Buying used cars: what every consumer should know

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kristopher Levasseur
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Airman should follow the following tips when buying a used car to avoid a sour taste from buying a lemon.

Buying a used car is different from buying a new car, as there are no guarantees that the vehicle will run properly.

"Individuals selling cars as private persons do not face many regulations," said 1st Lt. Gerianne Sanok, 48th Fighter Wing Legal Office assistant staff judge advocate. "A vehicle is sold "as is" or "as described" meaning that the car is sold in the condition it is in or as it is described to be in. The buyer has no legal or financial recourse if the car requires repairs."

According to a legal brief, one way to prevent being sold a lemon by car sellers is to check the paperwork. Check the vehicle's registration and other pertinent documentation to make sure the car is legitimate.

"First of all, if the seller doesn't have the V5, don't even think about buying the car," said Lieutenant Sanok. "The car's license plate must match the document's registration number. The vehicle identification number on the V5 should match the one on the car. If anything here doesn't match, play it safe and don't buy."

Another check to protect against fraud is to inspect the car said, Lieutenant Sanok. Walk around the car and look for any dings, scratches or dents. Peel back rubber around the windows and open the fuel tank filler flap. Different colored paint beneath shows the car may have been re-sprayed after damage. Check that all the instruments and any electrics, like sunroof or windows, are working and do this at least twice.

"Making sure a vehicle is mechanically sound is the most important step once you have a used car picked out," said Master Sgt. Kevin Drake, 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron first sergeant. "If you don't feel that you are experienced enough to check if the vehicle is in good condition, bring someone along who is."

According to Lieutenant Sanok, buyers should always test drive the car before they purchase it. They should gauge things like how easy the car is to start, the smoothness of gear shifts, the pressure applied to brake, if the heat and air conditioner work, etc. In short, they should make sure that everything works properly and be sure to listen carefully for any strange sounds.

"Since I have been here, I have seen too many incidents where people pick up a car and end up sinking more money into repairs than they should," said Sergeant Drake. "It is important to know when to stop paying for repairs on a car that is falling apart. The best way to avoid this is to remember that, when buying a used car, if the deal is too good to be true, it probably is."