We get lots of used car complaints at the Better Business Bureau. Some of them happen because the consumer didn’t check out the car before buying it. These folks want to know about “the Lemon Law.” While the BBB does not interpret laws and can’t give legal advice, it’s our understanding that Lemon Laws apply to new vehicles that have been in the shop repeatedly for the same issue.
They don’t apply to the used car you didn’t test drive, even if the motor falls out on the way home. Isn’t there an implied warranty of drivability? Yes. But this varies from state to state, is extremely vague and may or may not help you. (Your state’s Attorney General will be the best resource on this.)
Remember, you have the most bargaining power before you drive off the lot. If you have reservations about the car, don’t buy it. If everything you and the salesperson worked out isn’t included in the contract, don’t sign it. And when considering a used car, take it to your own mechanic. Ask the dealer if they will agree: If nothing is wrong with the car, I will pay my mechanic. If something is wrong with the car, you will pay.
What about buying a used car, sight unseen? Recently the BBB became aware of a company advertising itself on Craigslist and in our local Auto Trader. The company listed a physical address in Spokane. But as it turned out, a legitimate storage rental company is located there and has no knowledge of the bogus car dealers.
Tips for buying a vehicle include:
• Checking out the business with the BBB.
• Not offering your credit card or bank information.
• No contract, no deal. Don’t make a major purchase without a legally binding contract that you have read and understood.
• Researching the car’s VIN number, testing drive it, and asking about the repair history and odometer accuracy.
• Requiring physical evidence of products and businesses. It is very easy to create a phony website.
Previously published in the Spokane Spokesman-Review