So, you want to go looking for a used car to buy? Hopefully, you found this article before heading to the dealership. From years of representing consumers in Auto Fraud cases, we have constructed the following list of questions everyone should ask before buying a used car. The answers to these questions will tell you whether you should buy the used car, or reject it and walk away before you sign on the dotted line.
1. Can I see the CarFax?
Yes, this is a cliche question. However, it is VERY important. Love it, or hate it, the CarFax is one of the best ways to learn about a vehicle’s history. There are times that a vehicle’s complete history is not contained in a CarFax and that is why there are more questions listed below. However, if the dealership knows that the vehicle has a negative CarFax report, it will not voluntarily show it to you. Some dealerships will even tell you, “No,” when you ask to see the report. Our favorite response is when a dealership tells you that the report is available free on its website if you want to see it. If the dealership responds with anything other than unqualified, “Yes, here it is,” be VERY suspicious.
2. Is The Vehicle Inspected?
This one may seem like an odd question, but it amazes us how many people buy used vehicles that are not inspected. However, Pennsylvania Law requires a dealership to tell you if it is selling you a used vehicle that won’t pass State Inspection. If the vehicle is not inspected at the time of sale, it probably won’t pass inspection after you buy it. Save yourself the headache of suing the dealership after the purchase and ask ahead of time.
3. When Was The Vehicle Last Inspected?
If you ask the dealership if the vehicle is inspected before buying, and it is, then follow up with asking when it was inspected. We have represented clients where the vehicle sold had a valid inspection sticker, but wouldn’t pass inspection after the sale. That’s because the inspection was almost a year old and something happened to the vehicle in the meantime. The dealership will try to fight against your lawsuit saying it had a valid inspection at the time of sale, so they aren’t liable. While that is not true under Pennsylvania Law, the older the inspection, the more skeptical you need to be about the vehicle.
4. Has The Vehicle Ever Been in an Accident?
This question serves two purposes. First, a dealership has to tell you if a vehicle has frame damage before you buy it. Some dealerships will not tell you even though they are required to. If you ask, and the dealership lies, you have a fantastic case of Auto Fraud. Second, because a dealerships is not required to disclose all previous accidents that didn’t cause structural damage, this question protects you from surprises down the road. Here is a prime example: You buy a used car in 2015 and the dealership doesn’t tell you about the fender bender found in the CarFax. In 2017, you try to trade in the car to buy a new one. The new dealership offers you significantly less for your trade in because it discovered the previous accident. If you never asked this question before buying your used car, you don’t have a case against the selling dealership.
5. How Long Has The Vehicle Been on the Lot?
The longer it has been sitting on the lot, the more skeptical you need to be. If it isn’t selling, then other buyers are seeing something wrong that you aren’t. Take that into consideration. Ask yourself, if this is a good vehicle, why has it been sitting on the lot for “that long?” As a standard rule, good vehicles don’t take long to sell. That leads us into our next question.
6. Where did the Vehicle Come From?
As a standard rule, good cars do not come from the auction. Dealerships don’t take vehicles to the auto action because they are great vehicles. Dealerships take vehicles to the auto auction because there is something wrong with them. Dealerships know this and may try to lie to you about the vehicle’s history. We’ve had cases where the dealership says the vehicle was traded in by a little old lady who barely drove it. When, in reality, it came from an auto auction and had extensive rust damage. The CarFax will also give you a good look at the history (refer back to question #1).
7. Does the Retail Installment Sales Contract Contain an Arbitration Agreement?
If so, we recommend you don’t buy the vehicle. Mandatory Arbitration is a non-judicial process that strips you of your right to go to court. It forces you to file your case with an arbitration company that is funded by big business. If you want to give up your rights to sue a dealership who committed fraud, sign the arbitration agreement. Bottom line, we hate them. The Supreme Court of the United States will not invalidate arbitration agreements, so we have to fight against them. The best way to do that is to refuse to sign one. If the dealership won’t sell you the vehicle without it, move on. Nothing good comes out of an arbitration agreement. Read more about these agreements HERE.