Red Flags to Watch Out For when Car Shopping

Whether you’re looking to buy a new or a used car, there are a few things you should be on the lookout when car shopping:

Beware the acronyms ‘MVA’ and ‘ADMU’. Another one to watch out for is prep fees

Take a close look at the stickers on the windshield of the cars at the dealership. Do you see charges listed under ‘MVA’ (Market Value Adjustment) or ‘ADMU’ (Adjusted Dealer Mark Up)? Both of those charges are bogus and exist solely to pad the sale for the dealer. Unless the dealer can give you a thorough and accurate breakdown of the charges and justify them, chances are they’ll stand in the way of allowing you to negotiate fairly for yourself.

Another charge to be mindful of when car shopping is a ‘prep fee’. Any fees the dealer might charge for prep should already be included in the retail price of the vehicle before it’s even put out on the lot. Make sure you ask the dealer to explain why they’re adding on that fee after the fact.

Check the Carfax/See How Many Accidents are On Record

When car shopping, make sure you look at a full breakdown of the car’s history. Follow the chain of title to make sure every single time the car was bought and sold is accounted for. This will also help you ensure that the mileage on the car is accurate and that the odometer hasn’t been reset to display a lesser number in an effort to fool you. You should also check to see how many accidents the car has been in. An accident or two is okay, but as soon as you get into the 4-6 range your best bet is to look for a different car.

The Dealership’s Finance Department is Trying to Push You into a Deal

When car shopping, your best bet is to go to a bank or other financial institution so you can be pre-approved prior going to the dealership. If that’s not an option for you, make sure that you educate yourself and are aware of all of the ways dealers will try to pad the sale or approve you for a payment plan that goes against your best interests.

Be wary of Too Many New Parts added to the Car Recently

You might think that the more upgrades a car has undergone the better, but if too many expensive parts have been replaced in too short a period of time, there’s a good chance you’re looking at a lemon.

Ask yourself – why would someone spend hundreds of dollars on car they’re just planning on selling? What most likely happened is the owner tried to fix the car for themselves, realized that the total cost of repairs to keep the car in running order was far too much, and chose to cut their losses and sell it as is (foisting said repair costs on an unsuspecting buyer).

A Young Car That has had Way Too Many Owners

A car that’s only a few years old with a huge number of different owners is another good indication that the car is a lemon and that there’s a stubborn or persistent problem that keeps it moving from owner to owner.

The Paint is Uneven

Before buying, check that the paint on the bumper matches the rest of the car. Many sellers will try to disguise that the car has been in an accident by replacing a damaged bumper with a new one and painting it over to match. If you think that’s likely the case with the car you’re looking at, make sure to give the Carfax a good look over to see if the accident shows up.