Buying a car can be a stressful experience, especially for those with lower credit scores. When dealers hand the keys over, just to snatch them back again, it can feel like a cruel joke.

Jenne Smith was not laughing. She bought a Chrysler PT Cruiser from a used-car dealership. After driving her car for a week, the dealer called and told her the deal was off. She'd have to come in to renegotiate the terms of the sale to the tune of $300 extra.

This isn't unusual. It's called yo-yo financing and it affects the most vulnerable consumers. If a car buyer drives off the lot before financing is complete, dealers can pressure the buyer into a revised deal with extra costs and fees, or even repossess the car. And dealers want you to drive off the lot the same day you come in. Yo-yo financing is part of a dealer sales tactic called 'spot delivery.' It's very effective. By putting a key in customers hands dealers are trying to turn shoppers into buyers. But for customers who drive off the lot before financing is complete, and then financing falls through, they're given two options: pay more for their car or give it back.

ABC investigated Smith's story and found a crucial mistake on the dealership's end. There was a form in her paperwork indicating she agreed to yo-yo financing but the salesman never had her sign it.

You too can save yourself a lot of hassle by reading everything in your contract. There should be a form indicating that you agree to return the car in the event that financing falls through. If you're asked to sign this, it's better to wait and leave your new car on the lot until it can be properly yours. The best way to protect yourself from yo-yo financing is to get financing before ever setting foot on a car lot. You should know what you can afford and the terms of the loan before a car salesman can put you in a tight spot.


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