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8 gears to grind when shopping for a used car

The lemon law doesn’t apply to used cars, so buyer beware. Always obtains a professional pre-purchase inspection before buying.

Buying a car is a long-term commitment for most, with a lot of thought going into the monthly payments and possible maintenance and repair costs over time. Buying a used car could mean more on the repair end if you don’t discover the true condition of the vehicle beforehand. Keep these eight things in mind when shopping for a used car.

1. Vehicle history report

A clean history report doesn’t mean you’re about to buy a good used vehicle. Most accidents will not appear on a vehicle history report, so you will not have any record of existing or hidden electrical or mechanical problems or the quality of repairs, including accident repairs. A professional pre-purchase inspection shows abuse, past accident damage and needed repairs.

2. Frame damage and flooded vehicles

One in 14 vehicles uses salvage parts, and 40 percent of all frame repairs are substandard, officials estimate. The Department of Motor Vehicles, Carfax or AutoCheck don’t receive paperwork on all frame-damaged and flooded vehicles, so that they have clean titles. To determine frame or flood damage, have a physical professional inspection.

3. Certified vehicles

Certified or pre-owned vehicles don’t have a quality or inspection standard. That means warranties, quality and inspection standards vary by dealer. Find current problems not covered by a limited warranty by obtaining a professional pre-purchase inspection.

4. No take-back period

Existing problems with the vehicle become the purchaser’s responsibility once the sales documents are signed. Determine the true condition before buying.

5. Lemon Law doesn’t apply

Courts don’t enforce any verbal portrayal of the vehicle’s condition from the owner/dealership. The buyer must conclude the true condition before purchasing.

6. Used car values

The value of a used car is determined by the Kelley Blue Book value, subtracting past accident damage, needed repairs or abuse. Damage, repairs and abuse can be found with a professional pre-purchase inspection.

7. Odometer fraud

Officials guess that 1 in 4 used vehicles have odometer discrepancies. The way to determine if the vehicle accurately reflects the number of miles is by contacting a professional pre-purchase inspection.

8. No automatic warranties

Dealerships might offer a limited warranty, so make sure to understand which parts of the car are covered and for how long. Usually, a limited warranty doesn’t cover mechanical or electrical systems. If the “As Is” box is marked, know the purchaser has agreed to immediately pay for all repairs.

The key to buying the best used car is to find the best professional automotive technician for the pre-purchase inspection. Only an ASE Certified Master Technician is qualified to do a 600-point inspection. Charges normally run about $140. You can usually find a qualified technician at diagnostic and service garages.

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