DMV Urges Vehicle Buyers to be Smart Shoppers this Fall

California Department of Motor Vehicles
Media Relations Office
2415 First Avenue, MS F-122, Sacramento, CA 95818
Contact: DMV Media Relations

October 7, 2008


Sacramento—As an unsettled economy and high fuel costs continue to change consumer buying habits, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is providing some helpful tips to ensure that the buying experience is as uncomplicated and trouble-free as possible.

“We want to remind customers and auto dealers alike that they have rights and responsibilities to each other, and with a little effort on both sides, vehicle transactions can be satisfying for new owners and profitable for dealers,” said DMV Director George Valverde.

Director Valverde noted that the Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights – enacted in 2006 – brought about some of the strongest consumer protections in the nation. But at the same time, consumers have to take responsibility and arm themselves with accurate information.

The Department offers a ‘Top 10’ list of useful vehicle-buyer tips that all potential car and truck shoppers should consider:

  • Do your homework. Check vehicle dealer license status on the DMV’s Internet Website at Go to “Online Services” and select Occupational License Status Information. The site will display a dealer’s license status and the number of years of operation. Kelley Blue Book and/or National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Guides should be checked for new and used vehicle pricing information before the consumer goes to the dealership.
  • Operation costs. Before your purchase, consider costs such as insurance, fuel economy and maintenance.
  • Pre-inspect the vehicle. Make sure a mechanic you know and trust is allowed to inspect any pre-owned vehicle sought for purchase. “While you’ll probably have to pay for any third-party inspection out of your own pocket, it is always a good investment,” said Valverde.
  • Negotiate purchases based on what you can afford, not just the monthly payment. Negotiate the cost of the vehicle, the interest rate and the total amount to be financed. Always consider three factors when negotiating: lowest interest rate, best sale price, and the least number of payments. If a dealer runs your credit score with a credit reporting agency, the dealer must provide you with a form which identifies your credit score and how the score may have an impact on your finance rate.
  • Liens on trade-ins. Clarify with the dealer how and when the outstanding balance on your trade-in vehicle’s loan will be paid. Most sales contracts only have space for the dealer to enter the agreed trade-in value, less the prior standing loan balance.
  • Check out the vehicle history. On a previously-owned vehicle, a report can be purchased through CarFax or any other vehicle history provider.
  • Check with the local Better Business Bureau office for any current complaints and comments against the auto dealer.
  • Understand what the dealership means if it labels a pre-owned vehicle as “certified.” The dealer must provide the buyer with an inspection report.
  • Consider the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Vehicle Guide shows makes and models with miles-per-gallon and pollution data, located here:
  • File a complaint with the DMV. If you believe anything improper occurred, you can always file a complaint. Consumers can file complaints to the DMV directly at; if a dealer is not meeting their obligation or meeting the terms of the contract. You can also file a mediation request with the New Motor Vehicle Board at

Don’t Stand In Line, Go Online! Doing business with the DMV has never been easier. The DMV offers an array of services to customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through its Web site (, including online appointments for written and drive tests; vehicle registration and driver license renewals, selection of personalized license plates, changes of address and payment of fees via secure debit transactions

DMV is a department under the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which is under the direction of Secretary Dale E. Bonner. The DMV licenses drivers; maintains driving records; registers and tracks official ownership of vehicles and vessels; investigates auto and identity-related fraud; and licenses car dealers, driving schools, and traffic violator schools.  


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