Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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Buying a Used Car: Tips to save you money in the long run 

Buying a vehicle, even a used vehicle, can be an expensive endeavor, but if you do some homework and shop around you can save yourself a lot of money in the long run. By doing a little bit of research, you can learn about vehicle models, prices and repair records. This information is readily available on the Internet and in auto buyer guide books.

Once at the dealership, inspect the car yourself by running down the "Used Car Checklist." Some things to look for are rust on the exterior, poor suspension and functionality of seatbelts, locks and windows. After examining the car, take it for a test drive, paying close attention to the brakes, acceleration and alignment. It is also a good idea to take the car to an independent mechanic for a mechanical and safety inspection. If the dealer will not allow you to do this, you can ask the dealer to have the car inspected by a mechanic of your choice or have your mechanic visit the dealer.

steering wheel 366x244If the inspection checks out and you now want to purchase the vehicle, you must consider the following:

Purchase Price: Make sure the price is consistent with one of the publications that you consulted and most importantly is within your budget.

Payment options: Unless you pay for your car with cash up front, you will have to finance your car over time. Remember that the higher the down payment you can provide, the lower your interest and monthly payments will be. The interest rate, however, is largely tied to your credit rating.

Warranty: Be sure to understand the warranty that accompanies your used car:

  • A written warranty covers only what is explicitly contained in the writing. You have a right to see the dealer's warranty before you buy a car.
  • A vehicle that is sold "as-is" means that there is no warranty and the purchaser will bear the cost of repairs. However, vehicles that are sold must be roadworthy and be able to pass state inspection unless disclosures are made by the dealer. Be very cautious when purchasing a vehicle "as is."
  • Under federal law, warranty information (buyers guide) must be posted in a visible place in the automobile.

Service contract: A service contract covers certain repairs and/or maintenance for a specified period of time. Not all dealers provide service contracts. Unlike a warranty, the cost of a service contract is not included in the price of the car.

If you are buying a used car from a private party, follow the same advice as though you were purchasing a car from a dealer. Note, however, that when purchasing a used vehicle from a private party, that transaction may not include a warranty.

If you still have questions regarding your purchase of a used vehicle, you can contact the Office of Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555.