Purchasing New Vehicle

Backstory to this guide

This guide is compromised of a 4Runner I purchased in May 2020. I wanted a specific vehicle, with a specific trim, with a specific color. This was my first new vehicle purchase and, in the way that I do what I do, I was meticulous throughout the process. I value learning, being proactive, and not settling for less than what I want.

This actual purchase from start to finish took 1 month since I purchased out of state. Throughout the course of my purchase, I spoke with over 50 people who were helping me on the purchase. Several of those people worked at other dealerships, in sales and in finance, and not only gave me advice throughout the process… they even reviewed my contracts.

I purchased from Southern California. I contacted over 200 dealers to find what I was looking for. Out of 200, less than a dozen dealerships had the vehicle make, model, trim and accessory I wanted (it needed to come factory installed). All said and done, I now drive exactly what I wanted to drive. And I walked away from one dealership who tried to play games in the 11th hour.

While in many areas of my life I approach people with “trust first,” this is not an approach I take with dealerships. As such, I was double (if not triple) checked every step of the process. I did it for myself and with the intent of resharing my learnings. My work requires a lot of thinking and as such, you’ll likely see that reflected throughout this guide. Even if I don’t know much about something, I’ll share it in the interest of you having the awareness of knowing how to lead yourself throughout the process.

What is success?

Success to me is making a purchase that I was proud of that I felt good about. A purchase that I feel I paid better-than-average on that I understood and felt in control of throughout the process. I wonder what success is for you.

Pre-Purchase Prep

Create a Fake E-mail

Using (Gmail)[https://gmail.com], you can create a fake email to begin receiving quotes and communication. Then, everything associated with your vehicle purchase is associated with a specific email and you don’t need to be thinking about getting too much junk and unwanted email. All said and done, at the end of the process, I unsubscribed from everything and it wasn’t too inconvenient but I still have a few dealers send an e-mail that don’t have an unsubscribe option. The purpose of this process (and creating a phone number) is to minimize the amount of work for yourself in the long run.

Create a Phone Number

Although not necessary, you could set up a Google Voice phone number to mask your phone number. Phone numbers may need to be given out for dealers to call you back. In many cases, my Google Voice phone number was put on automatic text messages from dealerships just from a simple call… even if I didn’t express intent on purchasing. Generally, if I was able, I opt’ed not to include a phone number and forced everyone into email. And even where I was asked for a phone number on the web, unless I was certain the dealership had what I wanted, I entered a fake phone number. Another app to look into is 7-Day Free Phone Number Trial - Get Temporary Phone Numbers | Burner (I haven’t used this but it seems worthwhile).

The Mindset That Serves You

There are a few different suggestions I have to get you in the mindset of purchasing a vehicle. I will over communicating in the interest of having this section resonate for most people (I also have an expertise on this topic and can speak at length about it, so I’ll attempt to be brief here, haha):

  • You are in control.
    • You are in control. You decide when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” You decide what questions to answer and what questions not to answer from anyone throughout the process, be it your salesperson or someone you speak with in finance.
  • You create your experience.
    • I lived much of my younger years feeling disempowered, anxious, uncertain, and afraid. At some point, I learned how to create my experience of my experiences, better (tongue twister much?). It starts with the language I speak which is at the root of what I see. If I see better, speak better, I live better. The question then becomes, how can you see the process of buying a vehicle in a way that is fun for you?
  • The sport of buying a vehicle.
    • I chose to see the whole process as a sport. In a game of sport (tip: a game), there are various people I will encounter, various opportunities to practice phrases. The sport of buying a vehicle became about experimenting on seeing what I could get away with. It became about seeing the best price I could get. It became about seeing how friendly I could get and seeing how much truth I could speak. Not only was it fun, but this way of seeing the experience left me in a state of play.
  • She (or he) who is willing to walk away holds the power.
    • I have had a habit that I’ve coined as being “romantic with outcome.” I can get deep into the idea of something and then it turns out that the end result isn’t what I envisioned at all. I’ve been disillusioned with the way I think something can be that I lose sight of what it actually is. Knowing this, I had to be prepared to walk away (and I did, once, in the 11th hour of a purchase). When a dealership sees that you are willing to walk away, then can better understand your position and your posture. You teach about this throughout the buying experience.
  • You are the buyer. Let yourself be sold.
    • Throughout my experience, as someone who often leads experiences for others, I had to allow myself to be led. I had to allow myself to be sold and to see how others might sell me. Those who wanted my business taught me they did by the way they spoke and the way they responded to me. I paid close attention to this as I gauged who I might want to work with throughout the process. As such, I invite you to be mindful of allowing someone else to sell you. Let them lower their price in the silence you hold. Let them talk up the product. And as this occurs, be nice, respectful, and perhaps even friendly. Friendly not because your intention is to make a friend, but friendly because when you make your ask or you want someone to “work with you to ensure success for you both,” you have deposited into the karma piggy bank.
  • Know how much time you want to spend on your purchase.
    • Some people are busy and have minimal time for purchasing a car. If that’s you, know how much time you want to devote to this process. I spent dozens of hours throughout the month on my purchase ensuring everything was orchestrated as I wanted… and that’s not for everyone. It’s possible this guide can significantly save you time understanding parts of the process that would otherwise require to learn on your own.
  • Plan your timing of the purchase.
    • While not a show stopper, buying at certain times of the month can yield different results. For example, towards the end of the month, sales folk have a higher incentive to hit sales goals and move inventory. Or, around holidays. What I’m trying to say: if you go into the dealership at the end of the month, 3 hours before closing… you might have a better advantage at getting a deal.
  • Summary of the high level process.
    • At a high level, here was my experience to set an expectation of what you might expect. Be aware that my process took about a week from start to finish since I was purchasing out of state.
      • Figure out what you want
      • Figure out how far you’re willing to go to get what you want
      • Figure out what you’re willing to pay to get what you want
      • Engage dealership(s) with a strategy
      • Engage finance department to close the sale
      • Drive vehicle away
      • Live happily ever after

Understanding Financing

First and foremost, there is no right or wrong answer to how much to finance. One approach is to get what you can afford and makes the “most sense” with your budget, income, etc. Pending how much you may (or may not) seek validation from others, you’ll likely find some people “go hard” on used cars and only believe in used cars (because, depreciation!). Other people like new toys, and they buy new. Each has their own standards and values in different priority. If you haven’t examined your perspective on such things, you may find added friction in the “financing” part of the process. (In most cases, relationships with money are not examined, and often the default relationship with money seen during upbringing is retained and passed on through generations. No judgement here… the question is, how do you want to do it? (which can be a fun question))

A few items to consider in your financing process:

  • Understand how financing with a dealership works.
    • The dealership can help you borrow money to purchase the vehicle you want. The dealership generally has a relationship with different banks to help get you a better offer. Because the dealership works with the bank, you can get a loan outside of normal bank operating hours. In exchange for a bank lending you money and working with your dealership, or financing your loan, you are charged finance interest. To hold a position of power in negotiations, it is best if you are pre-qualified with your bank so your dealership has an anchor of what they need to beat to earn your business on securing your loan. Often times, without an incentive, a dealership will mark up your APR and earn money on your loan. Your annual percentage rate, or APR, is the amount of finance charge you own. This interest is what’s referred to as “amortized,” meaning the amount of interest (finance charge for borrowing money) you pay at the beginning of your loan is higher than at the end of the loan. Monthly payments are split up into two categories: a portion of the money goes towards the interest and a portion goes towards principle (the actual amount you borrowed).
  • Know how much $$$ you want to put down.
    • The more you put down, the less risky your loan becomes. If you intend to put nothing down, your monthly payments will be higher than if you put something down. Also, the less you put down, you have the risk of “being upside down” on your loan (the amount you financed). For example, if you buy a new $30,000 vehicle and drive it off the lot, let’s say in 3 months it’s worth $27,000. If you got into an accident in 3 months, and you still owed $29,000, the value of your vehicle is less than how much you own. As a result of this situation, you may purchase what’s referred to as “gap insurance” which would allow your insurance company to ensure the vehicle for the amount you own (as opposed to how much the vehicle is valued at).
  • Get it in writing at the dealership.
    • Whatever discussions you have around financing promises (eg. amount financed, monthly payment, annual percentage interest), get it in writing so you don’t find yourself in a “he said / she said” type of conversation.
  • Fixed APR versus variable APR.
    • In some cases, the interest rate per year can change. You can clarify that your APR is fixed so you have greater certainty on what you’re paying.
  • Early pay off penalty or pre-payment penalty.
    • If you wanted to pay off your loan early, is there a penalty?
  • Credit union versus a bank.
    • In some scenarios, the terms of a financing arrangement can be more beneficial from a credit union over a bank.
  • You can refinance later.
    • Keep in mind, you can refinance later to get a better APR or different term of loan. This might be of value if you’re improving your credit score or at a time in the future the APR could be better. (There is often a cost associated with refinancing) This could also be valuable if you start with a 5 year term length and want to put a bulk payment down and refinance to a lower term length with a lower monthly payment.

Communication suggestions/reminders

  • You don’t have to answer questions.
    • Throughout the process of purchasing a vehicle, you will likely be asked a handful of questions by your salesperson or the finance manager. Some questions will serve their position in gaining leverage, others will serve them in understanding your requirements. Being able to infer which questions serve them versus which can serve you is part of the art of negotiating. For example, in one of my conversations, I was asked by the finance person what the terms were on my pre-financing offer. If I answered them with my APR, then they knew what their lenders might approve and they knew my APR they had to beat… but they could still make money on the margins. When asked directly about my pre-qualification APR, I could have said, “Let’s see what the best you can do is and maybe I’ll be interested.” Notice how this response doesn’t directly answer the question but instead retains the leverage on the buyer’s end (the buyer knows what APR the dealership needs to beat).
  • If an agreement was broken with dealership.
    • If the dealer breaks a promise to you, verbal or written, first give them the option to rectify the situation. “We had a verbal/written (ideally written) agreement and it seem’s it’s not being honored. Can you help me understand why there is a discrepancy?” When you attack the situation from a posture of wanting clarification, you can decide to gracefully walk away and state your next steps. “That’s not what I was told / what we have in writing. If I need to walk away here, I am going to leave negative reviews, contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and contact the State Attorney General about your practice.” (Leave silence, let them make the situation right… or take your action)
  • Communicate all concerns throughout the process.
    • Throughout the entirety of your experience, communicate all concerns – regardless of how large. When I attempted my second purchase for the same vehicle, I had learned a great deal from the first negative experience (dealer started playing games). As such, I was clear with the second dealership, “I don’t want any games. I wasted 8 days with another dealership not being true to their word.” Throughout the communication process, I was clear on my concerns. “I want to make sure the vehicle is not washed, I will have my own detailing crew service the vehicle.” Or, “What are the next steps throughout this process that I can expect?” I want to remove all expectations on the process and create agreements with how things were going to happen.
  • Make note of the red flags.
    • Make a mental note of the red flags throughout the sales experience with your dealership. A few might be accepted, a few might be not. For example, a salesperson may not be as well researched on your vehicle as you are if you’ve done your research. I found myself in several situations where the salesman was making comments that I knew were inaccurate. I let many items slide, I was focused on 1 vehicle whereas the salesperson was responsible for many. In other situations, I needed to ask a salesman 3 times to send me something official from the dealership on our agreed upon price. That was a red flag. In another situation, with my out of state purchase, the salesman asked me to pay the full downpayment prior to me signing any written contracts or agreements.
  • If your purchase gets held up or you’re not getting what you expect, speak with a General Sales Manager.
    • I had a few delays during my purchase, largely due to additional complexities with an out-of-state purchase, that delayed the process. To get the ball roll, I reached out to the General Sales Manager and within minutes I had movement on my transaction (which occurred multiple times).
  • Refrain from sharing what’s important.
    • If there is something that’s really important to you, an accessory or such, then it may be in your best interest not to divulge this. By sharing this, it lets the dealership know they have something special that not all vehicles have.
  • Don’t disclose downpayment.
    • Disclosing downpayment may serve you or not. For example, if you were planning on not leaving a downpayment (and if you have the credit score/history that enables you to do this), then your purchase may be more risky to the dealership than someone else who does have a downpayment. This specific part of the process can be figured out in finance.
  • Talk with sales manager before talking with salesperson.
    • If you have a dealership in mind you want to work with, ask for the sales manager and ask who their best guy or gal is. Who has the most product knowledge and customer service.
  • Specific phrases that you can say.
    • /“I’m not paying $__,____ for that.”/ If you are being quoted too high for a vehicle, or some amount you know you are not willing to pay, call it out.
    • /“I’ll share my phone number when I know we might be able to work something out.”/ In most cases, I withheld my phone number to control the process and keep all communication in e-mail. I also called when I wanted clarity (from my Google Voice number) to make sure my personal cell number was not revealed.
    • /“name of salesman, this price is too high.”/ Make the statement and go silent.
    • /“If I’m going to pay $,_, I want you to throw in .”/ You can ask for more accessories to your salesperson or finance person.
    • /“I want to know your bottom line price, I’m not going to haggle.”/ In many cases, I asked for the “best price” and the only way I was able to get lower than a dealerships best price was by saying I had another dealership willing to beat their price. (I often had to provide proof of this, either email communication or a quote from another dealership)
    • /“I’m not going to waste my time, what is your best out the door price?”/ The out-the-door price is what you care about, not the price of the vehicle. The out the door price should consider taxes, title, and license. If purchasing out-of-state, check to see if the state you’re purchasing from is able to accept payment for your taxes, title, and license (some states require you do this on your own in your home state). In this “out of the door price,” the dealership may provide a breakdown of all costs associated.
    • /“I’m going to be shopping this price around, what’s the best price you can do?”/ You can also try directly ask, “Would you take $__,____ for that vehicle?” Ensure the price that you’re starting with is below average of all dealers. Pending the vehicle you’re wanting to purchase, and the scarcity of it, some dealers may budge more than others.

Negotiation strategies

  • Email multiple dealers.
    • State what you want. CC them all. Ask for best price. Lowest gets the sale.
  • Find a car broker.
    • Find someone to negotiate your vehicle purchase for you.
  • Engage the manager.
    • Skip a salesperson, go straight to a manager. They can decide the best price on the spot, they aren’t on commission. They have quotes they’re interested in hitting (and pending where they’re at with their quota, your sale could provide them a bonus).
  • Name your price, leave your number.
    • Call a few dealerships, leave your name, number, and price, tell them to call if they can hit it and let them know you’ll sign paperwork when they can hit it. (Calling last day of month, towards end of day, may serve this strategy)
  • Misc tips.
    • Focus on out the door price. Not monthly payment. The out the door price is the full amount you’d write a check for (which includes taxes, title, and license)

Test driving

Know what you want

Whether buying out of state or locally, knowing what you want will help you get what you want. I suggest defining your non-negotiables that you’re not willing to budge on… and stick to it. This will enable you to complete your purchase knowing you got exactly what you wanted. Knowing the trim, year, colors, accessories, and how much you’re willing to spend, can help minimize (if not remove entirely) “buyer’s remorse” because you’ll be so happy with your purchase.

You can also add a “nice to haves” list here with accessories that you may be able to use during negotiation.

Define your scope

Define your scope. Consider the following: * How far you’re willing to transfer to get what you want (or whether or not you’re willing to hire a transport company). * How much time you’re willing to spend on the process. * How many dealers you’re willing to work with. * How much money you’re willing to spend. Checking sites like CarGurus, TrueCar, Edmunds

Take notes

Taking notes can be helpful not only to keep track of your search but as something you can reference as needed to hold dealers accountable.

Vehicles - Google Sheets

When tracking vehicles you’re looking at, I suggest keeping record of the following in Google Sheets.

  • Dealer name
  • Dealer location (address)
  • Website and/or link to photos
  • Salesman name
  • Price
  • OTD Price
  • Mileage
  • Stock number
  • VIN
  • Hours open
  • Status
    • Have vehicle
    • Don’t have vehicle
    • Can get vehicle
  • Notes
    • Note any accessories or special notes about this vehicle

When I narrowed down dealership that had potential (I was looking for a rare vehicle), I made note of BBB review, Yelp reviews, and a local mechanic that can inspect vehicle (primary and secondary mechanic).

Conversations - Google Docs

I used a tool like Google Docs to keep track of the following notes for every phone conversation I had:

  • Day / time
  • Person I spoke with (whether it was receptionist who answered or who I was transferred to)
  • What we discussed and any specific details of discussion
    • Promises
    • Dates
    • Numbers
    • Red flags
    • Etc.

Picking a dealership

As it relates to picking the dealership, I suggest looking at a combination of the following:

  • How you feel engaging a dealership.
    • This takes into consideration how you feel when they engage you, how they speak with you, anything that you may sense as red flags, etc. Trust your gut.
  • What the dealership is offering in terms of price.
    • The lowest price for the vehicle was definitely attractive. The only area that would override this factor is if I had a terrible gut feeling in working with a dealership.
  • Any other special offerings from the dealership.
    • The vehicle I purchased had a lifetime drivetrain warranty that was accepted nationally. This played into my decision to go with them. Other offers are generally mentioned on dealership websites of what vehicles are eligible for. (Understand that certain deals/offerings from dealerships that are finance related may require certain levels of credit scores / history)

Engaging salesman / saleswoman

  • Check reviews on your salesman.
    • As you get closer to deciding which dealership to work with, I suggest checking reviews on Yelp, Google, Facebook, or Dealer Rater.
  • Ensure they have your vehicle on the lot.
    • Some dealerships attempt to play games to get you there in person even if they don’t have the vehicle. Do what you can by clarifying that they do in fact have the vehicle on the lot, not that they can get it. And if you’re ok with waiting for them to get the vehicle (if they’re willing to sell it at a price that’s desirable/attractive to you), get clear on how long it will take them to acquire the vehicle. (I waited a few days for the dealership I went with to get the vehicle from a sister dealership)
  • Go back a few times.
    • Pending how quick you are to make a decision, you can go back a few times to see if the price gets better over time. You can even intend to walk away, no matter what they offer, and see if the next offer will be better. (This largely depends on the demand of the vehicle you’re looking to purchase).
  • Ask for a breakdown of fees.
    • Negotiate on the out the door price. Get a buyer’s order or a quote showing the price breakdown of everything. If buying out of state, confirm the accuracy of your state taxes, title and licensing fees.
  • Clarify how many miles are on the vehicle.
    • In some cases, certain vehicles are used by managers to use for their own pleasure. New cars can quickly become used cars. In some cases, this might be a point of negotiation (if you are ok with this). Also, if the dealership has to transfer the vehicle from another lot, they may need to drive it which could add more miles to the vehicle.
  • Clarify if vehicle has been washed.
    • Pending how meticulous you are, clarify if the vehicle has been washed. Sometimes, vehicles are scratched or swirl marks are already created on the vehicle due to improper washes. If this is a concern, you can ask dealership to not wash the vehicle.
  • Clarify next steps on the vehicle process.
    • You can ask your salesperson to walk you through all the steps of the process to ensure there are no surprises. In one case, I had agreement from a dealership that they would overnight the paperwork then I would pay the downpayment after I signed. Within 1 hour of providing my identification, insurance, and debit card (to be charged after I signed the paperwork), the Internet Director called and said the “owners friend” wanted to buy the vehicle and if I was serious, I needed to pay downpayment in full to keep the vehicle. I walked away.
  • Negotiate on out the door price.
    • You want to make sure you’re focused on negotiating your out the door price. Not your monthly payments or the price before TTL because sometimes dealers attempt to sneak in fees. When doing this, start at a price that’s below what you’re willing to pay (as determined by the research-related sites above), and slowly increase by $500, $250, or $100 until your offer is accepted (add time and silence between this if speaking in person). And when it is, get it in writing (on a worksheet), and shop it out to other dealers if you wanted to continue on getting the best price.
  • Confirm misc details of what is included.
    • While possibly unnecessary, and likely not show stoppers, I wanted to ensure the vehicle comes with 2 keys, or a full tank of gas, topped off liquids, owners manual, spare tire, extended warranty, etc.
  • Let them know you’ve done your research.
    • Let the dealership know you’ve done your research, you know the fair market value, and that’s what you’re willing to pay if they can match your number. You want them to know you’re empowered and are looking for the best price. Starting via online channels and inquiring online can sometimes yield a better price than going in person.
  • Leave your trade in out of the deal.
    • If you mention you have a trade in during the buying process, the dealership may cut you a better price on the vehicle you want to buy but offer less on the trade in value of the vehicle.
  • To reiterate a reminder above, voice your concerns.
    • Throughout my process of purchasing, I often found myself confirming various details, or double checking to ensure we’re all on sync and to ensure the success of the sale (they want success, too).

Getting to a deal

In my case, I saw it as a game of sport with a lot of learning. I started online shopping, took the lowest price, and kept shopping it around until no one else would go lower than the lowest offer.

After that, I checked Yelp and Better Business Bureau to ensure dealer had a great rep. I also had a good gut instinct with the dealer who was willing to go the lowest.

Moving forward, engaging finance

After deciding you want to buy the vehicle, whether you’re financing or not, the next step is to speak with someone in finance. I’ve outlined many dynamics of the finance conversation below.

Getting an extended warranty

  • Get quotes on warranties.
    • Before you decide to move forward, if possible, know your options. Before I spoke with finance, I talked with 3-5 other dealerships around the US and received different quotes on warranties. Knowing a range of costs for warranties helped me negotiate during my conversations with finance department. Since the person there did not come down on price, I simply didn’t buy a warranty. One disadvantage to this is I’ll have to pay cash for this warranty afterward (I suppose you can also put this on a card). Double check, but you generally can buy a warranty any time until your original manufacturer’s warranty runs out (36,000 or 3 years in my case). And while we’re at it, there’s a few things to know about warranties…
  • Years or mileage.
    • Warranties generally last up to a certain year or mileage. Considering I want to drive as much and as long as I want, I was interested in the most I could get with Toyota – generally 100,000 miles or 10 years. In some cases, there are third party provides who offer a lifetime extended warranty.
  • Bumper to bumper warranty.
    • The value for me in the Toyota warranty is that it’s bumper to bumper. Specifically, this covers the electronics in the vehicle which can have a tendency to have issues. I want that to be covered.
  • Does your chosen dealership offer special warranties?
    • With my purchase, there is a lifetime drivetrain warranty. Considering it’s a Toyota, it shouldn’t have issues. This was a factor, in addition to the lowest price, in choosing the dealership I did.
  • Is it transferrable?
    • My lifetime drivetrain warranty is not transferrable. However, pending an extended warranty purchase, sometimes they are transferrable. This may increase resale vehicle if you plan to sell the vehicle within the time window of the warranty.
  • Does warranty work with your shop or do you pay first and wait?
    • While this is a small nuance of how a warranty can work, it could serve you in knowing the answer.
  • Do you need pre-approval before shop starts repairs?
    • Another small nuance of how warranties work which could slow down getting repairs done.
  • Exclusionary or inclusionary.
    • Warranties are generally exclusionary in nature (they exclude a few items) or they’re inclusionary (what’s included is only what’s covered). Considering how many parts there are on a vehicle, exclusionary warranties can be more favorable since you know everything is covered except a few items (most often, parts that can wear, such as brake pads).
  • Where can it be serviced?
    • Does your warranty cover repairs done only at the dealership? What about your favorite shop?

Understanding different charges and fees

  • Fees that are ok.
    • Tax, title and license are a must (unless you’re buying out of state and the dealership cannot do some of this for you, in which case you need to take care of it in your home state). As I understand, a closing fee is acceptable (generally for admin processing). A destination fee may also be ok too (although I didn’t see this in my transaction).
  • Fee’s that are not ok or you can negotiate on.
    • Advertising charges, theft deferral products (vin etching or wheel lockups), nitrogen tire fill ups, additional dealer markup (ADM), delivery fees, cosmetic or accessory upgrades (paint protection, steps, etc), cleaning fees, taxes for time on the lot, or documentation fees. You could end up not paying any of these fees if you negotiated them out. (The dealership I ended up working with never tried to sell me on any of this stuff)

Being smart with financing

  • Get pre-qualified on financing.
    • If getting financed, getting pre-qualified with your bank puts you in a position of strength. Give your finance person an opportunity to beat your financing offer. If you get asked about what your financing is that you’re pre-qualified for (eg. loan amount, term, etc), let them know “if they find something better, you’ll go with that.” If you disclose your APR, term, etc, they might be in a position to make money on the margins between what they can approve you for and what you’re approved for (eg. marking up your rate).
  • Be aware of Yo-yo financing.
    • I don’t know how much of a thing this is, but I’ve read stories and Yelp reviews of people who had this issue. It’s called “Yo-yo financing” – the idea is you buy a vehicle, something isn’t done properly, and you need to bring the vehicle back and (more often than not) pay more. The difference at this point is you’ve fallen in love with this new vehicle and you have a higher probability of paying more for it. To avoid this, pay attention to the numbers, possibly call the lending institution who’s lending you the money and verify everything with them. Dealers can sometimes deliberately create this by falsifying your income. You may want to check your credit before signing.

Before signing paperwork…

  1. Triple check your numbers
  2. Ensure everything is what you agreed to
  3. Read all the fine print (possibly have someone else read it)


In some cases, you may not want the dealership washing your vehicle if you plan to put paint protection film on it or ceramic pro (something to protect the paint). In this scenario, I suggest sharing with your salesperson early on that you don’t want the car washed or waxed.

If buying out of state

Double check any warrnties

Check to see if any warranties are applicable for your local dealerships.

Get local inspections done by third parties

I had a local mechanic and a local photographer each inspect that vehicle at different times in the buying process to ensure everything is good.

Double check taxes, title and license

Confirm with your state the process on taxes, title and license. In my scenario being in California and purchasing from South Carolina, the dealership in South Carolina collected my tax, title, and license fees and they pay them to the California DMV. I was able to verify all of these fees on the California DMV website to ensure the dealership was being accurate (I did have one scenario where the dealership was thousands of dollars off on these fees, I suggest double checking).

Find out how to register a vehicle in your local state

In California, I have to do VIN verification, get the vehicle smogged for emissions requirements, and go to a local DMV to get plates and do this.

Transporting the vehicle with a transport company

  • Pre-game understanding.
    • Transport companies generally involve a main contact who works with an actual trucking company who has drivers. One of the considerations was whether or not to have a enclosed (eg. truly protected from all outside factors). Check to see if the transport company carries insurance, most do. However, this insurance /does not/ cover hail damage. Pending the time of year you’re doing this, you may want to check a hail map to see if there is expected hail in any states where your vehicle may be transported.
  • How to find a transport company.
    • I suggest asking the dealership, sometimes they have some to recommend. Alternatively, you can Google or ask around. I suggest not going with the cheapest and going with your gut on how helpful they are.
  • Pick up time when the vehicle is dropped off.
    • At the time of pick up, you are generally asked to inspect the vehicle and ensure there are no scratches. If you see any scratches, or anything that looks like a scratch, make sure it’s noted so you can be reimbursed for any scratches. If you get the vehicle at night, bring flashlights to inspect vehicle.

What I don’t want you to know

Despite all my planning, all my research, all my questions, and my attentiveness to detail, when the vehicle showed up at midnight on the transport company I saw a few marks, rubbed them off with my thumb, and noticed they came off. “This is fine,” I thought (I may have also been under the influence of excitement for actually seeing the vehicle). A few days later after washing the vehicle (it had went through rain), I realized the vehicle was scratched on several places on the hood and the transport company must have hit a tree. I didn’t speak up when picking up the vehicle, so they didn’t make note of it and as such there was nothing they could do.

Other resources

How To Negotiate a New Car’s Price - CarGurus