A lemon law attorney’s office receives many calls each week from buyers of costly used cars who have discovered that their cars are less reliable or less valuable than they expected. For instance, one of our clients once bought a used vehicle off a used car lot. It was a low-mileage car which looked perfect. Unfortunately, he later found a receipt in the car showing that the car was a previous rental vehicle, and that its odometer had been rolled back 30,000 miles! Getting out from under a bad vehicle purchase takes wits, persistence, and a strong stomach.
As a consumer, you have many ways to protect yourself. It is usually safest to purchase a used vehicle from a reputable dealer. Although you may pay a bit more up front, you will have a better chance of successfully resolving any problems that may arise with your purchase. The fewer cars the dealer sells, the higher the chance that your vehicle will be a lemon; the chance is highest if you're buying from a private party.
Buy all warranties that are available and get all repair records about the car. The salesperson should put in writing that the car was not in a major accident, or used for rental or salvage. If they equivocate, it should raise red flags about the purchase. An honest dealer would care about your concerns when buying a used car. Ask the dealer if you can have an outside mechanic examine the car before you buy it.
The most dangerous way to buy a car is from an unknown private party. Be absolutely certain, to have an outside body shop and mechanic examine the vehicle before you buy it. Demand to see all repair accounts. Always bring someone to view and drive the vehicle.
It is vital that you run a carfax check (www.carfax.com), to insure that the seller has proper title to the vehicle. Ask the owner for a 30-day warranty. (You probably won't get it unless the car's been on sale for a while.) Go to a trustworthy dealership. Make sure that the dealer knows you won't be buying the car that day, and that you are just examining the car. Mull it over for a while. Don't believe the hype --- few cars are truly "one of a kind." There is no cooling off period with vehicle purchases, unlike vacuum cleaners and the like. Once it leaves the lot, it's yours!
Make certain that you understand the terms of any lease before you get one. Have the salesman give detailed explanations of the lease. Make sure all warranties are in effect if you're buying a demo, loaner, or a slightly used car.
Don't be afraid to follow your gut instincts. If you feel pressured from a salesperson to buy a specific vehicle, or if the deal just, "doesn’t seem right," your instincts are probably correct. Step back and walk away. There's always another dealership, but there's only one of you. This gives you the advantage.
It is a rewarding and easy thing to be an smart and informed consumer. If you follow some simple rules, you can drive your new car with peace of mind and comfort.