In the market for some new wheels? Whether you’re looking for your first car or something more family-friendly, buying a used car, while more economically friendly, can be a hassle if done incorrectly. Last year, the Better Business Bureau received more than 14,000 complaints regarding used car purchases.

For many consumers, buying a car is second only to buying a home when it comes to big-ticket purchases, and the process can be just as daunting. Used cars can be an affordable alternative to buying new, but the potential risks involved make it important to do your homework first.

The BBB urges consumers to consider the following when purchasing a vehicle:

Do your homework: Research the dealership’s business profile at Check the company’s track record, history of resolving complaints, customer reviews and advertising reviews.

The Used Car Rule: The Federal Trade Commission Used Car Rule, in effect since 1985, states that dealerships must post a Buyer’s Guide for every used car that is for sale. In addition to any major mechanical or electrical issues with the car, the Buyer’s Guide will inform a buyer if the car comes with a warranty, or if it’s being sold “as is,” and the percentage of repair costs to be paid by the dealer if it does include a warranty.

Know the history of the vehicle: Make sure the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the driver’s side dashboard and on the driver’s side door post are identical. The VIN provides a vehicle history report and allows the buyer to check the title of the used car. Find these reports online at the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System website. Also, be sure to obtain any service records that are available.

Test drive the vehicle: Try to drive on various road conditions, in traffic and on hills and highways. Consider things like comfortability, visibility and any possible noise coming from the vehicle. It’s also important to note how the car shifts and how the pedals feel when you brake.

Have the car inspected: The dealer should have nothing to hide. If the salesman does not allow you to have a third-party mechanic inspect the vehicle, it may be your best option to look elsewhere.

Consider a certified, pre-owned vehicle: These are vehicles that typically have been given multipoint inspections before being placed on the lot. CPO programs are backed by many automakers, and the vehicles may include an extended manufacturer’s warranty on major parts such as the engine and transmission at no cost.

Read the contract carefully: Take your time to read and understand the entire written agreement. Be sure that all blank spaces are filled in, that all verbal promises are included and that the type of warranty that comes with the car is spelled out.

If you believe your issue isn’t being addressed, the BBB Auto Line program may help. Administered by the BBB, AutoLine is the nation’s oldest and most respected auto warranty dispute resolution program. It is an out-of-court program used to settle automotive disputes. An informal hearing is held where a neutral third party, the arbitrator, decides how the dispute will be resolved.

Recommended for you

Load comments