How Not to Get Ripped Off When Buying a Car

Research vehicle information and pricing to avoid getting ripped off in a car purchase. Arrange your financing before you shop to avoid spending more money than necessary on interest rate charges. Even if you get a good price on your car, don't waste money on buying unnecessary aftermarket items.

Vehicle Information

Research information on all cars you’re considering. If shopping for a new car, the manufacturer's website offers detailed specifications and options for all models. Use manufacturer websites to learn about new vehicles, or, the Kelley Blue Book website or MSN Autos to find out more about used cars. Avoid purchasing more of a vehicle than you need by learning about various models, standard options and optional features. You may find that some options, such as a sunroof or cruise control, are available in lower-level models despite only seeing "top of the line" models at a dealership.

Vehicle Pricing

The same vehicle information websites offer pricing information. If you're shopping for a new car, many manufacturers allow you to virtually build the vehicle you want with the options or features you desire. Build a new vehicle online before visiting a dealership so you know the car's actual MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price). This way, you can avoid paying for extra and unnecessary add-ons. For used cars, research pricing thoroughly to ensure you're not paying too much. You can view many dealer inventories online, which allows you to find competitive pricing for the car you want.


New car manufacturers advertise special financing online at their websites. Review rate offers before applying for a loan. If you can obtain low-rate financing for a vehicle from the manufacturer, you don't need to pursue financing outside of the dealership. For used or new cars without rate offers, shop around to find a good offer. Apply for a preapproval to save money if shopping at a dealer. Dealers can mark up interest rates to make a profit, so have a preapproval in hand before purchasing. This way, you'll have other options if the dealer's rate is too high.

Other Costs

Determine which purchase fees are valid and which are not. Dealerships charge state required taxes and fees for registration, inspections and title applications. Dealers also charge a document fee, which is often nonnegotiable. If purchasing a new car, beware of a dealer-added addendum sticker, which is often posted next to the new car's window sticker listing extra items and fees. Do not pay for options you don't need, such as an appearance package or pin striping. Watch for bogus fees, such as a dealer marketing fee.