BUYER BEWARE: BBB says customers must do their homework when buying used cars


“The crumple zone on here that’s designed to absorb part of the frontal impact was completely collapsed, so that safety feature was gone, if they ever get hit in that corner again, it’ll just go right in,” said Gary Stewart, with Stewart’s Donnybrook Automotive.

He says thousands of dollars worth of internal damage was discovered on his customer’s newly purchased used car. He says just because a car looks okay on the outside, doesn’t mean, it is.

“They explained to her what a rebuilt title was, it meant that the car had been in a wreck, but it had been rebuilt, everything was fine,” said Stewart.

But he says it was far from fine.

“Subframe cars have got what they call crinkle zones, they’re areas that are fabricated into the frame, they’re designed to collapse like an accordion and absorb energy during an impact,” said Stewart,.

He says once those areas are damaged, like his customer’s car, they cannot be repaired and the car is no longer safe to drive.

The Better Business Bureau says issues with pre-owned cars is not uncommon.

“While buying a used car might be the most cost-effective, it can also be a huge hassle if done incorrectly,” said Coleman Swierc, with the East Texas chapter of the BBB. “BBB has received more than 14,000 complaints on used car purchases.”

Here’s how can you avoid being a statistic.

“The best thing, the only thing you should do when you’re buying a used car from anybody is take it to a mechanic that you know and trust and let them check the car out,” said Stewart.

And the BBB has some tips for you as well.

  • Do your homework. Research the dealership’s business profile at Check the company’s track record, history of resolving complaints, customer reviews and advertising reviews.
  • The Used Car Rule. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Used Car Rule, in effect since 1985, states that dealerships must post a Buyer’s Guide for every used car that is for sale. In addition to any major mechanical or electrical issues with the car, the Buyer’s Guide will inform a buyer if the car comes with a warranty, or if it’s being sold “as is,” and the percentage of repair costs to be paid by the dealer if it does include a warranty.
  • Know the history of the vehicle. Make sure the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the driver’s side dashboard and on the driver’s side door post are identical. The VIN provides a Vehicle History Report and allows the buyer to check the title of the used car. Find these reports online at the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System website. Also, be sure to obtain any service records that are available.
  • Test drive the vehicle. Try to drive on various road conditions; in traffic, and on hills and highways. Consider things like comfortability, visibility and any possible noise coming from the vehicle. It’s also important to note how the car shifts and how the pedals feel when you brake.
  • Have the car inspected. The dealer should have nothing to hide. If the salesman does not allow you to have a third-party mechanic inspect the vehicle, it may be your best option to look elsewhere.
  • Consider a certified, pre-owned (CPO) vehicle. These are vehicles that typically have been given multipoint inspections before being placed on the lot. CPO programs are backed by many automakers, and the vehicles may include an extended manufacturer’s warranty on major parts such as the engine and transmission at no cost.
  • Read the contract carefully. Take your time to read and understand the entire written agreement. Be sure that all blank spaces are filled in, that all verbal promises are included, and that the type of warranty that comes with the car is spelled out.

Life lessons that could save you from making a very pricey mistake.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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