Buying a new car? Clark Howard says to make sure you read the fine print or it could cost you

DAYTON — Buying a car is one of the biggest purchases most of us will make. The process can be confusing and intimidating.

News Center 7′s Consumer Advisor Clark Howard is warning about some of the biggest mistakes buyers make.

There’s great news on the car front because the number of cars for sale and the prices of them are getting better and better for the consumer. But you can turn a good thing into a bad thing if you don’t read the paperwork.

When you are in the market for a new car, the pitfalls are hard to avoid such as interest rates, payments, test drives, warranties, and credit checks.

Car buyer complaints are one of the most common the Clark Howard Tip Line gets. Lori Silverman who works for Clark’s Consumer Action Center said, “So one of the biggest calls we do get is about cars.”

Charles Winans is a consumer whose wife bought her very first brand-new vehicle, which was a Hyundai Santa Fe last year. He said, “She was having a good time there and they were fostering a lot of that, and to the end, where they got her to sign at the bottom of the sales agreement.”

The window sticker touted a $1,495 protection plan add-on, including a $500 deductible reimbursement if an accident occurred in the first year, which it did. “They said that we didn’t qualify,” Winana said.

When he took a closer look at the contract his wife signed, he noticed an extra $2000 tacked onto the sales agreement above the window sticker price. “I guess it could have been a seven and she might have noticed that. She was more interested in the add-on,” Winans said.

Howard said his team reached out to the dealership. They called the Winans’ and told them they would reimburse the $500.

Edward Smith who is a Federal Trade Commission attorney said, “The protections that exist are to make sure that there is, you know, transparency and pricing to match.”

Smith said the proposed combating auto retail scams or CARS rules aims to strengthen those protections for consumers like the Winans.

“What this rule does is it protects consumers from bait and switch tactics, and it protects consumers against hidden junk fees,” Smith said.

The FTC estimates the CARS rule will save consumers $3.4 billion each year. The rule is facing legal challenges from the auto industry, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself:

• Get financing before you set foot on a dealership lot.

• If you are buying a used vehicle, take it to a mechanic and have it looked at before you buy.

• Tale someone with you to the dealership and make sure you understand what you are signing.

• Don’t feel pressured to buy.

“If somebody is pressuring you to buy something, take a pause and you can walk away. Trust me, it will be there when you come back,” Silverman said.

The more you know, the better you’re going to do and the more you check prices at different dealers, the more your wallet is going to love you.

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