What to know about buying or leasing a car

Learning your rights and reviewing important tips and advice before entering a dealership is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself.

Researching your dealership

To find out about any complaints that have been filed with the Attorney General’s Office against the dealership you intend to buy or lease from, visit the consumer complaint page on our website or contact the consumer hotline (617) 727-8400. 

Additionally, you can look up the business with the Better Business Bureau to access any reviews and complaints. 

You can also call the licensing board in the city or town where the dealership is located to check if they are licensed. 

Financing your car

If you are buying your car with a loan, you should shop around at various financial institutions for the best rates and terms. You are not obligated to use the dealership’s own financing to buy your vehicle. Please keep in mind that in Massachusetts the interest rate on an automobile purchase can be no higher than 21%. If you are being offered a vehicle financing contract with a rate that exceeds 21%, the business may be in violation of Massachusetts usury (illegal interest) laws.

You can reach out to your local bank or lender for financing options. You can also utilize the Division of Bank’s bank and credit union search tool. You can confirm that your lender is an authorized lender at the NMLS website, here.

To research if other consumers have filed complaints against your chosen financial institution, visit the consumer complaint page on our website or contact the consumer hotline (617) 727-8400. 

Additionally, you can look up the lender on the Better Business Bureau’s website for reviews and complaints. 

Does the dealership have the title to my car?

A title, also known as a pink slip, is a legal document that certifies the ownership of a car by a person or a business. In order to prove ownership of a car, you must have a title. Before you sign to purchase a vehicle, confirm that the dealership currently has the title to the vehicle and that the title is clear of any negative information. You will need the title to register and inspect the car in a timely manner.

A “branded” title (one with negative information) may indicate a prior history of flood or collision damage and should show if the vehicle was ever declared a "total loss" or "salvage" in the past. A vehicle that has been “totaled” may have been stolen, or possibly wrecked or damaged by collision, fire or other incident. For information related to the various possible title “brands” and their definitions, please visit the Registry of Motor Vehicles

What should I do before signing my contract?

Be sure to review the terms before signing any motor vehicle sales contract and financing documents. Check to make sure that the amounts, rates, and add-on items in the documents match what you discussed with the sales representative.  Additionally, you should make sure that the information on the financing documents matches what you put on your application and that the terms are affordable. 

You must be given copies of sales and financing documents at the time of purchase. Before leaving with the vehicle, make sure to request all documents and review them to ensure that they are accurate.

Learn about the history of your car

When purchasing a used vehicle, you can use the vehicle’s make, model and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to check for open recalls with the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. You can get a vehicle history report using a free service, but be aware those reports are not always accurate. You can also obtain a title history report through the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Having an independent mechanic inspect the vehicle is also a good way to make sure you are not purchasing a defective vehicle. 

Can I cancel the purchase of my car?

Once a contract is signed, it is considered legally binding. However, you should still review all the terms of the vehicle sales contract or other written agreement to see if there is any part of it that would allow you to cancel the contract after it has been signed.

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