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#1
Old 04-27-2010, 10:38 AM
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How to buy a car (in MA)

So I'm going to be buying a new car for the first time. I want to make sure I understand the entire process, since it involves lots of things I've never had to deal with (loans, insurance, registration, etc.) Here's what I think I need to do... please let me know if I'm missing anything at any step.

1. Pick out a car. This, thankfully, I'm pretty sure of (I get a family discount on Fords, and the new Fiesta is getting some phenomenal reviews), though I'm going to test drive one or two alternatives just to be sure.

2. Set up financing. I'm going to pay most the value with cash, but still need a loan for maybe 30% of the cost. Ford credit is offering 0% at the moment, should I try to get pre-approval through them before walking into the dealership? Also, for good measure, I might get approval for a loan from my bank.

3. Order said car. Since the Fiesta has just been launched, there's no dealer inventory, so I think I have to order it and wait for it to be manufactured and delivered (which is ok, since I won't actually need the car until September). Do I pay when I order the car? Some deposit perhaps?

4. Pay for the car. Luckily, I don't have to deal with any haggling, since said Ford discount is a specific price that dealers have to honor. So I write a check for the cash portion I can afford, and then... what exactly do I do with the loan? Fill out some sort of paperwork for Ford's financing? Give them some sort of information about what I arranged with my bank?

5. Register and insure the car. I think the dealer is supposed to give me the registration form, and then I go straight to the RMV to turn it in and pay all the necessary taxes and fees. Problem is, the form needs to be signed by an insurance agent, and the insurer I want to go with (USAA) doesn't have a physical office in the state... anybody have a clue on how to deal with this?

6. Parking permits, excise tax, inspection. I think I just drive to the city office and get a parking permit as soon as I have it registered. Hopefully I can get that parking permit the same day I buy it, since I have to park it on the street... Inspection seems obvious enough, just go to one of the local repair shops that does inspections... Do I pay excise tax up front, or when the next tax day comes around?

Oy.... looks like a pretty crazy process, and a long day of errands and paperwork. Any other clues on how to go about it all? Can I just leave the car at the dealer for a day or two while I get registration and parking permits worked out?
#2
Old 04-27-2010, 01:05 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Montana
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I can't specifically comment on your state (er... commonwealth?), but generally if you're going through a dealership they take care of pretty much all of the document stuff for you. You'll probably have to work out the parking pass and insurance yourself, but they'll do the title transfer.

Depending on the bank/specific loan you look at you might have to have a specific car you're going to buy in mind (VIN in hand), or you might get pre-approved for a certain amount or they might even give you the cash up front. A lot of people think that getting the cash up front or at least being already pre-approved gives you a negotiating edge, but if you're not much of a horse trader it probably doesn't matter. So if you've got cash up front, obviously you just pay them there, and if you've got one of the other options you have to go back the the bank with the VIN and other pertinent information on the car. Doing dealer financing is usually okay, just be very careful that they don't futz around with your interest rate vs. the sale price to confuse you-- negotiate the price of the car first before you talk financing.

The family discounts aren't quite as nice as they used to be, so don't let that shackle you to Ford. I have been hearing very nice things about the Fiesta, but buying a car that's generating a lot of buzz right when it comes out might put you at something of a disadvantage and you may be able to get a better deal on something that's been out for a while.
#3
Old 04-27-2010, 02:05 PM
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Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Southcoast Massachusetts
Posts: 873
Having bought cars in our wonderful Commonwealth, I've been down this road (heh) before.

1. You've got that one covered.
2. If you are going to go through the dealer for financing, they will have the appropriate paperwork for you to fill out. For my Toyotas, it was one page's worth of stuff. By no means was it a big deal.
3. The dealer will want a deposit of some sort, I gave $1000 for my vehicle when the dealer had to order it.
4. It's as you said - you write the dealer a check for the down payment, and they will have you sign the paperwork for the loan to cover the balance of the payment. They will, of course, require information from you to perform a credit check and to set up the loan.
5. Every dealer I've heard of around here will register the car for you, if not for free, then for a nominal ($50 or so) fee. The dealer should know how to get a hold of your insurance company to get the stamp on the RMV-1 form, just make sure you ask them before you start handing over cash.
6a. Parking permit - Talk to the town/city hall about parking permits, or the private company that issues it for where you want to park. I'm sure it can't be too difficult to get the permit, particularly if you have one already.
6b. Excise tax - In Massachusetts, excise taxes (personal property taxes) are sent out by the municipalities in January/February. They are based on the current value of your vehicle, which, being new and non-depreciated, will be high. Expect a big bill for the first few years. The tax is paid to your town or city. The RMV will send the town tax collector a list of all registered vehicles in the town, thats where they get the information from. Once you register the car, the government takes care of the rest. Isn't that nice of them?
6c. You have 7 days from the date of purchase of your vehicle to get it inspected at a certified Massachusetts inspection station.

It pains me to say it, but trust the dealer a little bit. Ouch, that did hurt. The dealer is in the business of getting you a car, if you don't have a good experience, you're going to tell the world, and they're going to get hurt. In my limited experience, the dealers usually go out of their way in helping to get the car registered and insured. They'll know what needs to be done.

I can't believe I'm defending car dealers.
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#4
Old 04-27-2010, 02:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KCB615 View Post
It pains me to say it, but trust the dealer a little bit. Ouch, that did hurt. The dealer is in the business of getting you a car, if you don't have a good experience, you're going to tell the world, and they're going to get hurt. In my limited experience, the dealers usually go out of their way in helping to get the car registered and insured. They'll know what needs to be done.

I can't believe I'm defending car dealers.
Yeah, the other advantage of the family discount is that Ford requires the dealership to sell a given model at a specific, non-negotiable price. And for financing, I'm planning on paying most of the cost up front, and have the rest paid off in six months. So that cuts out most of the opportunities to be screwed...
#5
Old 04-27-2010, 03:33 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: North of Boston
Posts: 9,862
Yes, you will run across people who tell you to register the car yourself, and not pay the dealer's fees. Unfortunately, in MA that pretty much requires multiple trips between the dealer, insurance agent, and RMV, all before you can take physical possession of the car, which may present a bit of a challenge. So while the fee is exorbitant from one point of view (they're probably collecting several hundred $ for each trip their runner takes to the Registry, where he gets into a special line and is done in 30 minutes), it's usually worth it to you in terms of time & hassle.
#6
Old 04-27-2010, 03:37 PM
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MA insurance agents can generally do all that in their own offices, including issuing plates, without a trip to the Registry at all.
#7
Old 04-27-2010, 04:51 PM
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Location: Durham, NC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves View Post
MA insurance agents can generally do all that in their own offices, including issuing plates, without a trip to the Registry at all.
Yeah, but the OP is going with USAA, who doesn't have offices. The dealer fee is more than worth the hassle saved.
#8
Old 04-27-2010, 06:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boozahol Squid, P.I. View Post
Yeah, but the OP is going with USAA, who doesn't have offices. The dealer fee is more than worth the hassle saved.
Turns out USAA does have a (single!) MA office, but it's down in Braintree, and two miles from the T. USAA tells me that most dealers should be able to take care of everything, and otherwise I can still somehow get my ass down to their office and take care of it myself. Probably worth spending the $50 and saving myself an afternoon of subway rides and looong hikes...

Thanks everybody for the info. Good to know the dealers have a system, which in retrospect isn't too surprising... but still new and mysterious to me.
#9
Old 04-27-2010, 07:10 PM
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Location: Long Beach, California
Posts: 1,875
That process sounds horrific compared to California's!

What struck me as really odd is the requirement to have brand new cars inspected. That sounds like a colossal waste of time and money. (Except for the service stations that perform the inspections, of course!) Is that how it's generally viewed there?
#10
Old 04-27-2010, 08:21 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Orygun forest
Posts: 4,485
Well, here is the link for the questions you have about registering your new car in MA. Sounds like a bit of a hassle.

http://mass.gov/rmv/regs/

In Oregon were I live it was a lot simpler. The dealer wants to make sure I have insurance before I drive off the lot so he calls my insurance agent and gives the VIN number of the car, the agent then gives the dealer a policy number and done, I am insured. They may fax some paperwork to each other too, I don't recall. Other insurance details about levels of coverage, deductibles, etc. I can change with the agent later.

As far as registration and license, the dealer just adds those fees to the normal paperwork and files the registration form with the state. I don't have to go to DMV at all. And the dealer is not allowed to make a profit off those fees so there is no real advantage to my going to the DMV myself. If the registration is $80 and $15 for a temporary to stick in the window until the plates arrive, that is what is added to the paperwork. The dealer calls me when my plates come in and I go pick them up or they put them on.

It will probably go smoother than it sounds, the dealer should be able to handle most things for you. Maybe the insurance stamp and signature is just a faxable form.
#11
Old 04-28-2010, 10:11 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: North of Boston
Posts: 9,862
Quote:
Originally Posted by brad_d View Post
That process sounds horrific compared to California's!

What struck me as really odd is the requirement to have brand new cars inspected. That sounds like a colossal waste of time and money. (Except for the service stations that perform the inspections, of course!) Is that how it's generally viewed there?
MA has required annual inspections - emissions & safety (info here). Takes about 10-20 minutes. Having the first one occur right after purchase gives a buyer a chance to go back to the dealer and demand he fix it if it fails - who's to say that a brand new car won't have a fault that makes it fail the emissions test?
#12
Old 04-28-2010, 10:47 AM
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Location: The land of the mouse
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A dealer, new or used, will typically warranty any car that it will pass inspection or he'll fix it.

Yes, it's a scam. $29/year, the bulk of which the station pockets. Yes, the inspection can often be, well, superficial.
#13
Old 04-28-2010, 04:23 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: NH, Escaped from MA
Posts: 2,868
On the one and only new car I purchased while living in MA, it came off the lot with an inspection sticker... no additional stop was required.

In NH, my next 2 brand new cars also came off the lot with an inspection sticker.

NH is much easier to deal with the entire process.
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