Don’t be fast, furious when buying a car

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The key to avoiding legal issues with big ticket purchases is to remove emotion from the equation.

Let’s take a look at how this applies to a popular big ticket purchase among Soldiers: the automobile. Before you drop a chunk of change on that new tricked-out “whip,” remove the emotion from the equation; do the research! Go beyond looking at what kind of modifications you can add on, or whether the car comes in your favorite color. You can find more than just kitten videos and memes on the Internet; you can use the Internet to create a monthly budget, determine whether a car payment fits within your budget, how much you can expect to pay in associated costs like maintenance and insurance, as well as the best place to buy. The hours you spend researching could save you thousands of dollars.

The research process doesn’t end when you’ve decided which car to buy and whom to buy it from. Don’t overlook one of the most important parts of car buying: the purchase agreement. Yes, there are a lot of pages filled with terms you’re not familiar with and reading them makes you zone-out faster than when your platoon sergeant gives the same weekly safety brief. Yes, the shiny keys and even shinier ride will be yours once you sign that confusing document, but it is incredibly important to read the entire agreement before giving the salesman your signature.

This document details your obligations to the dealership and contains provisions that limit your ability to get out of a bad deal. If there are terms within the purchase agreement that you don’t completely understand, ask the salesman for a copy of the contract and make an appointment with an attorney at the Legal Assistance Office here. We can help translate the purchase agreement’s legal terms so you’ll know exactly how they affect you. Don’t let the salesman pressure you into making a decision on the spot; don’t forget that you are paying him, so take the time you need to make an informed decision.    

If you encounter problems after you’ve purchased the vehicle, again remember: remove emotion from the equation. It is really easy to become angry when you feel that you’ve been wronged. Instead of letting your frustration make things worse, channel your energy into productive action. Start to gather proof of what happened: videos, pictures, and contact information of anyone who witnessed the problem occur. Re-read your purchase agreement to see if it provides you with a way to fix the problem. Notify the dealership about the problem and then give them a chance to fix it. If the dealership refuses to help or gives you a solution that doesn’t sound right, make an appointment to see an attorney at the Legal Assistance Office. We will provide you with your legal options, as well as connect you to the appropriate agencies, to ensure that you’re fully maximizing your rights. Lastly, avoid the barrack’s lawyers; while they may be well meaning, what worked for “a friend of a buddy” may not apply to you.

If you have legal assistance questions, call the Fort Irwin Legal Assistance Office at 380-5321. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Thursdays, 1 to 4 p.m.). The Office is located in building 230.