Auto Purchases

Navigating the car buying process can be a challenge, and there are plenty of car sellers and scammers who attempt to take advantage of Arizonans through false advertising, undisclosed fees, deceptive financing and much more.

Use the tips and resources below to help protect yourself and prepare for your next automobile purchase. Click on the topic to learn more.



Beware of advertised minimum trade-in amounts. Dishonest dealers may have already raised the price of the car that you are buying to offset the value of your trade-in. Remember that any debt you still owe on your trade-in vehicle will be added to your new loan.

Be skeptical of car advertisements and always read the fine print. Sometimes, the advertised deal only applies to a few vehicles and is available only under certain conditions. Some dealers may advertise prices that include rebates not available to most people (such as military, student or only with dealer financing).

Check for additional fees. Look at advertisements closely to see if the listed prices include dealer add-ons and other fees.  For used vehicles, check advertisements to see if there are fees such as reconditioning or recertification fees.  Take a copy of the advertisement with you to the dealership to make sure that the prices charged are consistent with the advertisement. 

Before You Go To The Dealer

Do your homework.

  • Ask family or friends for dealership recommendations.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau or online review sites for dealer reviews.
  • Know what you want and what it should cost before you visit a dealership. Do your research to get an idea of a price range and options before you go. You want to know the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) and the prices similar customers are paying for the same vehicle before you walk on the lot. These prices are not always the same, and knowing the difference can save you thousands. 

Determine Car Financing Options.

  • Calculate exactly how much you can afford in terms of price and then figure out what monthly payment fits that budget. People who go to dealers without knowing how much they want to spend per month and how much they want to spend in total could end up paying an inflated purchase price. 
  • Arrange vehicle financing with your bank or credit union before you go car shopping. Pre-qualify with the bank or credit union that gives you the best deal. If you have an account with the lender, many will pre-qualify you over the phone.

Negotiating The Deal

When it comes to purchasing a vehicle, everything is negotiable – no matter what the salesperson says.

  • Never buy a new car in a hurry. Look online at several dealerships to compare inventory and prices before talking to any salesperson. Be prepared to take as long as several weeks to find and negotiate the deal you want.
  • Be cautious when the dealership takes your car keys to “evaluate your trade-in”. Dealerships may delay returning your keys to keep you negotiating or pressure you into purchasing. Be insistent about getting your keys back and leaving. If the dealership refuses to return your keys, call law enforcement.
  • Take someone with you. They can take notes while you ask questions. Two people are also better able to withstand high-pressure sales tactics than a person alone.
  • Consider selling your paid off used car on your own. Trading in your car at the dealership may not get you the most value and could make the deal unnecessarily complex. It might be easier to treat buying your new car, selling your old car, and financing your new car as three separate transactions.
  • Don’t assume salespeople are your friends. Their job is to sell you a car. Most are paid on a commission basis, so their compensation increases the more you spend.
  • Watch out for add-ons. You do not have to agree to pay for after-market add-ons offered by the dealer, such as window etchings, nitrogen-filled tires, paint protection, door edge protectors, or rust-proofing, even if they are already on the vehicle you wish to purchase. Examine the cost and need for such extras and whether you can afford it. Some add-ons are unnecessary or are significantly overpriced, and they may greatly increase the purchase price of the vehicle.
  • Negotiate on an “out-the-door” price. Explain that you want to know the dealer’s total price and the total cost to you. Some dealers may add fees for “document processing,” weatherproofing, safety inspections, dealer “prep,” destination charges, etc.
  • One loan adds to the other. Remember, if you still owe money on your trade-in, the amount that you still owe will most likely be included in the financing for the new car, and this will raise the overall cost of the vehicle you are buying.

Take good notes. When car shopping, you should bring a notebook, a calculator, and a pen or pencil. Once you have agreed on a price with a dealer, make written notes of what the agreement is and compare your number to the figures that appear on the contract. Make sure your notes include the cost of each item. 

Closing the Deal

  • Take a walk. At every point in the negotiations, be prepared to walk away. It is not rude to walk away from a negotiation. It’s your ultimate (and often your only) weapon. 
  • Take a minute. Do not let a salesperson rush you to sign paperwork without reviewing the contract terms. Read all documents and understand all terms before signing on the bottom line and look out for terms that are different from what the salesperson offered. 
  • Sleep on it. Give yourself at least 24 hours to think about a deal before signing a contract. Even if you miss out on a deal, there will be lots of similar deals out there. If the financing negotiations start going late into the night, arrange to come back the following day when you are better able to review and understand the documents. 
  • Get it in writing. Make sure that ALL promises made by the salesperson or dealership are in writing. Don’t sign anything that contains blank spaces – especially contracts or credit applications. Draw a line through all blanks on paper documents you sign. Insist that the dealership fill in any blank spaces on electronic documents.
  • Keep it honest. DO NOT allow false information on any forms and beware of any salesperson who suggests putting false information on your finance application, such as stating a higher income. If something goes wrong, the false information could be held against you.
  • Be ready for financing. After you’ve agreed on a deal with the sales department, you’ll be taken by the salesperson to the finance representative and told that he or she will “fill out the paperwork.” Watch out – in some dealerships the finance representative will not use the price you agreed to with the salesperson and will almost always attempt to sell you additional costly products and services.

Never buy Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP), life, or disability insurance from a dealer without comparison shopping with an insurance agent first.

Financing Through the Dealer

  • When financing through a dealer, always negotiate the car price separately from the financing. Once the price is settled, then negotiate the monthly payment amount, term of the loan and interest rate.
  • Always ask the dealer if the interest rate being offered is the lowest rate he or she can offer and whether it includes a profit for the dealer.

A dealer may let you take the car before financing is approved, a method often referred to as "spot-delivery." Beware of this practice! If the dealer cannot get the financing approved on the agreed upon terms, they may ask you to re-sign the contract for a higher rate or longer term. Arizona law provides that you may reject the change in terms and the dealership must return your trade-in to you. It may not be made clear why the dealer needs you to “re-sign” documents. Pay close attention to any change in the contract or financing terms. Arizona’s spot-delivery law may be found at A.R.S. § 44-1371.

Automobile Service Contracts and Extended Warranties

Service contracts or extended warranties provide for the repair of certain automotive parts or problems. These contracts are offered by manufacturers, dealers or independent companies.

When deciding whether to purchase a service contract or extended warranty, consider the following questions:

  • Who provides the coverage?  Is it a manufacturer’s policy or offered by a smaller company that may be less reliable or go out of business? 
  • How many miles will the warranty cover? Used car service contracts may count the mileage or time period from the time the car was new—for example, the purchase of a 75,000-mile extended warranty on a used vehicle with 40,000 miles may only cover the remaining 35,000 miles.  Pay careful attention to the fine print concerning the time and mileage period covered.
  • What does the initial manufacturer’s warranty cover? Most new vehicles come with at least a 3-year or 36,000-mile warranty. 
  • Now or later? Should I purchase this coverage now, or can I wait until later when I have had the time to review other offers?
  • What repairs are covered?  Routine maintenance and wear and tear are probably excluded, but who pays for the labor and who pays for the parts? Be sure to understand 
  • Who performs the repairs? Find out if repairs must be made at the dealership where you made the purchase or if repairs can be made elsewhere.     

What happens if you cancel? You may want to cancel the policy if you regret the purchase or find a better price. Review the cancellation policy. If the cost of the policy was financed, cancelling the policy may not lower your monthly payments, but could reduce the total amount of money you owe and shorten the term of your loan.

Your Warranty Rights Under Federal Law

When you purchase a new vehicle, you have certain rights under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a federal law that establishes requirements for warranties, including those offered by automobile manufacturers.  

What is a warranty? 

A warranty is a promise by a manufacturer to stand behind its product or to repair certain defects over a set period of time. The warranty covers the costs associated with repairs or replacements specified in the agreement (or promise) during this period.

What are your rights under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act?

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act provides you with the flexibility to choose your own mechanic or retail chain shop for auto repairs and maintenance.  In other words, you cannot be denied warranty coverage on your new vehicle just because you had maintenance or repairs done by someone other than the dealer.  However, the manufacturer or dealer may require the use of select repair facilities if the repair services are provided free of charge. 

Similarly, you cannot be denied warranty coverage for using “aftermarket” or recycled parts unless the manufacturer or dealer requires specific parts that are provided free of charge.  

What you should do to avoid warranty issues?

• Ask to read the warranty prior to finalizing your purchase.  If you have questions, ask the dealer for clarification.

• Be aware of the warranty period.  If issues arise, get them checked before your warranty expires.

• Keep up to date with service and follow the manufacturer’s recommended schedule.  A manufacturer may void a warranty for failure to service your vehicle.

• Keep all service records.  If you ever need to use your warranty, the dealer or manufacturer may request your maintenance records.

Additional Tips For Used Cars

Have a trusted mechanic inspect the used vehicle before you buy, even if a dealership represents that it already inspected and repaired any issues with the vehicle This may cost around $100 or more, but could save you money in the long run or help you negotiate a better purchase price.

Check the vehicle's history. If you buy from a dealer, request a free vehicle history report on a used car. Instead of taking the salesperson's word about the history and condition of the vehicle, get a vehicle-history report from CarFax or Experian Automotive. Although these services are not fail-safe, they can alert you to possible odometer fraud; past flood, fire and accident damage; or whether a rebuilt or salvage title was ever issued for the vehicle. 

Used cars in Arizona are sold with an implied warranty of merchantability that applies to every used car sale (although a specific defect may not be covered if it is spelled out in writing). This law is found at A.R.S. § 44-1267. The implied warranty lasts fifteen days or 500 miles, whichever comes first. The dealer must be given two opportunities to repair the vehicle, before you can seek a refund.

Arizona's Lemon Law

New Car

Arizona’s Lemon Law (A.R.S. § 44-1261 to 44-1266) has a number of specific provisions to address vehicles with significant defects unknown to the buyer at the time the car is purchased. If your new car is a lemon, consider filing a complaint with the BBB AUTO LINE Program ( or consult with an attorney. Here are the basics of Arizona’s Lemon Law for new cars:

  • Arizona’s Lemon Law covers the vehicle for the full length on the manufacturer’s warranty or two years or 24,000 miles, whichever is earlier. Coverage begins when the vehicle is given to the customer. 
  • You should report any problems that substantially limit the use and value of the vehicle and do not comply with the manufacturer’s warranty to the manufacturer. Your report must be made during the covered period.
  • The manufacturer or its authorized dealers can repair or correct the defect, accept return of the car or replace the car with a new car.
  • If the manufacturer fails to successfully repair the defect after four attempts, or the car is out of service for repairs for a total of 30 or more calendar days, the manufacturer must accept return of the car or replace the car with a new car.

Used Car

  • Your car is covered by the Arizona Used Car Lemon Law if a major component of your car breaks before 15 days or 500 miles after you buy the car, whichever happens earlier.
  • The dealer must be given two opportunities to repair the car and you will still have to pay up to $25 for each repair.

If you are entitled to a recovery under Arizona’s Used Car Lemon Law, you would get the purchase amount you paid for the car.

Been scammed?
File a complaint today.

The Attorney General’s Office is here to help. If you believe you are the victim of a consumer scam or fraud, file a consumer complaint online right now. You can also call:

Phoenix: (602) 542-5763

Tucson: (520) 628-6648

Outside metro areas: (800) 352-8431

Bilingual consumer protection staff is available to assist.