It’s Your Money Column – How to Buy a Car Online – and How to Avoid Scams

Question: Where is the best place on the Internet to get information about buying a car?

Answer: The Internet is a fast, efficient place to get lots of information about car buying. You can actually buy a car through Internet connections.

Up-to-date car reviews can be found at You’ll find information about the exterior, interior, engine and driving impressions. Because reviewer impressions may be different, try these sites as well: and The Web site scans newspaper columns across the country that have evaluated various vehicles.

At, you’ll learn the base retail price ranges. Options are priced separately. By submitting your name and contact information, you’ll get real prices from nearby dealers for the cars and the features you want. Additional sites that will send you local price information are and Don’t forget to check your local dealers, but go armed with all of the critical information that you’ve carefully researched.

A last site to check is Scroll down the home page until you come to "Top 10 Car Dealer Scams."

Some of these scams include the following.  

– Charging from $300 to $900 for etching on the window the unique vehicle identification number for the car you are purchasing. You can do the same thing yourself with a $29 kit.  

– Telling you, after you bought the car, that you didn’t qualify for the quoted interest rates. Check on your own financing first before considering the dealer’s offer.

– Telling people that their credit score is low, which means paying a higher interest rate for financing the car. Know your own credit score before shopping for car financing. For $14.95, you can get this online at Equifax

– Forcing you to purchase an extended warranty to finance your car. Don’t buy if this is a condition for purchasing a car.

– Charging an excessive fee for dealer prep or pre-delivery service. A $500 charge is high: Get the dealer to drop or significantly reduce this charge or go to another dealer.

– Additional dealer markup, or ADM, is a profit over and above the manufacture’s suggested retail price, or MSRP. Get the dealer to drop this charge.

– The dealer promises to get you out of a current car lease. Stick with the lease until it is paid off; otherwise, you will be paying for the lease penalties wrapped into a new financing package.

– Buying a car from a dealer "as is" with no warranty. Buy a car with at least a 30-day warranty, but a three-month warranty is better. Before you buy, make sure to run a Carfax report ( with the car VIN number to see if the car has been in an accident.

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Judy McKenna, Ph.D., CFP, Family Economics Specialist, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension,