Buying a used car is a way to get a good car at a reduced price. However, since the car has had a previous owner, a smart buyer should pay close attention to the history of the car and be aware of the possibility of extra repair expenses. In addition to general car buying tips, there are special considerations when purchasing a used vehicle.
- Look for the Buyer’s Guide. When purchasing a used car, federal law requires that a used-car dealer post a Buyer’s Guide on the window of the car. The purpose of the Buyer’s Guide is to tell consumers if the car is sold “as is” (sold with all defects, known or unknown) or if the car comes with a warranty.
- Always ask for the vehicle’s history report, such as CARFax, before buying it.
- Check to see if the car comes with a warranty included in the price of the car. If so, what are the specific protections provided by the dealer or seller. If the seller offers to sell you an extended warranty or service contract, the seller should not be offering the car “as is.” Remember, if you buy a car “as is” and have problems with it, you must pay for any repairs yourself.
- Ask for an independent inspection. Ask to have the car inspected by an independent mechanic of your choice, or arrange an inspection yourself before you agree to a purchase.
- You have no right to cancel a car purchase. Contrary to popular misconception, neither State nor federal law gives the buyer an unconditional right to cancel a car purchase.
- Get it in writing. Make sure you get any promises made by the dealer or seller in writing (for example, to replace a broken tail light). Verbal promises are difficult to enforce.
- Beware of extended warranties and service contracts. Ask whether the dealer or seller offers an extended warranty or service contract. If you decide to purchase a service contract, make sure you understand what it covers and how long it will last. Shop around for the best price on a service contract.
- Ask about prior damage. Inquire about any prior damage to the car and its repair history. Do not automatically accept the seller’s response as accurate. In addition, if the vehicle has ever sustained more than 70% damage (“totaled” or “salvaged”), the vehicle title must be branded with a “SALVAGE” and if rebuilt, it must be branded as “REBUILT” and the seller must include a Previous Damage Buyer Notification Form.
- Always test drive the vehicle.
- Look at the odometer. Ask whether it is accurate. Compare the odometer reading to the odometer disclosure you should be provided at the time of sale.