One thing that comes with being in the military is almost constant change — new cities, new homes, new friends — and new cars. As part of Military Consumer Month, if you’re thinking about buying a new car or truck, know that servicemembers and their families are often targets of fraudulent car dealers. Some unscrupulous dealers will advertise for a particular vehicle, or as military friendly, lure you to the dealership, then claim the vehicle is unavailable. They they’ll try to sell you on a different vehicle at a different (usually higher) price.

Here’s what to do:

  • Before you shop for a car, shop for financing. By getting pre-approved for financing, you know the terms, including the annual percentage rate (APR), length of the loan (number of months), and maximum amount you can borrow.
  • Get an “out-the-door” price for the car in writing (such as email) before you visit the lot, and before you talk financing with the dealer. That means getting the dealer to send you the total price of the car, before financing, including taxes and fees. That will help you make apples-to-apples comparisons with other offers and shop around for the best deal.
  • It’s ok to say no to add-ons. Add-ons are not free. They’re extra products or services you buy and finance along with the car. Common add-ons include Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP insurance), window etching, and extended warranties and service contracts. If you don’t want an add-on, just say no. If you do want to buy an add-on, ask questions about its coverage and when it can be used. It’s never ok for dealers to charge you for add-ons without your consent.
  • Your time is valuable, and your bargaining power is greatest before you go to the lot. Remember that you have rights. You also may want to look at an FTC staff report that highlights some of the challenges people face while buying and financing vehicles.

And, if you believe a dealership charged hidden fees, discriminated against you, or lied in their advertisements, please tell the FTC at