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Beware of the Add-Ons



Add-ons are optional products and services offered by the dealer, like Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) etching, and rustproofing. Often, add-ons can cost thousands of dollars and are mentioned only at the end of an already difficult and time-consuming day at the dealership. Other times, dealers may try to include these and other add-ons in your deal without ever discussing them with you, and without your knowledge or approval. You can usually buy the vehicle you want without any add-ons, and you can buy most add-ons from independent retailers.


If you want an add-on from the dealer, be sure that you ask how much you’re paying for each add-on and what you’ll receive. Be sure to get those answers in writing.


Get an Independent Inspection Before You Buy

  • A vehicle history report is not a substitute for an independent vehicle inspection. A vehicle history report may list accidents and flood damage, but typically it will not list mechanical problems. That’s why it’s always a good idea to pay for an independent mechanic to conduct a mechanical inspection of a used car. A mechanical inspection is a good idea even if the car has been “certified” and inspected by the dealer, and is being sold with a warranty or service contract. You’ll have to pay the inspection fee, but it can help you avoid paying for a car with major problems.

  • A mechanical inspection is different from a safety inspection. Safety inspections usually only focus on things that make a car unsafe to drive.
  • If the dealer won’t let you take the car off the lot, maybe because of insurance restrictions, you may be able to find a mobile inspection service that will go to the dealer. If that’s not an option, ask the dealer to bring the car for inspection at a facility you choose. If a dealer won’t allow an independent inspection, consider going to another dealer.
  • Ask the mechanic for a written report with a cost estimate for all necessary repairs. Be sure the report includes the car’s make, model, and VIN. If you decide to buy from the dealer after seeing the inspection’s results, you can use the estimated repair costs to negotiate the price of the car.

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