Yogi Berra, famous for playing and coaching baseball and infamous for his sincere, but slightly askew manner of speaking, could have been summing up the final tasks of buying a new car when he said: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
The deal is officially over, and that can mean no more “nice guy” treatment by the dealer when you leave the dealership and “go over the curb.” Once you’ve signed the papers and accepted your vehicle, the car is yours, as is. So it’s very important that you do an inventory of everything you purchased and make sure that it is in order before you take the car off the lot. Double-check your financing agreement, too. Don’t be like a man (yes, a man) we know who bragged about his low car payment only to discover that he had signed a lease agreement, not the loan contract he thought he had agreed to when buying his new “dream truck.” “Too bad, guy.” The dealers said when he went back to talk to them about his oversight. “That’s what you signed and that’s that.”
Make Sure Everything Is In Order
Most states observe a “truth-in-lending” regulation which requires all contracts, leasing and purchase, to clearly state all amounts applying to the agreement, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to go over each item carefully. Take the time to read the agreement, front and back, and be sure you understand every item on it. One item included on the contract that should get your attention is “DOC Charges.” “DOC” is short for “documents” and refers to the
charges covering all the paperwork involved in a car purchase. This is an item sometimes used to “legitimately” run up the costs on a contract. Normal “DOC charges” run between $100 and $150.
When going over your vehicle before accepting it, take the list you made of everything you bought and ceremoniously go over each add-on and all the other things on the list. Check that the spare tire is there, that there is air in it and that it’s ready to roll should you need it. Be sure all the mats are on the floor of the car, the manual is in the glove box, the lights work on the visor mirror, and so on. Also, look at the odometer to see that the kid polishing the car didn’t take it for a 250-mile spin. There should be no more than 100 miles on the car if it’s been sitting in the lot, less if it was “made to order.” Be thorough. In fact, be fastidious. If it should happen that something you ordered is not there, and the dealership is closing, or you’re out of time, or whatever, ask for a “We Owe.” That’s a signed “promissory note” that the dealer will provide whatever is missing when you bring the vehicle back.
Check The Car
Unlike cars of the past, today’s vehicles don’t require a “breaking in period.” Gone are the days when you had to back off your normal driving habits for a number of miles in order to prepare the car for normal driving. Generally speaking, the car is ready when you are. You do need to read the manual carefully, however. There may be specific
things you should do to prolong the life of your car.
Prior to taking delivery, the dealer has performed two kinds of “Dealer Prep” on your vehicle. One “Dealer Prep” took place when the car came from the factory. Like you, the dealership runs the vehicle through a checklist of items before accepting delivery. Then it’s washed and cleaned up and put on the showroom floor or in the lot. After you contract to buy the vehicle, another kind of “Dealer Prep” takes place when the dealer prepares the vehicle to your
Many dealerships have a sales delivery checklist that is used by the dealership person responsible for reviewing the vehicle with the customer before handing over the keys. Some dealers employ specific people, generally called the Customer Satisfaction Department, to handle the delivery procedure. At most dealerships, however, the salesperson is expected to be totally responsible from the beginning of a sale through a satisfactory delivery of a vehicle.
That’s true at a General Motor dealership we talked to, they told us that after 60 days, General Motors sends the customer a “CSI” (Customer Satisfaction Index) form to fill out and return reporting on the dealership experience. If the customer reports anything less than an exceptional dealership experience, the salesperson at this dealership is not only reprimanded, he or she is substantially fined.
The form used by the salesperson or dealership person assigned to handle the delivery procedure at many General Motors dealers is called the “Customer Satisfaction Delivery Procedure.” It has a detailed check list to follow requiring the dealership person to review a number of specific things with the customer. For example, there is a heading “Familiarize the customer with the proper operation and features of his or her new vehicle using the Owners Manual as a guide.” It is estimated that one in one thousand new car customers actually read the manual. Our GM dealer said that his dealership provides a 15-page booklet to review with the customer at delivery and strongly suggests that every new car owner read the complete manual, carefully, as soon as possible. The manual chapters that should be discussed during the delivery procedure include: Before Driving your Vehicle; Starting and Operating; In Case of Emergency: Appearance Care; Service and Maintenance; Specifications; Service Manuals; Index and Service Station Information.
Other headings on the “Customer Satisfaction Delivery Procedure” form instruct the dealership person to “Familiarize the customer with the proper operation of the seat belt and child restraint systems,” and to “Familiarize the customer with the glove box materials” with boxes to check for “Warranty folder — what is covered by the Limited Warranty and what is not” and “Tire Warranty folder.” There is also a heading titled “Provide customer with all state-required material/literature,” where there’s a box to be checked indicating that information has been shared on the: “Lemon Law.”
Resolving Problems And The “Lemon Law”
The “Lemon Law” — consumer rights regarding products that don’t function as advertised — varies from state to state. You can get a copy of the Law as it applies to you from your state’s Automobile Dealers Association. This organization can also help you resolve problems with a dealership. The Arizona Automobile Dealer’s Association advises: “When you have a problem with your vehicle, always talk to someone in authority: the sales manager for a sales problem, the service manager for a service problem, etc. Explain your concerns and what you believe to be the best way to resolve the problem. If this is unsuccessful, speak with the general manager or owner of the dealership.”
The next option is to contact the automaker. Most manufacturers are very liberal about offering a dissatisfied customer either an entirely different vehicle or issuing a substantial dollar amount to compensate for the “lemon.” If you aren’t making much headway at the dealership, call the manufacturer’s Customer Service number listed in
the manual. Be patient and calm with them. Speak slowly, write notes on all your conversations keeping track of the name of the person you spoke to and the date. Whenever possible, follow up a conversation with a letter if the problem is serious.
If things get bad, visit the Better Business Bureau’s Auto Complaint Web Site to file a claim.
Another important part of taking delivery of your vehicle involves a tour of the dealership’s Service Department, Parts Department and Body Shop. According to the form directing GM personnel on the delivery process, the customer is to be personally introduced to, and should receive business cards from, each of the department managers. The form also states that the customer is to be briefed on the automaker’s consumer protection plan.
There’s an area on the form instructing the dealership person to “give customer an orientation ride and opportunity to examine the new vehicle prior to acceptance,” and indicates the amount of gas in the tank when the customer takes delivery. Both the dealer representative and the customer sign this form and there’s a place for customer comments (say good stuff and you’re likely to be quoted in their advertising).
We’ve gone into great detail about this GM delivery procedure form to make you aware that such a form exists. You should expect similar treatment from any dealership you work with. If you don’t, demand it. We’ve included a checklist at the end of this article for you to use should your dealership not provide one. As you can see, completing delivery on your vehicle can take quite a long time. It is a good idea to ask at the time you place your order what the orientation will be like, what it will include, who will conduct it, how long it will take and then schedule an appointment to do it.
Taking delivery of the car is, technically, the final step in the new car buying process. It is critical the car is delivered to you as agreed upon during the negotiations. In other words, “it ain’t over till it’s over.”
Checklist – Copy it, and take it with you when you take delivery of your car.
- Proper operation and orientation ride.
- Before driving your vehicle, check:
- Seat belt and child safety device operation.
- Mirror adjustment.
- How to start and operate the car.
- Steering column and seat adjustments.
- How to operate the stereo.
- How to operate the cruise control.
- How to operate the climate controls.
- Where the air bags are located.
- Location of the trunk, hood and gas tank door opening levers or buttons.
- Emergency procedures.
- Operation of the security system.
- Location of the fuse box.
- Service station information.
- Vehicle specifications.
- Appearance care.
- Consumer protection plan.
- Maintenance schedule.
- Service manuals.
- The Warranty folder and know what you have to do when.
- Service Department.
- Parts Department.
- Body Shop.
Examples of Standard Features purchased:
- Owner’s manual
- Spare tire
Examples of add-ons (options) you may have purchased:
- Stereo upgrade (play your favorite CD)
- Power windows and door locks
- Security system (ask for demonstration)
- Power seats
Read your purchase or lease agreement carefully.
- Headliners in place?
- Seat backings in place?
- Spare tire inflated?