If you are buying a used car from a used car dealer (or a private individual), here are some tricks you should watch out for so you don't get cheated!
The Used Car Dealer says,"The car is in great condition."
You say, "Can you prove it?"
Is an extended warranty available on the car? Is there a repair history on the car (in writing)? Is there an inspection report on the car (in writing)? Is there a recent emissions test report on the car (in writing)? If the dealer can't back up his words with some kind of documentation (in writing), he may be embellishing the truth or just plain lying.
The Used Car Dealer says, "It's a low mileage car"
You say, "I'd like to see the old title before I buy it."
The car might have low miles, but odometer readings can be rolled back. Used car dealers can get in legal trouble if they change the odometer reading, but few are ever caught because it is hard to prove unless there is a repair history on the vehicle or the previous mileage was accurately noted on the former title.
The Used Car Dealer says,"The car was well cared for."
You say, "Great, can I see the car's maintenance history?"
The first thing most used car dealers do when they take a car in trade is get rid of any repair records or other written documentation that may have been provided by the previous owner. They will also remove any service reminder stickers from the door jam or windshield that may provide a clue as to when the vehicle was last serviced or when the next service is due. They want the car to be sold as a clean sheet of paper. What you don't know about, you don't worry about or ask questions about. Consequently, a used car dealer can tell you anything about the vehicles history and there's no way to prove it. Rare is the used dealer who will provide you with the name and phone number of the previous owner. If you are dealing with a private seller, on the other hand, the owner should be able to produce receipts showing the vehicle has been maintained regularly.
The Used Car Dealer says,"We just serviced it and everything checks out okay
Your say, "Good, I'll pull out the dipstick to make sure the oil is clean."
A good used car dealer will check out the car to make sure nothing obvious needs to be repaired. They might even change the oil and filter. But that's about all. I've had numerous used car dealers tell me they've changed the oil only to discover the oil is black as mud when I pull out the dipstick. "Oh we'll change the oil if you buy the car." Would you have taken care of it had I not noticed they oil had not been changed? I doubt it.
The Used Car Dealer says,"It just needs a tune-up, otherwise it is in great condition
You say, "If it only needs a tune-up, why hasn't that been done?"
The fact is, there's no such thing as a tune up anymore. Changing the oil, filters and spark plugs is about the only maintenance that's required on late model engines. So if the Check Engine light is on, or the car is hard to start, idles rough, stumbled or bogs when you try to accelerate, or lacks power, it has a problem that needs to be diagnosed and repaired -- and it may turn out to be an expensive problem. A competent technician whom you trust should be allowed to inspect the car and offer his assessment of its condition before you buy it.
The Used Car Dealer says," This will make you a great, reliable car.
You say, "Can I call you if it breaks down on me later?"
A good, reliable, trouble-free car is what every used car shopper wants, and sometimes they get it. But unless you are buying a late model car (5 years old or less) with relatively low miles (under 40,000), it's anybody's guess how long it will last or what kind of problems and repair bills you are going to have a year or two down the road from now. Buying a used car is always a risk, and the older the vehicle and the higher the mileage, the greater the odds are it is going to have problems and require repairs at some point in the near future.
The Used Car Dealer says,"That clunking noise? That's normal for this kind of car.
You say, "If that's normal, I don't want it."
Unusual noises, vibrations or smells are NOT normal and usually mean something is wrong with the vehicle. Unless the used car dealer is willing to guarantee the vehicle (in writing), don't buy it.
The Used Car Dealer says,"Of course it will pass emissions. It's in like-new condition"
You say," Will you put that in writing?"
If the Check Engine light is on, the vehicle will NOT pass emissions. Make sure the Check Engine light has not been disconnected or disabled. When you first turn the ignition on, the Check Engine light and other warning lights on the instrument panel should all illuminate for a few seconds for a bulb check. Any warning light that does not come on may have been tampered with to conceal a problem.
Whether you are buying a car from a used car dealer or a private individual, NEVER BUY A VEHICLE WITHOUT DRIVING IT FIRST!
Online dealer websites, car auctions and classified ads are a common way to shop for and buy used cars today. But it's not the same as going to a used car lot or an individual's home, actually looking at the vehicle, sitting inside it, looking under the hood and driving it around the block. A car that looks great online may be a piece of junk up close and personal.
If you like taking chances, then bid and buy online without actually seeing or driving the vehicle. If you don't want to get burned, then don't bid or buy online unless the vehicle is local and you can go see it and test drive it first.
We've heard so many horror stories from friends and family who have bought cars online and later discovered the vehicle had major problems that were not disclosed or shown in the online ads:
* Flood damaged cars
* Collision damaged cars that had not been properly repaired
* Cars with serious engine problems (such as leaky head gaskets, coolant leaks, burning oil, valvetrain noise. etc.)
* Cars with serious transmission problems (slipping clutch or failing automatic)
* Cars with quirky electrical problems (computers, sensors, accessories, lights, battery, etc.)
* Cars with worn out brakes
* Cars with expensive steering, suspension or alignment problems
* Cars with rust or body damage concealed by body filler or undercoating
* Cars with missing airbags
* Cars with incorrect parts installed
If a seller is not trustworthy, they certainly aren't going to say anything negative about the vehicle they are trying to sell you. They won't disclose things they know are wrong with the vehicle, and they may lie when asked if this or that might need to be repaired or replaced. So let the buyer beware!
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