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Buying a New Car

For many of us a new vehicle means excitement and adventure, the chance to own the car or truck or our dreams. But a shiny exterior and rims can hide a host of problems, and financing choices can save or cost buyers a great deal of money.

Each year the Consumer Protection Division receives hundreds of complaints from Iowans about new car sales and financing. Will you still be happy with your purchase a year after you've driven it off the lot?  These simple guidelines can help you get the most out of your next car purchase.

If you do have a problem, give the seller or lender a chance to resolve the problem. If that doesn't work, contact the Consumer Protection Division.

Do your homework: Know what you want before you shop

  • Decide how much you're willing to spend, then read car and consumer magazines to find out what's available in your price range.
  • Consider the total purchase price, including interest;not just the monthly payments.
  • Don't set your heart on a particular make or model;identify several features that you think are important and see which models offer them.
  • Check each model's reliability.

Shop around: Don't buy the first vehicle you like

  • Visit several dealers. You might find a car with similar features for a lower price.
  • Test drive any vehicle you are thinking of buying but remember to consider and compare all features.
  • Compare manufacturer warranties as well as options. A good warranty can increase the value of a vehicle.
  • Shop around for financing, too. Compare the dealer's financing with that of several lending institutions to find the best interest rate.

Reconsider add-ons: Don't buy unnecessary extras

  • Some auto manufacturers recommend against rustproofing new cars and trucks. Rustproofing a new vehicle may even cancel your warranty.
  • Tinting your car or truck's windows may make it illegal to operate in Iowa. Iowa law requires that the windshield and front side windows allow in 70% of the available light.
  • A service contract may be unnecessary if your car or truck has a good warranty.
  • If you do decide to purchase add-ons, compare the dealer's price with prices of independent auto customizing outlets.

Trade-ins: Get the best deal for your old car

  • You might get more money for your old car or truck if you sell it yourself rather than trading it in.
  • Whether you decide to sell your old vehicle or trade it in, know what it's worth before going to a dealership. Check a used-car price book available at your bank or library.

Make an offer: Negotiate the best price

  • Most dealers expect you to make a lower offer rather than pay the full sticker price.
  • Some dealers will ask for a deposit to hold a vehicle for you. Before making a deposit, ask if the deposit is refundable and get a written copy of the refund conditions. Think twice about buying a vehicle from any dealer who will not put refund conditions in writing and give you a copy.

Read the contract: Don't sign until you're ready to buy

  • Take time to read any purchase contract thoroughly.
    • Know the answers to these questions before you sign a purchase contract:
    • How much is my down payment?
    • How much are my monthly payments?
    • What is the interest rate?
  • Make sure any spoken agreements are written on the contract under "other conditions of sale.
  • Do not let a dealer pressure you into making a decision until you are ready. If you are not ready, ask for a copy of the offer, take it home, and come back later if you decide to buy.
  • Get a copy of anything you sign.
  • Remember, you do not have a 3-day right to cancel your contract or purchase from a car dealer's lot.

Buy or lease?  Know the difference between buying and leasing

  • When you lease a car or truck, in most cases you will not own that vehicle when the lease expires.
  • You might not be allowed to buy the vehicle at the end of the lease. If you are allowed to buy it, you will need to pay additional money.
  • You may be required to pay a penalty if your mileage exceeds the mileage agreed to the lease.
  • There may also be substantial penalties if you decide to end the lease early, even if you want to buy the car.




888-777-4590 (outside of the Des Moines metro area)




Office of the Attorney General of Iowa
Consumer Protection Division
Hoover State Office Building
1305 E. Walnut Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0106

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