Buying Your First Car: Legal Guide for College Students

If you aren’t one of the lucky few whose parents purchased their first car back in high school, then college might present a prime opportunity to buy your first car. If, for example, you live off-campus in an apartment, or if you go to school on a large campus, you might require a car to get to classes, work, nightclubs or study groups, whichever you might prefer on a regular basis.

If you are a college student looking to buy your first car, however, the salespeople at car dealership – whether new or used – will smell you a mile a way. College students with no experience in car lots are often taken for that proverbial ride.

Here are ten tips for buying your first car from a legal standpoint.

Buying Your First Car: Use the Internet

Before you even step foot on a car lot, use the resources available to you. The Internet is an invaluable resource when it comes to buying your first car because you can find out what the standard pricing is for a specific make, model, and year. You can also discover whether or not a vehicle has sustained damage. Use KBB (Kelley Blue Book), Edmunds, and NADA Guides(National Auto Dealer Association).

Buying Your First Car: Think Costs

When college students head off to buy their first car, they often don’t think in terms of costs. Just because the tag on the windshield of your dream car says $2,500 doesn’t mean that you won’t spend more by the end. Don’t forget tax, title, license and insurance when you pick out the car you want to take home.

Buying Your First Car: Get the History

Whether you learn the car’s history online or from another source, always find out where the car has been. Purchase a car history report from CarFax or AutoCheck to make sure that your car hasn’t sustained flood damage, body damage, odometer rollbacks, or any other disaster that might mean it’s not worth its salt. All you need to obtain a report is the VIN number of the vehicle.

Buying Your First Car: Don’t Show All Your Cards

When you first meet with the seller or salesperson, don’t lay all your cards out on the table. Many college students think it’s wise to let them know right up front how much money you have to spend or the blemishes on your credit report. If things don’t look good, just walk away.

Buying Your First Car: Don’t Be Afraid of Negotiation

Almost every car sale requires at least a little negotiation, so if you don’t think that you have it in you (many college students don’t), then hire an auto broker to bargain for you. You can also purchase cars through AAA or Costco, or at a used-car superstore.

Buying Your First Car: Safety First

If you are looking at cars that are sold by their owners, such as on the Internet or in the newspaper, take someone with you to look at the car rather than going alone. Unscrupulous people have been known to prey on college students, and if you live in a college town, you could be at risk. Use the buddy system.

Buying Your First Car: Warranty

Although a warranty could be a life-saver, it could also go right down the toilet. Warranty companies go broke all the time, so do your research. Look up the warranty company at the BBB (Better Business Bureau) before signing any paperwork.

Buying Your First Car: Resist the Pressure

The used car salesman is not your friend, and he is not looking out for your best interests. Don’t sign a contract just because the salesman likes the Cubs as much as you do; instead, take time to look over the contract, and decide whether it is something you want to do. Once you sign it, decision time is over.

Buying Your First Car: Be Careful with Family

Purchasing your Aunt Edna’s black Ford Explorer might seem like a good idea now, but what if the Explorer dies in two weeks? Monetary deals with family can be disastrous, so tread lightly.

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