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Educational Consumer Tips

Buying a Used Car

Author: Rachel Willard
Published:
Category: Auto

Buying a used car is a great investment that allows consumers to purchase a reliable car that fits their needs while still saving money. When purchasing a used car, it is important to do the necessary research ahead of time, as well as, reviewing history reports and inspections before signing any contracts.  

Tips for Buying a Used Car:

Set a Price Limit.  Before you start your search, decide the maximum amount you can spend or the maximum monthly payment if financing the car through a loan. When calculating the cost, be sure to include the price of the tax, title, registration, and insurance. Together these costs are estimated to be 10% of the purchase price.

Determine Where to Buy the Used Car.  There are three common venues to purchase used cars: private parties, dealerships, and independent lots. Private parties tend to have more reasonable prices without the pressure of a dealership salesperson. Buying a used car from a dealership provides you with carefully inspected vehicles and strong warranties. The Federal Trade Commission’s Used Car Rule states that dealers must post a Buyer’s Guide for every used car that is for sale. The Buyer’s Guide must inform you if the car is being sold with a warranty, the percentage of repair costs the dealer pays while under warranty and any major problems of the mechanical and electrical systems. The Buyer’s Guide also suggests getting the vehicle inspected by your mechanic before purchasing. Keep in mind, when purchasing from a private party, sellers are not required to provide a Buyer’s Guide.  

Choose a Car that Fits Specific Needs.  Think about the equipment the car offers, the safety features that are needed, the conditions the car will be driven in and any necessities required for you or your family.

Do the Research.  Look online at websites such as KelleyBlueBook.com. There are many online resources to check the average retail prices of various makes and models of used cars depending on the year and how many miles are on the car. These prices will give you an idea of what the used car should sell for when looking at different locations.

Test Drive the Vehicle.  Be thorough when test driving a used car and make sure to examine all of the features. Turn the car to “Accessory mode” to ensure all of the dashboard lights are on. If either the “check engine” or “ABS” light remains unlight it could be a sign that the car has been interfered with to cover-up a serious issue. While driving, carefully check the brakes, steering, and gear shifting. Make sure to listen to the engine for any noises. Test drive the car on the highway, back roads, through traffic and any other types of terrain the car will be driven on.

Get a History Report and Inspection.  When looking to purchase a used car, copy down the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which is located on the driver’s side dashboard near the window or on the driver’s side door. Make sure all VINs are identical. The VIN provides an AutoCheck Vehicle History Report and allows the buyer to check the title of the used car. No matter where the used car is being purchased from, ask the seller for a copy of the service records and bring the car to a dependable mechanic to inspect before making the purchase.

About the Author: Rachel Willard is Communications, Marketing Specialist & Webmaster for BBB serving Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont. Find Rachel on Google +.

Questions and Comments

Comment Submitted 3/4/2013

You might mention in your last paragraph more information about the use of companies that provide a Vehicle History Report.
1. What kind of information these companies provide.
2. There is a charge for these reports
3. AutoCheck and other companies provide Vehicle History Reports online.

Question Submitted 5/30/2013

I am a 72 year old woman and went to buy a used care from a dealer. the car is almost 8 years old. even if I had already signed papers, If I change my mind about the care, is there a way I can back out of the deal?

BBB's Answer:

I am not sure you can. You can contact the Massachusetts Office of Consumer AFfairs at (617) 973-8787 and as them for assistance. 

Question Submitted 6/18/2013

Is there a state law in Massachusetts stating that a car dealership MUST prepare all documents for the purchase of a car and then can charge the customer for this "DOCUMENT PREPARATION FEE?"

BBB's Answer:

I found this article that may be helpful - http://www.boston.com/business/personalfinance/consumeralert/2012/02/made-up_document_prep_fees_pre.html
I would also contact the MA Office of Consumer Affairs in regards to this specific question - http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/

Comment Submitted 3/15/2014

I purchased a pre-owned car. Apparently there was a major "ding" that was covered up was not reviled to me! I was told by the manager of the dealership that they do not point out such things when selling a preowned car! That is why it as priced so aggressively is what he said! If it was pointed out I would have walked away if I weren't given a lowere price or had the part fixed! What are my rights???

Comment Submitted 4/3/2014

I completely agree to do the "research ahead of time." You can end up saving a lot of money if you know what you are getting into. There are a lot of websites that allow to to check the average price range for certain cars. 
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Disclaimer:
Views expressed on this page are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Better Business Bureau.

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