Skip to main content

5 Questions to Ask Before You Say Yes to a New Car Deal

How to Spot Issues That Could Sour Your Purchase

"So, do we have a deal?" the salesperson asks, extending a hand.

Wait. Before you agree to buy that new car, take a few minutes to ensure there are no hidden problems that will surface when you're in the middle of signing the contract. This also is your last chance to use your leverage to sweeten the deal a little more.

Before you say yes to a deal, make sure it's a solid one. Ask these key questions.

Before you say yes to a deal, make sure it's a solid one. Ask these key questions.

These questions are "deal testers," a way for you to verify the terms, become familiar with all the fees and make the delivery process more convenient. The list includes two questions specifically for people who did most of their shopping via the internet and are making a deal over the phone. (We highly recommend the internet car shopping route since it is faster, less stressful and will often get you a better price.)

So instead of saying, "Yes, we have a deal," ask these questions and you will head off problems that could flare up later.

1. What other fees will I be charged? Another way to ask this question is, "What's my out-the-door price?" Up to now, you have probably been negotiating the price of the car only. You will, of course, be required to pay additional fees, some of which are legitimate and some of which might be questionable. Legit costs include sales tax, registry costs, tire recycling fees and a documentation fee. Some dealerships, however, tack on additional fees as a way to build profit back into the deal. The sooner you find out about these fees, the better you can avoid them. Read more in What New Car Fees Should You Pay?

2. How much is your documentation fee? All car dealers charge a documentation ("doc") fee when you buy a car. This means they actually charge you for filling out the contract. It seems strange, but it's universal. What isn't universal is the amount dealers charge for the doc fee. Some states cap the doc fee, usually at a price below $100. Other states don't regulate the doc fee, so it can be as much as $600. While expensive in some states, these fees have become standard fare in the car business. If you're in a state without a capped fee and feel the price is too high, your time will be better spent negotiating the price of the car rather than getting the dealer to waive the doc fee.

3. Are there any dealer-installed options on the car? Most cars come with options installed at the factory when the car is built. But sometimes the dealer adds items as a way to boost profit. Popular add-ons include nitrogen-filled tires, window tinting, wheel locks, all-weather floor mats, paint protection and more. These are called dealer "add-ons" and the markup can be quite steep. A common add-on is LoJack, a vehicle recovery system. Dealers often add the system's cost to all the new cars in its inventory. Seeing it on every vehicle makes it seem as though it comes standard, but it's an item the dealer has added. We're not saying you should never buy a car with dealer add-ons. But you want to know about any add-ons well in advance, ideally when you're soliciting a price quote. Know that there's a markup on them and negotiate accordingly.

4. How many miles are on the car? This is particularly important for internet shoppers who might not have seen the car yet. You would think that every new car has less than 10 miles on the odometer. But in some cases, the car might have gone on a lot of test drives or is a "dealer trade," meaning the dealer traded another car for it and it's been driven in from another dealership. If there are more than about 300 miles on the car, you need to negotiate a lower price. If the car has been on the lot for a while or has a few hundred miles on it, you may want to ask for the "in-service date" of the vehicle. It's usually on the date you buy the car, but not always. The in-service date is when the warranty begins, and it is important to know how much coverage you have.

5. Can you deliver the car? This is another great question for internet shoppers. If everything else in the deal looks good, and you haven't yet said yes, you could ask for this one last little perk. Say something like, "Well, if you are willing to deliver the car, then we have a deal." Instead of going to the dealership and waiting while the car is washed, gassed and prepared for delivery, why not stay at your home or office and let the dealer bring the car to you? A dealer representative will arrive with printed contracts, and you won't get sales pitches from the finance and insurance manager for extended warranties and other items and services. If you think you will want one of the extras offered by the finance manager, you can always speak with the manager by phone and have the contract adjusted accordingly.

What our partners recommend


The world's first six-function MultiProTM Tailgate, plus an available 6.2L V8 delivers an impressive 420HP & 460 lb.-ft. of torque.
See More at GMC.comAdvertisement