While signing the purchase documents and handing over your financing information or cashier’s check, and receiving the keys to your brand new car, is an exciting moment after weeks or months of research and negotiation, there’s still one task to be done before you’re fully ready to hit the road in your new vehicle. You need to take delivery of the car, a process that is fairly quick but that you should treat seriously and alertly.
Some states allow the transfer of license plates between owners, while others require a new set of plates. If your state mandates a change of plates, obtain a set of temporary license plates and bring them with you when you take delivery. Also bring a legal pad or notebook and a pen to take notes about the vehicle’s condition.
Inspecting Your New Car
Your first job before the car leaves the lot is to quickly but carefully inspect it for damage and faults. Bringing a friend speeds up this check and makes it more thorough, since four eyes are better than two for spotting questionable details.
While scratches and chips in the paintwork and dinged or dented sheet metal are the most obvious faults to watch for, also keep an eye out for other paint flaws, including irregular color, an area of dull finish (which could indicate a gap in the top coat), or incomplete coverage with primer showing through a thin spot of paint. While these problems won’t affect the your new car’s function, they reduce later resale value and are costly to fix.
Find the vehicle’s VIN number and compare it to the VIN number on the paperwork and title provided to you. An incorrectly printed VIN could cause registration problems or difficulties with insurance – it’s very important not to take delivery of a car with an erroneous VIN number.
Check to determine that the tires are new and unworn, and look under the car to see if the underside has surface rust. Open the trunk to prove to yourself that the trunk lid doesn’t stick, or do the same for a tailgate. Pop the hood to check the battery condition and fluid levels, plus conduct a fast inspection of wires and hoses to spot any visible damage.
Options, Features, and Interior
Once you complete the exterior inspection and have noted any problems, check the interior also. If you selected one of the many options packages offered by today’s automakers, ensure that anything you paid for has been installed. This includes electronics upgrades, aesthetic packages, backup cameras if they are not included in the base trim, and so forth. If any items you paid for are missing, immediately notify the dealership so they can correct the mistake.
Other interior inspection tasks include:
- Test all features, including lights, GPS, radio, and other electronics for correct function.
- Examine the windows and mirrors to ensure they aren’t chipped or cracked.
- Make certain that the seats adjust easily.
- Check the function of electric windows, door locks, windshield wipers, turn signals, and climate control.
- Read the odometer. While most new cars have been driven a short distance during transport and delivery, total mileage should not exceed 25-30 miles.
- Look in the glove compartment for the owner’s manual.
While you hopefully had the opportunity to test many of the car’s features during the test drives leading up to your purchase, ask the sales personnel to instruct you on how to use any you did not yet have a chance to try out. If the controls are numerous and you are unfamiliar with them see if the dealership has a “new owners’ clinic” where you can ask questions and receive instructions about your new vehicle.
Concluding the Delivery
If you found any problems, damage, or discrepancies during your inspection and testing, bring this to the attention of the dealership staff. Be polite and friendly but also stand up for your right to receive a new, problem-free car. Most personnel will gladly assist you with any difficulties, both out of a sense of responsibility and because your word of mouth can provide some of their best advertising.
In most cases, when you take delivery of your new car, you will find it to be in excellent condition and ready for the road. Once you’ve finished your inspection and received any necessary instruction in using the vehicle’s features, it’s time to put the key in the ignition and roll off the lot onto the open road for your first drive as the new car’s owner.