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Tips for buying a used car

hot car

Used cars can be an affordable alternative to buying new, but the potential risks involved in buying a used car make it all the more important to do your homework first. Better Business Bureau of North Alabama encourages consumers to be vigilant in inspecting used cars before purchasing them.

Your BBB offers the following tips for shoppers considering a used car purchase:

  • Do your homework first. Visit northalabama.bbb.org to find local, reputable dealers.
  • Evaluate your finances and budget carefully. Be sure to include any necessary repairs in the budget.
  • Use online resources such as Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book and NADA Guides to research how much you can expect to pay for a given used car in your area.
  • Understand the different types of financing available.
  • Dealers who offer financing through banks, credit unions and finance companies may send your application to multiple lenders to secure a loan. Ask questions about how your information is used and how credit inquiries may impact your credit score.
  • ‘Buy Here, Pay Here’ dealers act as the lender themselves, and may be willing to approve financing when other lenders will not. However, interest rates for such ‘in-house’ loans tend to be higher.
  • Ask specific questions about a vehicle’s history and condition. Ask for any records on the vehicle, including those related to inspection, prior maintenance and any repairs or reconditioning done by the dealer.
  • Have a qualified mechanic inspect the vehicle.
  • Test drive and inspect a used vehicle thoroughly.
  • Note if the vehicle is purchased “as is.”
  • When a vehicle is purchased “as is,” it means the seller is not necessarily liable for anything that is wrong with it. State laws vary widely on what a used car dealer is liable for one a car is driven off the lot.
  • Once you purchase a vehicle, you cannot return it unless your purchase contract specifically allows for such returns.
  • Be sure to carefully read the Car Buyer’s Guide that is required by the Federal Trade Commission and should be presented to you by the dealer.
  • Be clear on the terms of any deposit you put down.
  • Bring required documents to make paperwork easier, and understand what you’re signing.
  • If you are unsure about what information and documents might be needed to complete the finance process (e.g., proof of residence, paystubs), call the dealer and ask for clarification.
  • If you are trading in a vehicle, bring the title and lien release information with you.
  • Make sure you read and fully understand the terms of any paperwork you sign. Ask questions about anything that doesn’t make sense, or differs from what you’ve discussed with the salesperson.
  • Get any additional commitments made by the dealer in writing.
  • Ask about the title transfer process, and who to contact with issues.

To report a scam, go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, go to bbb.org.