GoodToKnow: Buyer’s Orders Can Be Tricky. Don’t Worry, We’ve Got Your Back!

When buying a new or used car or truck, you should read the buyer’s order or contract carefully, or you could end up paying more than you expect.

The buyer's order includes a description of the vehicle being sold, including its make, model, color and any requested additions, such as warranties and vehicle options. The agreed purchase price should also be recorded in the buyer's order. The buyer's order is a binding contract, and by signing it, both buyer and seller agree to go through with the sale. However, money does not usually change hands at the time the buyer's order is issued.

Most dealerships are fair and honest, but some have been known to credit customers with less than the agreed amount for trade-ins, charging more than the negotiated vehicle price and charging for unauthorized add-ons. If you sign a contract without looking, it will be your word against the dealer’s if you later find that you’ve been hoodwinked.

Among the tricks that an unscrupulous dealership may use is so-called packing, in which a dealer adds items that the customer didn’t authorize, often hoping that they’ll go unnoticed. Such items may include a service contract or credit or gap insurance. There could also be charges for things you didn't request, such as undercoating, paint sealant and tire warranties. A very common tactic is to slip in very expensive extras without bringing it to the customer’s attention. In other cases, the dealer simply enters a higher vehicle price than the negotiated amount.

What to Do

  • Ask about all charges. When negotiating the purchase of a new or used vehicle, discuss all fees the car dealership will add to the contract. Remember that many fees and other charges are negotiable.
  • Write down the terms. Whether you’re discussing fees, the cost of the vehicle, the interest rate on a car loan or any other expense, write down the amount. You can easily forget if you don’t. Do the same for the amount you negotiate on a trade-in. (It is helpful to get pre-approved by WKFCU, so you already know your interest rate.)
  • Check the contract carefully. Once you have the contract, look for any products, services or fees that may be listed, but that you didn’t agree to. Check the list of charges you created earlier against the amounts in the contract. If you’re trading in a car or truck, verify that you are being credited properly for the negotiated amount. Also, make sure you’re receiving the full benefit of any rebate.
  • Don’t rush. If you’re feeling rushed or find that it’s hard to concentrate at the car dealership, take a copy of the unsigned contract home. You shouldn’t be intimidated by a dealer’s insistence that a deal is good only that day or by a warning that you’ll likely lose the vehicle to another customer if you delay.
  • Get a copy of the contract. After signing the contract, get a copy. Make sure it matches what’s on the original.
  • If you find a discrepancy, complain. If a dealer attempts a bait and switch, or you’ve been victimized, complain to the LA Motor Vehicle Commission or to the consumer protection office. You also can complain to the Federal Trade Commission or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

When you finance at Willis-Knighton Federal Credit Union, we check your buyer’s order to be sure you are aware of all charges and agree with all amounts.


Reprinted in part from Consumer Reports.)

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