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BBB Tip of the Week: Buying a used car

Buying a used car: We get lots of used car complaints at the Better Business Bureau. Many of them happen because the consumer didn’t check out the car before buying it. These folks all want to know about “the Lemon Law.” While the BBB does not interpret the law and can’t give legal advice, it’s our understanding that the Lemon Law applies to new vehicles that have been in the shop repeatedly for the same issue. It doesn’t apply to the used car you didn’t test drive, even if the motor falls out on the way home. Isn’t there an implied warranty of drivability? Yes. But this varies from state to state, is extremely vague and may or may not help you.

When not to buy: Remember, you have the most bargaining power before you drive off the lot. If you have reservations about the car, don’t buy it. If everything you and the salesperson worked out isn’t included in the contract, don’t sign it. And when considering a used car, take it to your own mechanic. Ask the dealer if they will agree: If nothing is wrong with the car, I will pay my mechanic. If something is wrong with the car, you will pay.

Asking for trouble: What about buying a used car, sight unseen? Recently the BBB became aware of a company advertising itself as AUTO Bay on Craigslist and in the Auto Trader. The company’s physical address was supposedly “4200 S. Cheney in Spokane.” But it turned out that a legitimate storage rental company is located there and has no knowledge of this bogus company.

Buying advice: Here are some points to remember when buying a vehicle:

• Check out the business with the BBB.

• Don’t offer your credit card or bank information.

• No contract, no deal. Don’t make a major purchase without a legally binding contract that you have read and understood.

• Research the car’s VIN number, test drive it, inquire about the repair history and odometer accuracy.

• Require physical evidence of products and businesses. It is very easy to create a phony website.

More info or to report scams: Visit the BBB website at Call (509) 455-4200 or (800) 356-1007. 

Holly Doering, BBB Editor