Buying a car: what you should know

  • Published
  • By Capt. Justin Rossi and Airman 1st Class Tatiana Anderson
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Staff Judge Advocate's Office
Buying a vehicle isn't as simple as buying video games, a new outfit or selecting lunch. The style, gas mileage, costs and insurance are many factors to consider before purchasing a car. Nothing ruins a cool car faster than a bad deal. The next time you are in the market for a car, please consider these tips.

Buying a new car
1.  Know the car you want.

According to Kelley Blue Book, the average price for a new car in the United States is approximately $33,000. One way to help save money or limit spending is to have a car in mind. Otherwise, you may spend more than you planned. Take the time to do some research. Find out which dealerships have the car you want, the best deals and the information about the car's performance. Know what you are bargaining for and the best alternative.

2.  Consider what the dealer paid.

There are three terms to be familiar with when determining the dealer's price: invoice, base price and sticker price. The invoice price is the manufacturer's initial charge to the dealer. The invoice price drives the manufacturer's suggested retail price. The base price is the price of vehicle with standard equipment and factory warranty but without all other options. The sticker price is the dealer's asking price. Knowing these factors can help you know the true value of the vehicle. Once you have determined the price of your preferred vehicle then you can officially begin shopping for a car.

Buying a used car
1. Inspection.

If you buy a vehicle from the dealer or an individual consider having the vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic. Do not simply rely on the word of the seller. Test drive the vehicle on hills, highways and other situations. Be sure to ask for the vehicle maintenance report, such as the CarFax history report to verify the information given.

2. Determine the car's value.

You can determine the value of the car by checking resources such as National Automobile Dealers Association Guides, Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book. You will need to know the condition, year, make and model of the desired vehicle to look it up. Know what you are bargaining for and the best alternative.

Buying a car "as is"
An "as is" clause protects the seller from having to repair any issues that may exist in the car during the time of the sale. An "as is" sale is truly buyer beware; it is the buyer's responsibility to detect any problems the car may have before purchase. When you buy any product in "as is condition, you accept the product, including all defects, as it exists at the time of the sale. Once the buyer and seller have come to an agreement be sure to get all promises in writing. Verbal promises are virtually impossible to enforce. Once you sign the contract, you accept all risks as to the quality of the goods.

Terminating a lease agreement
Some people prefer to lease a car, rather than purchase it. As a military member, you may be able to terminate a lease for a particular vehicle under the Service Member's Civil Relief Act Lease Termination Provisions. If the lease was made by a service member or their dependents the lease can often be terminated under the following conditions:

1. A member enters military service for a period of no less than 180 days.
2. The service member receives orders for permanent change of station outside the continental United States.
3. The member has a permanent change of station or deploys for no less than 180 days.

If you are considering terminating a lease, please see the legal office first. You'll want to ensure you qualify and have your paperwork in order first.

For more information regarding car purchases or other legal issues, such as family law, wills, landlord-tenant, and powers of attorney, visit the legal office. They're located in the wing headquarters building, suite 121. For their office hours of operations and services provided:

Wills for active duty members and dependents -- Every Wednesday (by appointment only)
Power Of Attorneys and Notaries - Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Legal assistance (walk-ins) -- Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

The material in this article represents general legal principles. The law is continually changing; although the information in this article was current as of the date it was drafted, some provisions may have changed. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities regarding your particular case.