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Foolish Delivery Checklist

So you bought a new car and it's ready for you to pick up and drive off the lot. We know you're excited to get on the road, but it is important not to rush the delivery process. Below you'll find some general guidelines and a checklist for you to print out and use the day you pick up your new baby.

-- Call the salesperson ahead of time and let them know that you plan to perform a delivery check during daylight hours. Make an appointment -- getting through your checklist may take more than an hour.

-- Don't depend on a "prep man" -- the dealer's mechanics and preparation people -- to take care of every last detail. Inspect it yourself and if it isn't right, have it corrected. Even the F&I manager may make a paperwork error. So look at all the documents once again.

-- Most dealers prefer to make spot (immediate) deliveries. Don't accept this. Take some time to think things over. Most dealers will require a deposit. Go ahead and give them one, but limit the amount, and make sure that locks you into a specific VIN. Of course, remember that most incentives are tied to delivery dates, not purchase agreements or deposit dates.

-- A proper delivery means that all the vehicle attributes should be demonstrated or discussed with you prior to you taking the car. This hour can teach you volumes about your new vehicle. Even though you may know your car inside out after this day, commit to reading the owner's manual.

-- Tell the salesperson that you don't want any dealer nameplates affixed to the vehicle in any way (painted, riveted, or adhesive bonded). The license plate holder is okay. Ask that the vehicle's plates remain the dealer's until after you've taken delivery.

-- The laws vary from state to state as to when you actually own the vehicle, you may want to check with your state to find out. (Some states say you don't own it until all the documents are signed and the vehicle is driven off the dealer's premises.)

-- Call your insurance agent and arrange to have the vehicle under your policy the minute you take delivery. (Do this as far in advance as possible.)

We've included a list of items to check, it is not all-encompassing, but it will get you started down the road to obtaining a problem-free vehicle. Always remember that the dealership will be more receptive to making repairs before the sale. So have any corrections made before you take delivery.

Delivery Checklist

(Use a pencil and check off the items that have been completed with no problems. Circle the items that were not completed satisfactorily and make notes in the margin.)

1. Does the VIN match what you agreed to purchase?

2. Is the mileage realistic, or has the dealer used the vehicle as a demo since you agreed to purchase it? (Be reasonable, but question anything greater than 150 miles.)

3. Ask the dealer personnel if any repairs or alterations have been made to the vehicle? (Accidents happen, even to new vehicles being delivered. An honest dealership will tell you, but you often have to ask.)

4. Is the exterior in perfect shape? (Not a blemish, scratch, or streak. Walk around the vehicle several times looking from as many angles as possible.)

5. Are the trim, rubstrips, decals, chrome, hood ornaments, and other exterior features present, in good shape (defect-free), and properly attached?

6. Doors, hoods, trunks, deck lids, and liftgates: Do they all work correctly? Do they seal properly? (You may not find this out until the test drive when you listen for noise.) Does the fit and finish match up between these and the rest of the body work? Do the locks work properly -- are they automatic, can they be operated remotely? Does the hood release lever operate from the inside. Do you know the location? Can you open the hood yourself? Does it stay up on its own?

7. Is the engine compartment in perfect shape? Is every dip stick, plastic cover, wire harness present and properly secured? All the fluids should be at optimal levels: oil, transmission, power steering, brake, windshield wash, and coolant. There should be very little dirt and grime, and not a single sign of fluid leakage of any kind. None of the engine components should show exterior wear or replacement -- things like one spark plug wire that is a completely different shade of black should draw a red flag and a question. They should replace them all with new items if that means you'll drive the vehicle away. Question the same thing a week later and you'll get a sour look.

8. Battery: Is it filled properly? Or is it a "no-service" type? (Check the level or sight dot.) No corrosion should be present on the electrodes. It should be properly connected -- fastened to wire leads and properly secured -- tied down in the vehicle. Ask about how to jump it properly. Does it have a special separate warranty?

9. Is the trunk in perfect shape? Is the carpeting properly fastened? Do the lights work correctly? Does the internal opening button work correctly? How about the outside lock? If it has gas shocks to hold up the lid, are they working properly? Are the extras, such as cargo nets, present as you ordered?

10. Fuel System: Which side is the filler door on? Can you open it from inside the vehicle? Does it lock? What grade of gasoline does the manufacturer recommend? How big is the tank? At what level does the fuel gauge on the dash register? (Many dealer's will buy the first tank, just ask!) Does the dash have a low fuel level warning light? Is there anything special about filling this vehicle with gas (i.e. some gas caps make a ratcheting sound when properly tightened)?

11. Tires: Where is the spare tire and jack system located? Is the spare properly inflated? How far can you go on "the donut"? Is the jack present, accessible? Have you been given a briefing on the use of the jack? (And where do you install it?) If you have wheel locks, where is the lug key? Are all the tires the same and as ordered? (Some performance tires have several different speed ratings and associated cost levels. Check the specific numbers on each tire.) What is the proper air pressure? What is the tire warranty and where is it? The tires should show no signs of wear, and should be properly inflated. Tires should be scuff-free. Are the hubcaps properly affixed?

12. Is the interior in perfect shape? Carpet, headliner, seats should have no tears, stains, or damage. Get in the car (both the front and back seats) and keep your eyes peeled for problems. Try out any device that will move, bend, turn, be pushed, or pulled. Do all the seatbelts work? Are the floor mats you ordered in the car?

13. Look in the glove box. Does it open properly? Is the owner's manual included? Does it lock?

14. Lighting and Signals. Know where the light switches are, and how they work. Where is the fuse box? Check the operation of all the lighting systems: headlights (low and high beams), tail lights, emergency flashers, brake lights, backing lights, trunk light, hood light, interior lights (map lights, dome lights, glove box, reading lights, running board lights). Does the vehicle have automatic shutoff? Is it for the headlights only? How long does the dome light stay on after unlocking and locking the door? Can you dim interior lights. What about the dashboard lights? Is the ignition switch lighted? Daytime running lights? Check left and right turn signals (front and back -- you'll need a helper) proper operation, and switch positions.

15. Windows, Sunroofs and Mirrors: Make sure there are no defects (chips, cracks). Are the options installed and how they working? (Options may include rear defogger, wiper and tinting.) Proper open and close operation tested on each window. Control device operation and location - power window controls, rapid down operation? Wipers, controls, delay systems, rear window?

16. Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning: Do you understand all the controls and features of the climate control operations and control panel? Are there special defoggers? Special filters? Multi level systems? Front and rear controls? Temperature settings, and automatic controls? Duct operation? Fan controls?

17. Sound System: Do you understand how everything operates? Adjust the controls and get sound out of each speaker. Does it sound correct to your ear? Try a cassette and CD (bring one with you). How do special features, such as equalizers, amplifiers, and trunk mounted CD tower work?

18. Do you understand operations and precautions with the safety features, such as seat belts and air bags? Do you know where each is located? What about cellular phone and navigation systems operation?

19. Driver's Seat: Do you know how to work the seat position controls and where they are located? Does the lumbar work? Note the steering wheel positioning, tilt, telescope, lock, horn, and cruise control. Examine the dashboard gauges and warning indicators -- turn the key one click and see what warning lights you get. Are these correct?

20. Dashboard and Controls: Do you understand all the gauges and what they tell you? If the gauges are digital, how do you change from English to Metric readings? Do you understand the trip odometer operation?

21. Keys: Do you have more than one set? Is the remote entry working? How does the alarm work (codes and disarmament)? Is there a panic button and cut off switch? Do the door locks have child protection?

The Test Drive

22. Get in and buckle up!

23. Ignition System: Does the car start properly?

24. Listen carefully to engine idle. Does it sound okay?

25. Look at the tailpipe. Any abnormal smoke or color? Moisture?

26. Brakes: Do you like the feel of the brake pedal (even and smooth)? How does the parking brake work? Does your foot have to be on the brake to shift out of park?

27. When you put the vehicle into gear, does it sound okay? Do the shift indicators line up with the proper gear that you are in (i.e. the indicator reads R when in reverse)?

28. Noise Check. Turn the radio off and use your senses. Drive over various road conditions and speeds that you know you will be frequenting. Listen for the Buzz Squeaks and Rattles (BSR) -- no tweet, tweet, tweet from the tailgate allowed. Also note NVH (Noise, Vibration, and Harshness) -- no loud thuds, or strange shaking between 50-55 MPH allowed.

29. Watch the gauges. Do they move and register properly? (Gauges include the odometer, speedometer, tachometer, oil pressure, and coolant temperature.)

30. Run the air conditioning and heating. Do they appear to work properly?

31. Check the vehicles acceleration and braking for proper operation.

32. Check the cruise control for proper operation.

33. Check the vehicle's handling: Can it turn a tight U-turn? Does it make any strange noises? Make right and left turns. Does the steering respond properly?

After the Spin

34. Open the hood and have a look. Any new fluid leaks? Is the radiator cap still on properly? (Have the service manager help with this one.) Check the oil and transmission levels yourself. Take a quick peek under the vehicle and make sure there are no fluids dripping on the pavement.

35. Is every option you ordered and paid for installed properly in the vehicle? So many options exist that it is impossible to make any kind of accurate listing. What is important is that what you've paid for is there, and that you know how to operate each one.

36. Has the vehicle been fully demonstrated, top to bottom, by the dealership? Do you understand how everything works on the vehicle?

37. Service Department: Have you met the service manager and taken a tour of the service area? Have they explained the specifics of the dealership's service policy and hours of operation? (Some dealers are by appointment only, some are first-come first-served. Most treat buyers from their dealership better than other walk-in customers. So keep that license plate holder with the dealer's name printed on it.) Has the service manager reviewed the basics of the service plan for your vehicle with you? Does the dealership have a free check up? What period of operation does it cover?

38. Does your vehicle have a 24-hour roadside assistance program? What does it entail?

39. Do you understand all your warranties? Limits? Coverage periods?

40. Did you buy a special service plan? What is covered?

41. Do you have a business card for each of the dealership personnel you've worked with?

42. Is every defect that you've noted been properly corrected?

43. Does the VIN on the vehicle match up with the documents that you are signing?

44. Have you read all the documents that you will sign? Do you have a copy of each document?

45. Title, Tags and Registration: Who holds the title? How long do the temporary tags last? Has the dealership ordered your new plates? Have your plates been transferred? Where is the registration located?

46. Insurance: Have you obtained proper insurance? If you're leasing do you have Gap Insurance?


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