Consumer Protection
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How to Protect Yourself: Buying a New Car
The Florida Attorney General's Office

Next to a home, a new car purchase is the largest financial transaction for most consumers. However, shopping for the best deal at an automobile dealership has historically been a difficult and often a regrettably expensive experience for many consumers.

Research the price
First, decide what car model and options you want. Next, check materials that provide information on the dealer's costs (invoice price) for specific models with the options you desire. These materials are available at local libraries, bookstores, or online.

Shop around
Armed with knowledge about what you want, you will be in a stronger position to shop around or to consult car-buying or broker services to obtain the best available deal. Going to only one dealer and relying solely upon the salesman's oral promises without researching the price or comparison price-shopping with other competitors is a good way to get ripped off. If the dealer does not have the vehicle with the options you desire on its lot, consider ordering your new car to avoid paying extra for unwanted options.

The sticker price is the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP). Most dealers are willing to bargain on their profit margin, which is generally between 10 to 20 percent of the MSRP. Don't get talked into a lease unless you have researched car leasing and have made an informed decision to lease (see Car Leasing tips).

Check reference materials to help determine the value of your trade-in vehicle. You will usually fare better by selling your car privately. Consider advertising in a local newspaper or flyer. If this option does not work for you, obtain your best possible purchase price from the dealer before discussing the possibility of a trade.

Check the annual percentage rate (APR) at your bank, credit union, or even your insurance company or motor club, and compare it to the interest rate quoted by the dealer. Advertised low interest rates by the dealer may require you to pay the vehicle's sticker price.

Extended Service Contracts
The dealer is likely to try to sell you a service contract to provide for repair of certain specified parts or problems. These service contracts usually overlap the initial warranty coverage included by the vehicle manufacturer in the price of the car. Read the contract carefully to determine what repairs are covered, the extent of the coverage (parts, labor, deductibles, exclusions), and the other terms and conditions.

Florida's Lemon Law
The dealer is required to provide you with a booklet published by the Attorney General's office, which explains your rights under Florida's Lemon Law. Read this carefully, especially if you begin to experience chronic warranty problems with your new vehicle. Call the Lemon Law hotline at (800) 321-5366 for further assistance.