Everyone knows about the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, but few car shoppers realize they have rights, too.
Some of these rights are written into various state and federal laws. Others just come under the heading of good old-fashioned customer service. At Edmunds.com, we think it's important to know your rights and to exercise them.
And so, with a respectful nod to the founding fathers, we are setting out our Car Buyer's Bill of Rights. If you make the effort to know these rights and then exercise them when necessary, you will take control of your car-buying experience.
1. You have the right to a car-buying experience that's free of game-playing, delays, misrepresentation and other forms of cruel and unusual punishment.
Car buying should be fun and exciting. It shouldn't be — as people so often say — like getting a root canal. There are honest, hard-working salespeople and straight-up dealerships out there. Find them, and the process will be painless and maybe even pleasurable.
You can bring printouts of TMV information with you to a dealership or use the Edmunds.com mobile phone app for the iPhone and Android systems. Pricing information is the bedrock of a good deal. Use TMV as a guideline, and our other tools to research your car selection. To save time and hassle, use Price Promise to connect with dealers that have agreed to provide you with an upfront price on a specific car you want.
3. You have the right to change your salesperson if you don't feel you are being treated right, or even if you just don't think you are on the same page.
If you are shopping the old-school way (walking onto the car lot cold) and don't like your sales representative for any reason, you are free to either just leave or ask to see the sales manager and request a different salesperson. If you feel uncomfortable or pressured in the beginning of the process, it will only get worse as the deal progresses.
You might never have to invoke this right if you do your initial car shopping via the Internet. With this strategy, the only face-to-face interaction with a salesperson would be during the test-drive. You can do the rest of the transaction via the phone and Internet and have the car delivered to you.
4. You have the right to avoid search and seizure of your credit report and other personal information.
It's reasonable for the salesperson to ask a car buyer for a driver license before a test-drive. But demanding your approval to run a credit report before the test-drive, or to run a credit report without the buyer's consent is an infringement of this important right. Don't let it happen.
5. You have the right to remain silent when asked, "What do you want your monthly payment to be?"
The monthly-payment question is designed to lead to a kind of self-incrimination. Agreeing to negotiate based on the monthly payment obscures the true price of the car and can even open the door to a "packed" payment. This is the practice of adding the amortized cost of a product or service (paint protection or an extended warranty, for example) to the monthly payment without disclosing it up front. Instead of having to worry about this, get pre-approved financing and negotiate as a cash buyer.
6. When you make an opening offer to buy a car at a discounted price, you have the right to a speedy answer without hearing this phrase: "I'll have to run this by my manager."
Avoid the time-wasting, game-playing and back-and-forth still used by some dealerships. Let the salesman know your time is valuable and that you expect an answer in a timely fashion. Better yet, solicit online car-price quotes or use Price Promise and make a deal from your couch, not the sales office.
7. You have the right to take possession of your car quickly, without long delays in the delivery process.
Once you say yes to a car deal, you shouldn't have to wait hours to get your new car. If you've shopped by phone or the Internet, ask to have the car delivered to your home or office. If you want to go to the dealership to pick up your car, make sure they have all the paperwork ready before you go there.
8. You have the right to buy a car without the imposition of excessive fees. And in all cases, you shall not be required to buy add-ons that you don't want.
Sometimes, dealerships impose questionable fees or add equipment to cars that you might not be interested in buying. Ensure that none of these additional fees have been added to the sales contract. And only buy reasonably priced add-ons that you really want.
9. You have the right to get the full value of your trade-in vehicle.
Dealers know that there is great value in used cars, yet they sometimes undervalue the trade-ins and feign a lack of interest in them. A giveaway phrase is this: "We don't even really want your car. We're just going to ship it to the auction." Check the TMV trade-in price and consider other selling options to help get the full value of your used car.
10. You absolutely have the right to "think it over" or talk to your significant other about the deal on the table without being insulted, pressured or belittled.
Some sales managers badger their salespeople, urging them to convince customers to "buy today." And there are salespeople who obediently learn the lines that are supposed to overcome buyer objections. But for you, the buyer, it really is often best to sleep on a deal before signing that contract. (And know that if you do sign it, you will most likely not be able to undo it.) Exercise your right to leave the car lot and come back later. The car, and the salesperson, will almost certainly still be there.
To find a dealership that knows how to treat shoppers right, please visit Edmunds.com's Dealer Ratings and Reviews.