BBB Tip of the Week: Buying a new or used car

SUNDAY, SEPT. 8, 2013

The purchase of a new or used car can be expensive and time-consuming. The Washington state Attorney General’s Office reported more than 1,000 car-buying complaints made to its office last year. Nationwide the BBB received more than 27,000 complaints about new car dealerships.

The following tips will help you get the most out of buying a car:

• Research the car that’s best for you, including monthly car payments, gas, insurance and maintenance.

• Research the price range and have this number ready when visiting the dealer or seller. If you aren’t getting a fair price, don’t hesitate to walk away.

• Research the car dealership at

• Watch out for aggressive or deceptive sales tactics. For example, a salesperson cannot hold your car keys or driver’s license hostage when checking on trade-in value.

• Only a signed final contract is binding. When negotiated items are not put in writing, don’t sign the contract.

• Know your finance options. Leases and loans vary widely. Examine the terms of any lease. Research loan rates and terms from banks and credit unions before agreeing to a dealership loan.

• Understand the manufacturer’s warranty, if one exists. Examine any service contract before you purchase one.

• Never buy a car without seeing it in person. Online scam artists have been known to mimic legitimate dealer websites to steal your money and personal and financial information.

• When buying a new car, you are protected by the Washington State Motor Vehicle Lemon Law. For more information visit LemonLaw/default.aspx.

Recently, the Attorney General’s Office has reported that flood-damaged vehicles are being sold in Washington. Some issues with these vehicles include mold, mildew and corroded wiring that can cause electrical failure and even fire. When buying a used car, consider these additional tips:

• Check on the car’s history at and using the car’s VIN number.

• Have a mechanic inspect the vehicle.

For more tips you can trust or to file a complaint, contact the BBB at or by calling 509-455-4200.

Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor

Click here to comment on this story »