For many consumers, buying a new car is no longer realistic as new cars have gotten more and more expensive. Purchasing a used car allows a consumer to buy the make and model of car they want that they may not have been able to have afford as a new car. Used cars can be purchased from a small used car lot, from a manufacturer authorized dealership, or from an individual owner of the vehicle.
Regardless of where the car is purchased, there are many things that you must beware of, such as when someone says they ran the car through its 50 to 150 point inspection. All that means is that they had a check list and they can assure you the car has tires and the breaks are not falling off. The best used car will have one owner that has taken care of it and who has an accident free history. It is not uncommon to find that many used cars have been subject to prior accidents, use as a rental car, had its odometer rolled back, and even have been deemed to be a lemon. Here are some helpful tips when looking for and buying a used car.
1. The Carfax
We have all seen the commercials with the little fox popping up between a salesman and the customer telling the dealer to show the carfax. Carfax is the leading database on automotive histories and provides the history of the vehicle including accident damage, number of owners, mileage markings at various stages, then a vehicle has been declared a total loss, as well as service and maintenance history. Most dealerships have access to Carfax and use it regularly themselves. Request to see the Carfax report, as any retail seller will have it. If a dealer doesn’t willingly supply you with the report you may want to look at another car or dealer. If you do your homework on- line before going to the dealer or you are purchasing from an individual that may not have a report for you, you can access it for about $30 by going to the website; all you need to do is have the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
2. Warranty History Report
Running a Warranty History Report is second nature to an authorized dealer. The report will list all repairs performed on a vehicle throughout the warranty period. It is best to buy a used car from the dealer that sells the same brand of new cars so if you are buying a used Chevy, try to buy it from a Chevrolet new car dealership. If you are buying a Chevy from a Toyota dealer -you can take the VIN from one dealer and walk into another. Ask the service department for a warranty history report which will show all the repairs the vehicle had under warranty.
3. Bring a Mechanic
It doesn’t hurt to take your own mechanic with you when examining a used car. Have them in to look at the car, drive it, check under the hood and look underneath the carriage. A well trained mechanic can tell if the vehicle has been properly maintained or if it has been damaged in an accident, and they will tell you what you can expect in the way of repairs.
4. Longer Test Drive
Over the years we have heard from clients that the used car worked just fine in the test drive and then, the moment it was taken off the lot, it broke down. How can it work fine right up to the point it is sold, then the problems come in a flurry? This can be a crazy coincidence, or it can be because people take short test drives to see if the car works. Drive the car for 3-5 miles before agreeing to buy it and, if you are a highway driver, take it on the highway. You may want to go back a few times to test drive it. If it breaks down or has any problems at all in the test drive – then chances are you will have problems all the way through. Do not be fooled by the salesman’s promise that it is a minor problem that they will have fixed right up for free. This problem is a foreshadowing of things to come.
5. When Buying from an Individual, Ask Questions
Who did you buy this car from? How long did you have it? Have you had to repair it while you have had it? Has the car been in an accident before? These are all important questions to ask. Make the owner give you answers. While some of the consumer fraud and deceptive business practices statutes will allow a consumer to make a claim for concealed or omitted facts, most require that there be an actual misrepresentation of facts. It is not always enough that the dealer or owner failed to tell you something; instead they have to go so far as to lie to you in order for you to make a claim if you find yourself on the bad end of a sale.
6. Read All Paperwork
Whether the car you buy is new or used, there is a plethora of papers that have to be signed. There is no better time for a dealer to slip something past you, such as a disclosure that says “the dealer has made no representations regarding the history of this vehicle.” If you followed the advice above, and got answers to your questions, the dealer did indeed make representations about the vehicle, and it would be foolish to sign or initial something saying he did not.
While going into a car sale armed with information is never fool proof, by following the above tips and tricks you can greatly reduce the risk of buying a vehicle that is going to break down on you. Get the Carfax and a Warranty History report, bring a mechanic, take a long test drive, ask the dealer questions, and read your paperwork. Then, you can take comfort that you have reduced the risk on your used car purchase. Remember, used cars aren’t as cheap as they were 10 to 15 years ago. Make sure you love what you are buying and that you won’t have to put additional money into it soon.
SmithMarco, P.C., is a Chicago law firm focused on consumer rights. Since 2005, SmithMarco, P.C., has handled various consumer rights matters including fraudulent transactions, debt collector harassment protection, credit report inaccuracy problems, and lemon law cases for automobiles and consumer products. Our goal is to resolve the individual consumer’s case swiftly and painlessly.
With our main offices located centrally in Chicago, Illinois, we are certified to handle cases throughout the federal districts of all of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, and Arkansas, as well as Missouri, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Kansas. We also work with a great network of consumer rights attorneys in other states and have successfully handled matters throughout the country.