Maybe this will sound familiar. You’ve researched car buying guides, looked at maintenance records, and studied ratings.
You have done your research, haven’t you?
You decided that a used vehicle would be the perfect fit for your budget. Now at last you are ready to begin. With a racing pulse and slightly sweating palms, you begin sifting through descriptions of thousands of cars online, filtering, sorting,and ultimately driving over to take a look.
Umm…. You did go look at the car, didn’t you?
OK, let’s start there.
#1 – There is no substitute for “kicking the tires.”
Internet access to car dealerships and online ads has brought a vast inventory to the consumer’s fingertips. But there is no substitute for a visit. You need to make sure the description matches the ride. A picture online, or even a phone call to the seller, is no substitute! The best rule of thumb is probably to purchase from an established dealer near your community. In this way, when service is needed it is possible to return to the place where you made the purchase.
#2 – You knew I was going to say this, right?
Make sure you check the BBB’s Business Review and letter rating of a dealer before you visit. We have many auto dealers in our area who place a premium on customer service. Find out who they are and patronize them.
#3 – Inspect the vehicle, or better yet, have the vehicle inspected by a third party you trust, someone who is not emotionally involved in the sale. Either take a mechanic with you to the lot, or ask to take the vehicle to a mechanic on your testdrive.
You are going to test drive the vehicle, aren’t you?
This is critical. If the dealer will not allow a third party inspection, buy your car somewhere else.
#4 – Finance terms matter.
Financing. That’s another topic altogether, and we will talk about that another day. But while we are talking about the third biggest expense for most people (after taxes and homes), we just have to say, read your sales contract and any finance terms if applicable. Many consumers make the mistake of stopping at the monthly payment. (“I can totally afford this!”) Forty-eight months (four years!) later when the car has lost its luster, they start wondering why they are still making payments and pull that paperwork back out.
That’s when they discover they are paying two to three times the purchase price of the vehicle. Consider paying cash now for a lesser vehicle and start putting money aside monthly for the next one. That way you’ll be paying yourself insteadof someone else.
#5 – It may surprise you to find out that in Ohio and many other states, “Lemon Laws” pertain specifically and exclusively to new cars. In other words, legally there is no such thing as a used lemon.
#6 – Although many people believe they have three days (or a month, or 15 days, etc.) to return a vehicle if they experience a problem, Ohio law provides no such protection. When you sign a purchase agreement and drive your car off the lot, it is yours unless otherwise specifically stipulated in your sales contract, and that is rare.
#7 – There are two basic protections against breakdowns or repair costs. The first is something called a “We Owe” sheet. If you or your mechanic discover a problem, and you would like the dealer to fix it as a condition of sale, you must have it noted in writing that the dealer will fix the problem.
The second protection against certain types of problems is a warranty. There are many different kinds, and as a general rule the more things they cover, the more expensive they are. In most vehicle purchases, a warranty is a negotiated or added term of the sale. Some purchase such as Certified Pre-owned may include a warranty as a part of the purchase price.
#8 – In some states, even used vehicles must pass an inspection before being put up for sale or driven on the road. Ohio is not one of those states. Remember, a car purchased in Ohio will not necessarily pass an inspection in New York.
As always, your BBB recommends that you look for one of our accredited partners.
Research. Inspect. Look for the seal. Start with trust! And happy hunting!
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BBB Serving Ashland, Medina, Portage, Richland, Summit & Wayne Counties