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By Will from Holland

21 Year-Old Student Throws Away $9000

"I'm going to treat you just like my daughter," the sales manager at a Ford dealership in Charlotte, NC, said to the hidden camera the first day we filmed. The camera was in a button. He was talking to a friend of mine, Tori Cocaine, a 21-year-old student buying her first car.

This was my fourth day watching Dateline NBC use undercover cameras to see what car dealers really do to many young people. The sales manager's "daughter" comment had seemed nice on the first day, but now it seemed pretty cynical.

  • I'd already seen the finance manager of this dealership forge Tori's credit application (a federal offense—for Tori, not the finance manager!).
  • I had watched the dealership "work" her on profit on the vehicle itself, a black Mustang coupe. Tori paid about $3,000 more than its real value, according to Dateline's auto expert (and consumer advisor to FoolProof) Remar Sutton.
  • I'd listened as the finance manager "loaded her up" in the finance office. Tori ended up paying about $4,000 more than she needed to in finance-related charges—charges she didn't pay when she financed this same vehicle through a credit union.

The total bill on the car was an extra $9,300. How hard do you work for that much money?

I'm from Holland, where not too many young people don't buy cars. Talk about an eye opener!

Don't let that happen to you. Here are some tough car-buying tips from Remar. Dealers don't like these tips. Probably means they're pretty good!

Smart Carbuying:

  • Don't let the seller determine what you can afford! Many sellers' idea of a car budget is 100 % of all your money. Take five minutes and develop a car budget. Use our interactive budget calculator online.
  • Never buy on your first visit. Dealers virtually always make more money on people who buy on their first visit. Don't. Instead, find a car you like, gather price information, and determine the vehicle's cost. Below we give you a website to help.
  • Never automatically finance at a dealership. Dealer financing can cost you thousands (as it did Tori Cocaine on Dateline). Listen to the dealer's spiel, then compare their contract to a contract at your bank or credit union. If a dealer won't let you compare their contract, do you really think they are cheaper? Don't finance with them.
  • Don't buy from sellers who require "mandatory binding arbitration agreements." These sellers take away most of your legal rights if you have a problem with your car or the deal.

Read more about Arbitration Agreements!

We've got lots of tools to help you buy your first vehicle.

A Final Tip: Watch the Dateline NBC Movie before you head to the dealership!