Although it can be a more affordable alternative to purchasing a new vehicle, buying a used car can be an overwhelming process. In the past three years, the Better Business Bureau received 26,000 complaints regarding used-car purchases. Whether you’re looking for your first car or replacing the family vehicle, the BBB provides some tips to help your find a car dealer you can trust:
- Use a reputable dealer. Research the dealership’s business profile at bbb.org. Check the company’s track record, history of resolving complaints, customer reviews and advertising reviews.
- The Used Car Rule. The Federal Trade Commission’s Used Car Rule 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 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 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, you may choose 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.
As there are many opportunities for people to get scammed, the BBB reminds them to use extreme caution purchasing vehicles online through third parties. Even if you able to test drive, and obtain an official vehicle history report using the car’s VIN number, these are extremely risky transactions that leave consumers vulnerable to many kinds of fraud. The BBB also reminds consumers never to wire funds or send funds via pre-paid card to someone you don’t know.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: 903-581-8373 or report it via BBB ScamTracker.