Here are some things to consider doing. Some items may not be applicable to you.

(cars, trucks, etc.)


Well before buying or leasing:

  • Review this entire checklist before acting
  • Plan to never buy or lease on your first visit to a dealer

If you’re considering leasing:

  • Be aware that leasing almost always costs much more than buying
  • Be aware that vehicle dealers often try to convince you to lease instead of buy dealers usually make much more money from leasing
  • Try to deal with an established company
  • Consider first negotiating with the dealer for the cost of buying, then compare the dealer’s best price with the capitalized cost of leasing
  • Ask the dealer for the capitalized cost will give you an idea of the total cost of leasing
  • Get the effective interest rate from the dealer
  • Plan to get gap insurance (you might be able to get it free)
  • For info on swapping leases:

Deciding what kind of vehicle to buy/lease:

  • Decide whether to buy/lease a new or used vehicle:

    • Be aware that the value of a new vehicle drops significantly as soon as you drive it off the lot
    • Be aware that a used vehicle may have been involved in a serious accident and the title altered to hide that fact

Deciding whether to buy from a private individual or from a dealer:

  • Be aware that if you buy from a private individual, there’s probably less chance of getting your money back if vehicle has problems


  • Consider a model which is less likely to be stolen


  • Choose a color which makes the vehicle easier to see by other drivers to reduce risk of a collision
  • Choose a color which is less likely to be stolen red cars are said to be the most likely to be stolen

Features/options to consider getting:

  • Cameras which allow you to see blind spots
  • Fire alarm system under hood
  • Black box to record data for accident reconstruction
  • Strengthened seat backs normal seat backs can collapse when vehicle is hit from behind with speed differential as low as 20 mph over 1000 people are killed in US each year in rear end crashes, many involving seat back failure, causing fatal injury from that collision or causing driver to lose control of the vehicle and hit oncoming traffic, objects, etc. available in Mercedes, Volvo and some BMW and Ferrari models)
  • Tinted windows may improve visibility in bright conditions may reduce risk of skin cancer

Before deciding whether to buy/lease a specific vehicle:

  • Inspect vehicle for indications that it was involved in a serious accident, e.g.:
    • Part(s) painted to match rest of vehicle
  • Have vehicle looked at by a dealer who handles that type of vehicle
  • Have mechanical and structural condition of vehicle checked, e.g., by your mechanic:
    • Ensure vehicle hasn’t been involved in a serious accident
  • Check the title for an indication that the vehicle was involved in an accident (most titles will indicate ‚Äúsalvage‚Äù or ‚Äúrebuilt‚Äù if the vehicle was involved in an serious accident)
  • Conduct, or have conducted, a search of records for the vehicle’s history, including serious accidents

When you think you might be ready to close a deal to buy or lease from a dealer:

  • Be aware that you’ll probably get a better deal on a vehicle if the dealer has a significant number of the model on the lot
  • Plan to visit dealers near the end of the month they may be more motivated to close a deal with you to met their monthly sales or leasing targets
  • Visit the dealer late in the day it might speed up the negotiations since the staff will probably be anxious to go home on time

When negotiating for the best price:

  • Ask if there’s a rebate available on any of the vehicles you’re interested in
  • Let the dealer’s staff know you’re not in a hurry
  • Once you think you have their best price:
  • Get it in writing
  • Take the written offer to at least two other dealers to see if they will beat it

After deciding to lease a vehicle:

  • Ensure up-front deposits are deducted from the total cost
  • Read the lease agreement carefully
  • Ensure the final cost is clearly stated on the lease agreement
  • Ensure the dealer doesn’t charge you for things which should have already been included in the estimated monthly lease payments, e.g., gap insurance, taxes

Cleaning your vehicle:

  • Have car washed at a car wash which recycles the water and disposes of dirty water properly, e.g., not in storm drains
  • Avoid cleaning top of dashboard with any cleaner which leaves a gloss to reduce dangerous glare in sunny weather which can obstruct view


  • Clean windshield to reduce dangerous glare in sunny weather which can obstruct view

Items to keep in your vehicle:

  • Jack and wrench to operate it
  • Breaker bar (also known as a four-way) to loosen lug nuts
  • Spare tire (properly inflated)
  • Booster cables to help start a vehicle with a weak battery
  • Tire inflator (can)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Roll of electrical tape
  • Screw drivers (straight slow and Phillips head)
  • Pliers
  • Distress sign and/or flag
  • Flares
  • Siphon pump to transfer gas from one vehicle to another
  • Water for drinking and/or radiator
  • Flashlight(s) and batteries
  • Coins for phone calls, tolls, etc.
  • Safety vest to wear while working on vehicle near traffic
  • Gloves, e.g., cotton
  • Tissues, paper towels, etc.
  • Bungee cord
  • Rope to tie items onto roof
  • First aid equipment
  • Phone books (white and yellow) to get phone numbers, addresses, etc. while out shopping, etc. so you won’t have to look for a phone booth with a phone book, possibly in a dangerous neighborhood
  • Gas can (only if you need to get gas, e.g., for mowing) (before taking off the cap of the can, touch the can on the ground and touch the gas pump nozzle to the can, then remove can cap to avoid explosion due to static electricity igniting gas fumes)



  • Ensure your spare tire is properly inflated

When you have tires rotated, etc.:

  • Tell the mechanic that you want the lug nuts torqued to manufacturer’s specifications – lazy mechanics often tighten lug nuts too tight with automatic tools
  • Ask the mechanic to use a torque wrench to ensure all lug nuts are tightened evenly – can cause uneven and dangerous braking, especially with disc brakes


If you are told your vehicle needs repairs before driving further and you are not close to a garage(repair shop) you trust and/or you feel pressured to have repairs done at a specific repair shop:

  • Determine if temporary repairs can be made to enable you to drive your vehicle to a repair shop you trust
  • Call a mechanic or friend you trust to ask:
    • Do the suggested repairs seem appropriate?
    • What should the suggested repairs cost?
    • What should you expect to pay per hour for labor?
  • Consider having your vehicle towed to a repair shop you trust
  • Consider renting a flat bed truck to transport your vehicle to a repair shop you trust


Thanks for reading!