Buying a Used Car

  • Find a car that the dealer covers with a warranty by checking the “Buyers Guide” posted on used cars. Select a car with at least a 30-day, 100% warranty where the dealer agrees to pay all repair costs for covered items. Avoid “As Is – No Warranty” cars.
  • Choose a safe car. Look for the current safety inspection sticker required by your state. Call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration toll-free number (1-800-424-9393) to see if the manufacturer has recalled the car for safety defects. If it has been recalled, ask the dealer for proof that the defect has been repaired.
  • Check prices at the library with the NADA Official Used Car Guide or used car pricing services. The Kelly Blue Book is on the web at
  • Some states have laws giving extra protection to used car buyers. Contact your state or local consumer protection office to find out what rights you might have.
  • Check with your state motor vehicle department to research the car’s title history. Make sure the car is not a “lemon buy-back,” salvaged, or wrecked car. Get the written mileage disclosure statement required by federal law from any seller and make sure it matches the odometer reading on the car. Check the title to the car before you sign on the dotted line.
  • Look carefully at the car in full daylight. Take it for a test drive. Have the car inspected by YOUR mechanic, and pay for a diagnostic test. Ask the mechanic if the car would pass a safety inspection so that you can ask the dealer to make repairs before you buy the car. Check out the frequency of repair records for used cars in Consumer Reports magazine that you can find at the library.

Buying from a Private Individual

  • Consider buying a used car from someone you know. You can get a reliable car for a lower price from the original owner who knows the car’s service and repair record. But private sellers generally have less responsibility than dealers for defects or other problems.
  • Check with your state’s motor vehicle department on what paperwork you will need to register a vehicle.
  • Make sure the seller isn’t a dealer posing as an individual. That might mean the dealer is trying to evade the law and might be an indicator of problems with the car. Look at the title and registration. Make sure the seller is the registered owner of the vehicle.
  • Ask the seller lots of detailed questions about the car.

See also…

Business and Finance Law

Consumer Complaints