All About Autos
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Because the Lemon Law doesn't apply, buying a used car requires even more caution. The vehicle's history plays a big role in its condition, and in most cases you won't have a warranty. On the other hand, you can save significant money when you buy a used car.
Pay attention to the Buyer's Guide, which the Federal Trade Commission requires dealers to display in the window of each used car offered for sale. The guide gives basic information about the car and includes a warranty section where one of two choices must be checked. The first is “as is — no warranty.” The second choice is “warranty.”
Used car buying - As Is: No Warranty
In Missouri, a dealer may sell a used car “as is.” There are no specific warranties, and the warranties normally implied by Missouri law do not apply. You are responsible for any repairs on an “as is” vehicle. And remember, Missouri's Lemon Law does not apply to used cars.
If you buy a car from a private individual, the sale is not covered by the FTC rule and you will not receive a Buyer's Guide. Most cars sold privately are sold “as is” and without any warranties.
Used car warranty
Before buying a used car, have a mechanic inspect the used car for defects.
If this block is checked, the dealer is promising to pay some or all of the costs of car repairs needed within the warranty period. Get a thorough explanation in writing from the dealer of exactly what is and what's not covered. Some warranties will cover the car bumper to bumper, while others will only cover certain parts like electrical systems or the power train. Still other warranties may exclude certain parts like brakes or tires.
Also, ask if the car includes any of the manufacturer's original warranty. These warranties typically expire after a certain number of years or miles are reached, for example three years and 30,000 miles.
Finally, most dealerships sell extended warranties that cover as much or as little of the car as you choose. If you choose to buy an extended warranty, negotiate for what you think is a fair price.
Used car title search
Before buying a used car, do a title search using the car's vehicle identification number. You'll learn such things as who has owned the car, whether it's been in an accident, totaled, stolen or used as a rental car, whether the odometer is accurate, even the length of time the dealer has had it for sale. That might help you negotiate a better deal.
For about $20 you can check a car's history, or for about $5 more, you can check an unlimited number of cars. Two online companies that offer this service are carfax.com and autocheck.com. Some details may not show up on these reports. That's why it's essential to also have your mechanic check the car.
Used car buying tips
Vehicles operated in St. Louis and four counties (as of 2006) require an emission inspection as well as a safety inspection. These counties are St. Louis, St. Charles, Franklin and Jefferson. Note: New vehicles are exempt from inspections for the first two model years. For example, a 2006 model car is exempt from inspections in 2006 and 2007.
Check it out
State law requires a seller to get a car inspected before selling it.
- Look at the car during daylight. Any damage, defects or other problems will be easier to spot.
- Run a title search to learn more about the vehicle's history.
- Test-drive it. Any seller should allow this.
- Have a mechanic (chosen by you, not the seller) put the car on a lift and inspect it.
- Get proof of inspections for safety and emissions if applicable. Missouri law requires a seller to take care of inspections before the sale. Exception: New vehicles are exempt from these inspections in the first two model years. For example, a 2006 model car is exempt from inspections in 2006 and 2007.
- Get the vehicle's title. This is your proof of ownership, and without it you can't get license plates or register the car, and you may have trouble selling it. If buying from an individual, make sure the seller is the person named on the front of the title. Many car complaints submitted to the Attorney General's Office have to do with improper titling.
- Get a signed copy of any warranty.
Online car auctions
Because of wider selections and often lower prices, some consumers choose to shop for cars at online auction services such as eBay or Yahoo! But beware: If you are the winning bidder, you're obligated to buy the car, even if you haven't seen it. To avoid unpleasant surprises, some experts recommend no consumer buy a car sight unseen.
But if you decide to buy a car at an online auction:
- Verify the vehicle identification number and run a title search before bidding.
- Don't overbid. Research the market value of the vehicle based on condition, mileage and other factors.
- Ask the seller to agree to an inspection period. This gives you and your mechanic a chance to see the car in person.
- Pay by credit card. You have a better chance of recouping your money if you think you've been misled or defrauded.
- Consider using an escrow service or a buyer's protection program through the auction company. There may be a fee for these services, but they help to guarantee that both buyer and seller are satisfied in the transaction.
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