Dealing with the Dealer – How to buy a new car

When you buy a new car, it can be a pretty intimidating experience. And as you drive off the lot you will learn two things:  1) that your new, expensive car has just lost 20 per cent of its value, and 2) that your friendly sales rep has disappeared. Not only that but your Service Manager will make you feel like an ignoramus and attempt to intimidate you into high maintenance bills every time you bring your car in for servicing.  These will be the expenses that are not covered by your warranty.  You’ll find that there are many such expenses.  Keep in mind that the dealer makes no money from you or the manufacturer for addressing warranty problems and he will avoid at all costs addressing factory problems if he can get away with it.  His greatest profit margin lies in scheduled maintenance servicing, in which he supposedly addresses a long laundry list of servicing issues, most of which involve “checking” fluids, belts, hoses, and miscellaneous gizmos.  These scheduled checks take about ten minutes, and he will charge you anywhere from $125 to $1,500 for the same thing that Jiffy Lube will charge $40.  Essentially, he changes your oil, and not much more. But there is a way to fight back and assert some authority!

Build your Paper Trail

Keep excellent records.  You’ll receive a book with your car that tells you how everything works, and in the back section, there will be maintenance record and log telling you when you need to service what.  Essentially, these pit stops are at 7,500 miles, and about every five to 10,000 mile intervals after that.  Ask for, and make sure you get, a listing of each one of these scheduled maintenance requirements to include all the items to be serviced at each mileage interval.  Your book will also tell you when they’re due, and your dealer will send you notices.  To protect your warranty, must have it serviced regularly according to the maintenance schedule. However, you don’t have to have the dealer do the maintenance, but you must have the scheduled maintenance performed and recorded by a recognized servicing operation, whether it’s your own mechanic or a Jiffy Lube clone. Keep these records in your folder, and have the servicing organization record the service in your book.

Go to the web site which will give you all the servicing data for your car, and most specifically, all manufacturer recall items for your car. Generally, your dealer won’t tell you about these issues unless there’s media coverage.  So, when you go in for your first scheduled maintenance servicing [the cheap one], bring along your printout of the recall items and tell the service representative that you want all those items addressed.

You should also bring along a written list of all the issues you have with your car, whether it’s a squeaky door, a loose gizmo, or anything that’s annoying you.  Make sure the service rep writes down your problems on his worksheet so that each will appear on your service order.

When you pick up your car from the service rep, go early enough to review all the issues with him, and make sure everything is documented.  Have him annotate your book to record the date of the servicing, and put the service record in your folder.  If there is a persistent problem with your car, you can schedule an appointment between scheduled maintenances, and ask the dealer to address the problem; once again, put the service record in your folder.

This process may seem nitpicky, but the dealer may attempt to weasel out of the warranty coverage by saying you didn’t adhere to the schedule, or you didn’t notify him of the problem — so it really is worth it.

Ultimately, the most important servicing you need is your regular oil change.  Get it changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.   You don’t need to take the car to the dealer for the oil change, but you do need to keep a record of each such oil change.  While you have it in for service, ask your mechanic to check all the fluids, belts and hoses.  Take the car to the dealer only for the cheap scheduled maintenance calls so you can have your warranty issues addressed.


If you have a persistent problem, and the dealer tries to avoid the issue, you need The Lemon Law. Dealers hate this as it gives you the option of turning the car back in for a full refund if they can’t fix the problem.  Go to which will give you the requirements to report your problem and seek official assistance for your state.  If you aren’t getting satisfaction from the dealer, mention the Lemon Law.  In all probability he’ll knuckle under.