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Consumer Corner Column

Consumer Corner: Avoid car-buying potholes

Release Date: May 06, 2016

Buying a car, whether new or used, is a major purchasing decision. Other than houses, cars are the largest purchases many families will ever make. Given the large amount of money on the line, our office receives many complaints when a car-buying transaction does not go as planned.

You can make the road to buying a car less bumpy by following some simple rules:

  • Do your homework. Research your options by reviewing consumer magazines or online reviews. Learn about the vehicle’s features, fuel mileage and maintenance costs. Also research the car’s “book value,” so you can be prepared to negotiate the price.
  • Know the car’s history. Especially with used cars, it is important to know about any accidents, repairs and maintenance history. Ask the dealer for a vehicle history report.
  • Test drive. Check the vehicle’s performance on hills, highways and in stop-and-go driving.

The Internet has opened up a wide variety of tools to research and purchase vehicles. Sometimes, bargains can be found online in locating vehicles that may not be available in your local area. Unfortunately, this has also opened up opportunities for scammers.

An extra amount of caution is needed when dealing with people over the Internet. Scammers may offer a car at a price that sounds too good to be true, and then ask for a deposit to be wired to them to hold the car until you can pick it up. Unfortunately, in many cases, the car never existed – and once the money is wired, there is no way to get it back.

Your safest bet is most always to work with a local, reputable dealer. However, if you do choose to shop for cars online, be especially cautious and skeptical. Request a full title history and vehicle inspection, and never send a payment until you see the vehicle in person.

As an important reminder when buying or selling used cars: “as-is” sales are not legal in Kansas unless the defects are disclosed to the buyer. Putting this information in writing is always a good idea to avoid future disagreements.

To learn more about staying safe when purchasing a car and other consumer transaction, visit our consumer protection website at www.InYourCornerKansas.org or call (800) 432-2310.

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