MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - My friends Kevin Walters and Claire Marsalis of the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) and Paula J. Shaw, executive director of the Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission, put together this handy step-by-step guide to buying a reliable vehicle:
BEFORE BUYING A VEHICLE:
* Decide what you can afford. Factor in insurance, parking, gas and maintenance costs.
* Look into financing before you choose a car. Ask about the terms, number of months, down payment, interest rates and finance charges.
AT THE SALE SITE:
* Examine the car carefully. If used, consider having an independent, ASE-certified (Automotive Service Excellence) mechanic inspect it. If the dealer or private seller will not allow your mechanic to inspect it, walk away.
* Take a test drive.
* Review the contract carefully. Make sure all agreed upon repairs and warranties are written on the purchase contract before you sign it. Never sign a blank, incomplete or unclear sales contract or buyer's guide.
* Get the mileage in writing and make sure it matches the vehicle's odometer.
* Get copies of all paperwork. Don't leave without copies of everything you've signed.
* If the dealer is to complete the title work for you, be aware that you may be asked to sign a Limited Power of Attorney authorizing the dealer's representative to sign your name to the title and registration documents. Read this form closely and get a copy before leaving the dealership.
* Notify the manufacturer that you are the new owner of a used vehicle or if your contact information changes. That way, the manufacturer can alert you to safety recalls or service bulletins. You can also subscribe to safety recall email alerts at safercar.gov.
* Unlike some other purchases, there is no buyer's remorse (right of rescission) for an auto purchase, unless the dealership offers one as a feature of the sales contract. So don't expect a specific "cooling off" period where you can return the car in a set number of days if you regret the deal.
* If you feel like you're being mistreated by a dealership, file a complaint with your state motor vehicle commission.