Each year the Consumer Protection Division receives hundreds of consumer complaints regarding used car purchases. To avoid disappointment and unexpected expense, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller reminds buyers to shop around, do advance research, and use these tips as a guide:
Perhaps most important - read what you are signing. There generally is no three-day right to cancel once you have signed the purchase contract.
- Compare prices with vehicle value guides, such as the Kelley Blue Book or the NADA Used Car Price Guide, found online or in most public libraries.
- Check with your bank, credit union or other lender whether you qualify for a loan, and what interest rate they will give you. Remember, you may get a better used-car loan rate from your financial institution than from a car dealer.
- Always test-drive a vehicle, and take it to your mechanic for inspection. Don't buy a car online, sight-unseen.
- Always research the car's history. For a fee, private services like Autocheck and Carfax may be able to tell you whether the vehicle has ever been titled as salvage, flood-damaged, or rebuilt, or if it has ever had an odometer mileage discrepancy.
- Check the paperwork on the car before signing a purchase contract. Examine the odometer and damage disclosure statements.
- Put any disputes or other important issues in writing, including promised repairs or warranties.
- Offer a fair price, and focus on the total purchase price instead of your monthly payments. (Focusing only on the monthly payment amount may leave you paying more than the car is worth.)
To check out a dealer's complaint record, contact your state Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division.