How Not To Buy A Used Car
My Used Car Buying Mistakes
The 1995 Ford Taurus station wagon I’d been driving for ten years served me well, but with 250,000 miles on it, I was spending more and more on repairs. Finally, the transmission gave up its ghost. I thought it would be better to buy another good used car rather than sink more money into a rebuilt transmission. Like many people these days I had a limited budget.
I ended up selling the old car to the junkyard, and added that money to my car fund. But my budget would not allow more than $1000 for a down payment on my next vehicle. It was hard to go shopping since I no longer had transportation. Friends and my granddaughter helped, but driving around to car dealerships was time consuming and a lot to ask of anyone. Because I had avoided using credit for anything since being divorced twenty plus years I had no credit history and could not get a normal car loan. So, I was limited to shopping at dealerships that offered, “easy financing.”
I Was Determined to Fine a Car That Day!
Into my fourth week without transportation, my grand daughter called to ask if I wanted her to take me to look at some more cars. I was determined to find a car that day. That was my first mistake; feeling pressured by my situation.
After explaining my situation and what I could afford, a
salesperson showed me a car that they’d just gotten in and had not prepped for
sale yet. I agreed to his offer to buy a car “as is” in exchange for a low down
payment and monthly installments that would be within my budget. I asked if
they would first let me take it to my mechanic for a check over and they
agreed. My trusted mechanic gave the thumbs up except that it needed two tires
to meet inspection criteria. The dealer said I’d have to pay for the tires
since he was selling it to me “as is.” I agreed to buy the tires, and the car
passed inspection. I felt safe that the car had gotten a clean bill of health. I also had to pay for the inspection.
I thought I was still within my budget. I had considered the added insurance cost for comprehensive coverage. But by the time sales tax, title transfer, and a document fee were added to my down payment I was paying another $500 plus the cost of the tires. With the 29% interest rate on top of that, my budget went out the window.
Two days after I’d bought the car the check engine light came on. The dealer would not do anything to correct that problem because I’d signed the papers and paid my down payment. I was looking at another few hundred dollars to make the necessary repairs. I also discovered on the first warm day shortly after my purchase that the air condiitioning did not work.
My case turned out that the DMV saved the day - they caught that the car I bought had been in
an accident and I was not told by the dealer. [there is a place on the
title that has to be checked by the buyer to indicate they know about
the car having been wrecked.] They would not transfer the title and the
dealer took the car back and refunded my down payment. I could have saved myself all that trouble by researching the history of the car before I bought it. You can do that through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.
What I Learned About Buying a Used Car
I just will share with you what I learned too late. Maybe I can save someone else some aggravation. If you are poor, have bad credit or none at all, are a single mom, or a senior citizen on a fixed income, or even jobless you can still find someone to finance a car. They will put a GPS in the car so if you default on your payments they can, with the click of a computer mouse, prevent the car from starting, find and repossess the vehicle.
In my state, North Carolina, a dealer can repossess your car with no warning if you miss a payment or let your insurance lapse. This is true in most other states. Check with your State Department of Justice or State Attorney General’s office to see what the policy is in your State.
Some easy-finance dealers could care less if you have good credit. My dealer didn’t even care if I had a job. Think about it. They have their down payment, they can get the car back if you default on a payment and do it all over again. Thanks to technology, they have very low risk.
Contrary to popular belief, if three days after you buy a used car something goes wrong there is no three-day cooling off period to give you the right to cancel a contract. Only a very few states have any kind of lemon law covering used cars.
The Federal Trade Commission's Used Car Rule requires dealers to post a Buyers Guide in every used car they offer for sale. Go to the FTC website and learn what the buyers guide must include.
You can also find information about repossession law at the Federal Trade Commission website: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/autos/aut14.shtm
For more information or to file a complaint
National Association of Attorney Generals
Before You Buy A Used Car
- Establish a budget and be aware of added costs: insurance, sales tax, license, title and registration fees, and document prep fee are some to consider.
- Don’t let your self feel pressured either by your situation or a salesperson.
- Don’t buy “as is” and only deal with a company that includes a 30-day warranty. Many dealers do offer this.
- Test drive the car long enough to know how it performs around town and on the highway and up and down hills. Check to see if the heat and air conditioner, windshield wipers, lights, and other controls work. Listen for sounds.
- Have your mechanic check the car out before you commit.
- Get any promises made by the dealer put in writing.
- Read your contract and all the other paperwork thoroughly before you sign and be sure you understand it. If you are not car savvy take a family member or close friend who is car smart along with you when negotiating the contract.
I learned from my car buying experience. If I had it to do over I would have been more cautious, taken as much time as needed to find the right people to deal with and the right agreement. So, when its your turn to shop for a used car take a deep breath and do not get in such a hurry to have some wheels that you act under pressure and without due caution.