Monday

Don't let your car dealer steal your car. There's a shortage of good used cars and dealers are promising the moon to get your's, but is it real?

The used car market is constantly changing. But the one constant is that more used cars are sold retail, every year, than new cars. In fact, usually there are at least 3 used cars sold for every new car sold - and that's in a normal year.

With credit gone to pot, solid gold buyers are fewer than ever. "Gold" means a buyer with very good credit. You can check a car dealer's slang dictionary (click here) to see more terms car dealers use (did you know they call customers "Up's"?)

The real thing to watch out for is that many buyers don't realize that the used car market is in a crunch right now. That means that dealers want the metal (your car) and they may not tell you the truth about what it's worth so that they can get it for a steal and make big bucks when they resell it. Be careful or you could get ripped off big time.

And what makes it even worse is that most folks trade their cars every 3 years on average and in 2009 there were a lot fewer new cars sold. Pile that on top of the current credit crunch, with fewer gold buyers, and you've got a situation that is ripe for car dealer fraud.

So how does a car dealer rip you off and how can you protect yourself? Get educated and get careful.

First, watch out for the negative equity claim. That's where the car dealer says that your car isn't worth what is owed on it but they will help you out by "rolling" the loan balance into your new car loan. Watch out for the numbers or the dealer could literally steal your trade in away and effectively pay zero for it by jacking up the new car's purchase price and, with a little razzle dazzle, you may never know even what even happened to you.

Second, don't even go near a car dealer until you research what your trade in is really worth for sure. Check online with sources like KBB.com and NADA.com and AutoTrader.com and elsewhere. Know for sure what your trade in is really worth.

And if you have a specific dealer in mind anyway, then before you go to the dealer check their web site and see what they are selling your kind of vehicle for.

And if it seems like they are being honest with you, then be even more careful. For instance they may give you the right number on your trade in and then jack up the deal by packing life insurance, so-called "gap" insurance, an extended warranty, a maintenance package, windshield "protection", so-called "theft" protection that is really just window scratches, and more - they can end up making more money that way than if they had just stolen your trade in vehicle in the first place. Watch out!

Last, when you get ready to sign the paperwork, be extra careful. Most states have a legal principle that says you can be stuck with what you sign - under the assumption that you read it. And if you didn't read it at all? Too bad, you get stuck anyway.

Don't sign anything until you understand every number and what every thing on it means.

And watch out for the five finger close. That's where your friendly finance manager helps you sign by using one of his/her hands to hold the paper still for you. That's just a trick they use to use their hand to actually cover up numbers and stuff they wrote on the sales contract, getting you to sign without realizing what they are doing to you.

And what do you do if you realize you've been had? Immediately go back to the dealer and demand they make it right. And if they don't then you should immediately go see a car sales fraud lawyer. You can find one near you by checking this free online 50-state list of Consumer Law lawyers who handle cases like that.

It's your money so remember to be careful. We've represented ordinary folks like you who were ripped off by car dealers for over 25 years. And also remember that it isn't your fault. Lots of folks who thought they were too careful to get ripped off also had to hire us. That includes doctors, lawyers, sheriff deputies, and judges who were ripped off and didn't even realize it until later. If it can happen to them, you know it can happen to you too.

Burdge Law Office
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Helping people protect themselves, every day.