Milwaukee, Wis. – National Public Radio (NPR) recently interviewed multiple car buyers who experienced the “yo-yo” – when a car buyer signs papers and takes the car off the lot, only to have the dealership announce later that the financing fell through, the deal is invalid, and the car must be returned or refinanced at a different rate. By this point, the buyers may have sold or traded in their previous vehicle, causing them to feel trapped.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) collected public comment in 2022 on a new trade regulation rule for motor vehicle dealers that would prohibit dealers from certain deceptive practices related to financing and add-on products. The public comments are being reviewed.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is dedicated to helping preserve “an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers trust each other” (BBB Mission and Vision). BBB strives to support best practices, and its BBB Accredited Businesses must adhere to the BBB Standards for Trust.
The FTC and the BBB want consumers to have a smooth, honest, safe transaction when making a major purchase, such as that of a new vehicle.
Here are some tips to help you with your car-buying decision:
- Do your research. Check if the dealer is BBB Accredited and read the dealership reviews. Before you go, you should know the make and model you want and if you want a used or a new car. Be sure to check state and province laws before making a final decision.
- Determine financing options. Decide how you plan to finance the car. Before arriving at the dealership, consider looking online at the best deals to stay on a budget that works for you. Ask about their leasing policies to see if they are a good fit. If you decide to do preapprovals, the FTC advises doing only a few since your credit will be pulled each time. If you decide to do online preapprovals, be aware of online safety and ensure that the website is secure (https:// instead of http://)
- Visit the dealership. Look at the car before you make a purchase. Visit the dealership in person to see the vehicle and even take the car for a test drive. Check for any exterior or interior damage that may not have been disclosed. Ask about the history of the car: has it been used? How many owners does the car have? Has it been in any accidents? It’s important that you are comfortable with your chosen make and model before driving off the lot.
- Negotiate the best rate. Ask questions regarding warranties, trade-ins, service contracts, and other add-on services. Ensure you have a clear understanding of your deal before you sign. If a dealer attempts a yo-yo situation, ask the dealer if they can work with you versus returning the car or paying a higher rate.
- Use secure payment methods. Payment methods such as peer-to-peer payment apps or gift cards are not the most secure since payments cannot be returned. Consider using a credit card that offers protection if you need a refund.
- Be on the lookout for red flags. Always use payment methods that offer security in case of a return. Never do handshake deals; get documentation of everything to ensure that your purchase is official. Do not be afraid to walk away if you don’t feel comfortable; you do not have to do business with a shady dealer.
- Got a lemon? If you do purchase and feel you have a “lemon” or need to make resolve a dispute, contact BBB AUTOLINE.
Purchasing a car is a big decision that can come with many uncertainties. Reviewing tips from the FTC and BBB can help you with your car-buying process. Practice smart shopping both online and in-person, and always look for businesses that follow BBB Accreditation Standards and BBB Standards for Trust.
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For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2021, people turned to BBB more than 200 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 25,000 charities, all available for free at BBB.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Wisconsin which was founded in 1939 and serves the state of Wisconsin.