So you’ve just reported to your first duty station and you’re thinking you could use a set of wheels. Just make sure you’re not the one who gets rolled. There’s an army of car salesmen camped outside your base. And their mission is to capture a large piece of your paycheck and many paychecks to come. To navigate the minefield of car buying, keep these tips in mind:
1. Don’t Get Taken For a Ride
Many dealerships offer free rides to their locations but they don’t say anything about a ride back. If you accept a ride from the dealership, you may find yourself miles from base with no way to return. At best, you’ll be in for a long wait and a lot of pressure to “buy now.” You’re better off not accepting the ride at all. Borrow a car, take public transportation, or have a friend drive you instead.
2. Don’t Get Bitten by a Bird-Dog
So your “buddy” got a great deal at Dealership XYZ? And he wants you to check them out too. Well maybe he did get a great deal. But maybe part of that deal is a little extra cash for every new customer he brings in. That’s called bird-dogging and it’s illegal in most places. Friends can be good resources, but be wary of the so-called “friend” who is pushing just a bit too hard for you to buy a car from a certain dealer. He may be bird-dogging, and out to make a buck at your expense.
3. Read Before You Sign
It might sound obvious, but people under pressure make obvious mistakes. Like signing important financial paperwork without reading and understanding what they are signing. If you make that mistake, you could end up paying a lot more for that car than you expected. If you don’t understand the sales contract, talk it over with someone who does. Show it to a friend, a spouse, a family member, a financial counselor. But don’t rely on a car salesman to tell you what you are signing. Know what you are agreeing to before you sign.
To learn more, check out these other handy tips.