I started the Car Pro Show almost 14 years ago with two missions in mind: to give people honest answers about buying a car, and to call attention to good car dealers, while calling negative attention to the bad ones. In my book, there is no lower scum than anyone who will take advantage of a member of our armed forces, yet it happens all the time.
For this reason, I want to give the men and women in our military some tips on not getting taken advantage of when buying a car. Some dealerships market to our military and make it inviting, yet their motive is just another sale. On the other hand, some dealers truly want to help. You need to be able to tell the difference to make sure you get a truly good deal.
First, understand your rights. The Service Member Civil Relief Act gives you protection if you are transferred overseas or outside of the lower 48 states. If you purchase a car, you may be able to get out of the contract if you cannot take the car with you. This applies to vehicles that are leased or purchased prior to joining the military. There are other rights that come into play if your situation changes after you are active in the armed forces. If by chance you want to take your car with you after a transfer, check with the lender to see if this is permissible, and what needs to be done.
Do your homework in advance, and find out about a dealership before you go see it. It’s tempting just to go to the closest car lot, but with the Internet today, you can do a lot of preliminary work. DealerRater can tell you a lot about how trustworthy a dealership is. I like Edmunds.com and its True Market Value tool to tell you what others are paying for the car you want. The goal then is to beat that price to know you got the good deal you deserve.
Financing is another place to be careful. Try to get pre-qualified for a loan through a bank or available credit union. You could end up letting the dealership arrange financing, but only after you know the best possible interest rate you can get, and making the dealership match it. Beware of add-ons if you go with dealership financing, read what you sign and look at any items with a dollar amount beside them on the finance contract.
Lastly, there are many automakers that offer extra rebates for our military, which I think is an awesome thing. Sometimes, they forget about those, not out of malice, but because they aren’t used a lot. Be sure to ask if there are extra rebates that you might be able to get. For you former military friends, often they apply to you too, so if you are done with your service, or retired, there could be extra money for you.
Doing business with a dealership that truly appreciates what you do is paramount. If at any time you feel uncomfortable or pressured, get out of there. You are a hero and a national treasure; make sure you are treated as such.