RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The stress of buying a new car in person at dealerships has pushed more people to purchase cars online. However, if you’re not careful, you may also open the door for scammers who are trying to get a free ride into your bank account.
The Better Business Bureau has provided a list of initial steps to help you in your car-buying process:
- Set a budget: If you plan on looking for a car online, the BBB said it is important to establish a budget that factor in monthly expenses; including insurance payments, fuel, parking, etc. The defined budget helps negotiations with potential dealers and getting loans.
- Do your research: BBB recommends understanding what your needs are before searching for a vehicle. Do you have a big family? Do you spend a lot of time on the road and need a car with decent MPG? The more time you spend researching what you are looking for, the more comfortable you will feel when it is time to hand over the credit card information.
- Prequalify for a loan: This gives you an advantage of negotiating with a dealer as it gives them a price limit they will have to meet to make the sale.
- Test drive the vehicle: The BBB insists that you should get behind the wheel of whatever car you are buying before signing the final paperwork. They said there is no subsititute for seeing a car in person and making sure all the boxes are checked. If you are purchasing online, you should be able to drive to the dealer’s place of business to check out the car before you buy.
- Complete the sale at the dealer or upon delivery: You must wait until the vehicle is near you and has met your requirements before signing the paperwork. This helps ensure you will not be scammed.
The BBB has also provided a list of scam warnings for those who may be trying to take advantage of your big purchase.
- Watch out for too good to be true deals: Scammers try to steal consumers’ personal information and money buy offering big money items at lower costs.
- Never wire funds or complete bank-to-bank transcations: Scammers attempt these kinds of transcations because it prevents you from ever getting the money back once it is completed. The BBB recommends only using check or credit-card to make legitimate purchases.
- Call the seller: Speak to a sales manager on the phone. If the person is unusually vague about details of the sale and can’t confirm their location or the location of the vehicle, that is a red flag of a scammer.
- See the car in-person: Take it for a test drive and don’t purchase it without seeing it for yourself.
- Don’t cave into pressure: Scammers attemped to pressure you into giving them your personal information or making a down payment before you have had any time to think about your decision. The BBB insists that you should listen to your gut.