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The Hidden Compliances in Global Mobility

Car Buying in the United States: Watch Out for the Fine Print

Expats, beware of the fine print! Learn what to watch out for when reading car buying advertisements Hitrost

Advertising is king in the United States; everywhere you turn there is a commercial, online offer, newspaper advertisement, and even billboard signs offering you the BEST DEAL EVER on a brand-new car! The only problem is, what you read is almost never what you get. How can that be? It’s all in the fine print.

Beneath the big, shiny numbers offering you the deal of a lifetime, at the bottom of the page, in a tiny hard-to-read font, are the complete terms and conditions of the offer. These details can add money to the price, make you ineligible for the deal, and ultimately make you realize it’s too good to be true.

So what’s the trick to NOT getting tricked? Learn how to read and understand the fine print.

What the ‘Fine Print’ REALLY means

Car advertisements with attractive vehicle offers and flashy pictures are meant to entice potential customers into visiting the dealership. Once there, the pricing, options, rates, and promotions vary greatly.

Next time you’re reading a car advertisement, know what it means:

Estimated Selling Price – The price listed is shown for estimation purposes only. The figures presented may not represent an offer that can be accepted by you.

Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price – Is the recommended price of the vehicle by the manufacturer, also known as the MSRP. This number excludes destination and delivery charges, taxes, documentation, title and registration fees.

Optional Equipment Shown – A term used when the advertisement showcases a vehicle with options not included in the listed price. If you want that specific vehicle, you’re going to have to pay for an upgraded package.

Eligibility and availability qualifications

As an expatriate or any newcomer to the United States without a local credit history, it is extremely important that you watch out for car advertisements marked “for well-qualified buyers or highly qualified leases only”. This statement means that the dealer is only offering this price for people with excellent U.S. credit scores – typically considered to be a FICO score of 750-850. Since credit does not travel from country-to-country, Expats start with a credit score of 0. Without an excellent credit score, you can expect to pay a much higher price than advertised.

When you visit the dealer, they may just tell you that that vehicle shown in the advert is not available. They will try to sell you into a different car, one that is likely to cost more than the one you came for. Also, be mindful that not all incentives or offers can be redeemed together. Even though the dealer is advertising two offers for the time period, it does not mean that you can use both of them. Confusing right?

Offer subject to change at any time 

The dealership can withdraw an offer, incentive or promotion at any time without notification. The advertisement you saw in the morning could be invalid by the time you arrive at the dealership that afternoon.

What to look for when buying a car

Don’t get scared to shop for a car. The key to attaining a great deal is finding a trustworthy, honest resource. Choose a resource with no hidden fees, and who offers you all the pricing upfront. Bonus points if you can find a dealer or company that also offers a “Lowest Price Guarantee”. This guarantee means that if you find a lower price for the same vehicle after you make your purchase, the company will match the lower price. Car shopping should be exciting and enjoyable. Remember the best customer is always an educated one – Read the fine print.

By Amy Oberlies, International Autosource

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