You see a sweet new convertible sparkling on the car dealer’s lot. You know better than to just walk in cold and let the salesman put the screws on you, so you check it out online. Turns out the car is reliable and gets good reviews; it’s fully loaded and you can afford the lease payments. You worked your butt off all winter, and have the bonus to show for it. Any reason not to sign on the dotted line? Yup, several reasons, in fact. By the end of this article, you’ll know all of them.

As a cheapskate, the son of a salesman, and a guy with a passing understanding of numbers, I’ve always been a pain in a car dealer’s ass. But to help you traverse the minefield that is a car lot, I called on two highly trained road warriors who make me look like a humble plebe. Mike Quincy has one of the best jobs around, putting cars through their paces on the test track for Consumer Reports. Unlike other reviewers, CR purchases the cars at retail, so the manufacturers can’t gussy them up. When I spoke to him, he’d recently driven his 107th car off the lot. “I just bought a Maserati yesterday,” he told me. Like I said, the guy’s got a good job.

I also tracked down an honest used-car salesman (yes, there is such thing). Kelly Calland, co-owner of Columbus Auto Resale in Ohio, has been in business for 23 years, and the company has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. How honest is he? On his website he declares that he enjoys “sports and golfing.” How many golfers do you know who will admit that golf is not, in fact, a sport?

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