Common Small-Print Phrases and What They Mean

Be careful! The last thing you want to do is make it to the end of your negotiations with a salesperson and end up finding out the deal isn't as good as you thought. Or, worse yet, you actually sign a contract without understanding the terms. There's a lot of information to take in when you're looking for a vehicle. Sometimes shoppers miss the details. Sometimes the details aren't prominently shown. Look out for the following phrases, which are often in the small print. Also, make sure the numbers add up before you sign anything.

"Estimates based on…" and "Estimates do not include..."

Sometimes your monthly payments look great, almost too good to be true. They may be just that. An advertised rate may be taking a down payment into account, for example. We don't recommend putting more than $2,000 down for a lease. For purchases, put down as much as you can but make sure you have enough left over to pay the bills.

These phrases may also indicate that a cost hasn't been added to the calculations yet. For example, taxes or a particular fee.

"Offer only available in…"

If you live near a state border, you should make sure the deal you see is offered in the state where you're going to buy your car. If it's not, you might have to drive across the border to get it.

"Dealer participation may affect savings"

This indicates that your preferred dealer may not be offering the deal you're reviewing. Call and make sure, beforehand.

"Buyer must take delivery by…"

This indicates the expiration of a particular offer. If you're having your vehicle actually delivered to you by a driver, call the dealership to make sure you'll meet their deadline. Make sure everything's in writing.

"Not all buyers will qualify"

This applies to so many offers. If you don't have good credit, you might not be able to get the deal that is being advertised. If it's a loan that's keeping you from getting the car you want, you can try your luck at any bank instead of getting financed through a dealership.

"Restrictions may apply"

Generally, this means the terms of a lease or a contract may prevent you from getting what the ad says you're going to get. For example, let's say an ad estimates your yearly gas expenses for a particular model. The estimate will no longer be accurate if the price of gas increases. Some leases charge extra fees if you drive more miles than the contract allows each year, which would increase your expenses.

"Must be financed or leased through…"

This means you can't take advantage of the offer if you get your loan at a bank. You must finance with the dealership.

Reviewing quotes is an effective way to make sure you understand how an offer applies to you in reality. It's also a good way to shop without spending valuable time at dealerships across your region. Click here to learn how to have lease quotes delivered from dealers to your email inbox.

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