If you are considering purchasing a car, it is important to educate yourself with smart car purchasing tips. Our law firm hears a lot of horror stories about consumers who have been defrauded by car dealers. If you do your homework before purchasing a car, it can prevent you from becoming the victim of fraud later.

Problems with a car purchase? The Chicago attorneys at Edelman, Combs, Latturner & Goodwin, LLC, can help you. Contact us for a free consultation.

Do Your Homework Before the Purchase

Determine what the monthly payment should be for the price range and interest rate you want ahead of time. Negotiate a good price for the car before you discuss financing terms. You may want to consider obtaining financing on your own, such as from a bank or credit union – you can often get a better deal that way.

Also, know what the going price is for the new or used car you want, what the interest rate should be for someone with your credit score or what your trade-in is worth. You can also try to get price quotes from dealers before you even go to the dealership, and you can use the Internet to find out which particular cars a dealer actually has in its current inventory.

Documents, Documents, Documents

Bring a calculator, and use it to determine if you are actually getting the price you negotiated before you sign the documents. Get the dealer to document every promise they make to you.

Carefully review every document you sign before you sign it – especially the sale contract/purchase order and financing documents (retail installment contract). Do not sign blank documents or inconsistent documents. Insist on taking home a copy of every document you sign. Be on the lookout for changes in the agreed-upon price, add-ons you did not request, hidden charges, etc.

If you are financing the purchase, you are entitled to a copy of the financing document, which is called the Retail Installment Contract in Illinois. Do not leave the dealership without it.

Be Careful About Add-Ons

Dealers profit from many other products they sell, apart from the cars themselves. Items such as weatherproofing and stain proofing are often worth far less than the amount being charged, and are extremely profitable for dealers.

Dealers also receive part of the money you pay for service contracts, extended warranties and insurance. You have no obligation to purchase these items. Do not feel bad about “just saying no” if you don’t want or need them.

Cancelling a Car Purchase Contract

Many consumers mistakenly believe that they can cancel a contract if they do so within three days. This is not true. You generally have no cancellation rights on car purchases in Illinois unless they are agreed upon in writing. If you are unsure, get advice from an attorney.

Special Warning About Trade-Ins

We have heard from far too many consumers about dealers failing to pay off balances owed on trade-ins. We have also recently heard from many consumers who were convinced by a dealer to return their current car to the lender so that they could purchase a new car. We do not advise this practice. They are basically asking you to do a voluntary repossession of your current car after you purchase a new car from them.

This will severely damage your credit, and you will likely end up owing thousands of dollars on the car you “gave back.” If you do not pay the resulting balance, they can sue you and then go after your wages and assets. In our opinion, any dealer who suggests this type of arrangement should not be trusted with your business.


All financing terms, including the amount financed, interest rate, number of payments and monthly installment amounts should be disclosed in writing. Do not sign a blank financing document (retail installment contract). Do not sign multiple finance documents with different numbers. Do not leave the dealer without a copy of the financing document you signed.

Often, car dealers make a transaction dependant on finding financing. If they cannot do so, or if your credit is not approved, you have a right to get your down payment and trade-in back.

Contact Us

If you believe you have been the victim of unfair financing practices by a car dealer, the attorneys at the car purchase dispute law firm of Edelman, Combs, Latturner & Goodwin, LLC, may be able to help. Contact us online or call 312-739-4200 for a free consultation.

Se habla español.

The consumer protection and class action lawyers of Edelman, Combs, Latturner & Goodwin, LLC, represent clients throughout Illinois, and in federal courts in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan, and will consider substantial cases in other jurisdictions.