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Department of Consumer Affairs
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Quick Car-buying tips

Shopping for a car?  Follow these tips:

  • If buying a used car, first check if the dealership is licensed by DCA.

  • Get a copy of your credit report before you start shopping around. 
    Correct any errors, or work on improving it before you apply for a car loan so that you get the best deal. Go online  to for a free copy of your credit report.

  • Never sign a blank or incomplete agreement/contract where you don’t understand the terms; and always retain all copies of any contract or paperwork signed.

  • Get pre-approved for a loan BEFORE going shopping.
    The terms and eligibility requirements for financing can be complicated. If you are going to finance your car  purchase, knowing rates before you shop will help you compare rates and find the best option for you.  If  you use  your own bank or credit union, you will also be dealing with an institution with which you have a  relationship if  anything goes wrong.

  • If a car sale is negotiated in Spanish, the contract must also be written in Spanish.

  • Don’t negotiate a purchase based on a monthly payment. 
    Your goal is to negotiate the best price for the car at the lowest interest rate and for the fewest number of  payments.  Pay close attention to the terms; negotiate the total cost of the car, the interest rate and the total amount  that you are financing.  Then estimate the monthly payment amount.

  • Say no to “add-ons” and options.  
    Most add-ons or options like paint and fabric protection, rust-proofing, extra security systems, extended  warranties, etc. are cheaper when bought separately. Ask for a calculation of your monthly payments with  and without the add-ons and options.

  • File a complaint with DCA.
    Call 311 or go online to to contact DCA. 
Download Quick Car-buying Tips (in PDF)