consumers have very few options once they drive off the lot.”

If you have any further questions, contact the Nellis Legal office at (702) 652-5407.




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