Tips for Buying A Used Car In Missouri



  1. There are web sites you should visit before you purchase a car. If you don’t have a computer or a smart phone, be sure to use a friend’s or use one at the library.  

  2. Be careful – car salesmen are trained to sell as many cars as they can, as fast as they can, for as much as they can. Treat them with respect, but not with blind trust. You control the sale.  Make sure they know you have no problem declining to buy a car there if the deal is not right for you.  

  3. Know the true value of the car before you negotiate with the salesman. Find out on the web site, Don’t pay more than the value and keep in mind, the value of the car may be lessened by the condition of the car.

  4. Know the mechanical condition of the car. Paying a good mechanic up front to inspect the vehicle before you buy it may save you a lot of money later. If the dealership won’t let you get an inspection by YOUR mechanic (not theirs), then take your business elsewhere. When you receive the title to the vehicle and drive the vehicle off the lot, the sale can be difficult or even impossible to reverse.

  5. Ask the salesperson if the vehicle has ever been wrecked or damaged (if he says yes, don’t buy it). Ask the salesperson if the vehicle is in good mechanical condition (if he says it is, ask how he knows that. Did he have a mechanic inspect it?)  Make notes of the sales person’s response and keep it with your paperwork for the vehicle. If you later learn the information was untrue, call a consumer protection attorney. 

  6. Know how you will pay for the car in advance. Avoid financing the car through the dealership if you can. Financing companies and “buy-here-pay here” lots charge high interest rates, late fees, and give an incentive to the dealer to pack a lot of extra costs into the sale. Paying cash for a vehicle is the most economical because you don’t have to pay interest, which can easily add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars.  

  7. Many people, of course, cannot afford to pay cash for a vehicle. If you cannot pay cash, try to get a car loan from a bank or credit union and not through the dealership.

  8.  If you have no choice but to finance the car through the dealership, extra caution is advised. Do not tell the salesman how much you can afford to pay each month. He will often use that information to inflate the sale price of the car and pack extra fees into the contract. Instead, negotiate based on the fair VALUE of the vehicle. If the payments turn out to be too high, you can turn down the deal before signing the contract or ask if the dealer can add a year to the time you have to pay off the car.

  9. If you finance through the dealer, don’t get stuck in a “yo-yo” purchase (dealer sells you a car but yanks you back again). Dealers will sometimes tell buyers they have been approved for financing when they haven’t (because they want to make a fast sale). If the financing company turns down the deal, the dealer will take the car back or try to renegotiate the contract with less favorable terms. You should call the financing company before you leave the lot to confirm that it has approved the deal. Also, look for a paragraph called “spot delivery” agreement in the paper work. Don’t sign it. 

  10. We do not recommend that you purchase insurance, GAP coverage, or a service contract through the dealership. Very rarely are they worth the cost, which is usually extremely high. Read the contract and make sure these extras are not in there unless you truly want them. If you see fees added to the contract, such as “fees paid to public officials” and you are being charged more than $15.00, be suspicious. Ask the dealer what the charge is for and ask the dealer to remove it or reduce it.

  11. Rebuilt wrecks can be very dangerous. Before you buy the car, get the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) so you can check the vehicle’s history. These reports are not always complete or reliable, but they are better than nothing. They may reveal if the car has been wrecked or previously owned by a rental company. They cost about $20.00. Conduct two searches. Conduct one on or Conduct a second search for free on Also, ask the dealer point blank if the car has ever been damaged or wrecked. If you find out later that it has been, call a consumer lawyer.

  12. Take your time to review the documents and ask questions. Don’t let the salesman rush you. If you have questions about the deal or are confused about something, wait until your questions are answered satisfactorily to complete the purchase. Also, look for a paragraph on the back side of your contract that mentions “arbitration”. If you see this, we suggest you cross it out because it takes away your right to go to court if the dealer does something unlawful.

  13. Get the title to the car at the time of sale (which is required by law). If the dealer says they will get it to you later but they fail to do so, you will not be able to register the car or drive it legally. (If this occurs, call a consumer protection lawyer). Tell the dealer you will pick up the car only when he has the title to hand you.  If he refuses to go through with the deal, then walk away. 

  14. Until the dealer gives you the title, the sale is not enforceable.  



The materials on this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice about any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this Web site or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between Slough Connealy Irwin & Madden and the user or browser.