BEFORE YOU BUY A USED CAR
Whether you buy a used car from a dealer,
a co-worker, or a neighbor, follow these tips to learn as much
as you can about the car:
- Examine the car yourself using an
inspection checklist. You can find a checklist in many of the
magazine articles, books and Internet sites that deal with buying
a used car.
- Test drive the car under varied road conditions - on hills,
highways, and in stop-and-go traffic.
- Ask for the car's maintenance record. If the owner doesn't
have copies, contact the dealership or repair shop where most
of the work was done. They may share their files with you.
- Talk to the previous owner, especially if the present owner
is unfamiliar with the car's history.
- Have the car inspected by a mechanic you hire.
IF YOU HAVE PROBLEMS
If you have a problem that you think
is covered by a warranty or service contract, follow the instructions
to get service. If a dispute arises, there are several steps
you can take:
- Try to work it out with the
dealer. Talk with the salesperson or, if necessary, the owner
of the dealership. Many problems can be resolved at this level.
However, if you believe you're entitled to service, but the
dealer disagrees, you can take other steps.
- If your warranty is backed by a car manufacturer, contact
the local representative of the manufacturer. The local or zone
representative is authorized to adjust and decide about warranty
service and repairs to satisfy customers. Some manufacturers
also are willing to repair certain problems in specific models
for free, even if the manufacturer's warranty does not cover
the problem. Ask the manufacturer's zone representative or the
service department of a franchised dealership that sells your
car model whether there is such a policy.
- Contact your local Better Business Bureau, state Attorney
General, or the Department of Motor Vehicles. You also might
consider using a dispute resolution organization to arbitrate
your disagreement if you and the dealer are willing. Under the
terms of many warranties, this may be a required first step
before you can sue the dealer or manufacturer. Check your warranty
to see if this is the case. If you bought your car from a franchised
dealer, you may be able to seek mediation through the Automotive
Consumer Action Program (AUTOCAP), a dispute resolution program
coordinated nationally by the National Automobile Dealers Association
and sponsored through state and local dealer associations in
many cities. Check with the dealer association in your area
to see if they operate a mediation program.
- If none of these steps is successful, small claims court is
an option. Here, you can resolve disputes involving small amounts
of money, often without an attorney. The clerk of your local
small claims court can tell you how to file a suit and what
the dollar limit is in your state.
- The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act also may be helpful. Under
this federal law, you can sue based on breach of express warranties,
implied warranties, or a service contract. If successful, consumers
can recover reasonable attorneys' fees and other court costs.
A lawyer can advise you if this law applies.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive
and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide
information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To
file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues,
visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357);
TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing,
identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer
Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of
civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and