If you’re on a limited budget, buying a used car can be a smart move, but it also can be problematic. Used car dealers were among the 10 most-complained-about industries in Better Business Bureau files last year.
BBB Serving Eastern and Southwest Missouri and Southern Illinois took 673 complaints about used car dealers last year. Difficulties included cars that broke down soon after purchase, problems with warranties and customer service conflicts.
If you’re in the market for a used car, the first thing you need is a budget. How much can you afford to pay every month if you’re financing the car? If you want to pay cash, how much can you spend without exhausting your savings?
Finding cars that fit your budget means looking at online ads, newspapers and possibly looking at what’s available at local dealers.
Check out any used car dealer online before you shop. BBB has Business Profiles with customer reviews for dozens of dealers. Business Profiles show you whether a dealer has a history of complaints and how the complaints were resolved. They also include contact information, consumer reviews and other information about the business.
If you find something you like in an ad, go to online sources to determine whether the price is in line with values of similar cars. Check reports on the reliability of the model you’re interested in and whether it’s been subject to any recalls. Ask about warranties offered by the dealer.
If you find a specific car you’re interested in, ask for a Carfax report to see whether it’s been in a wreck previously. Consider having a mechanic you trust inspect the car before you agree to buy it.
BBB offers the following advice for consumers shopping for a used car:
• Research the business and owners carefully before signing a contract or paying any money. Check the company’s BBB Business Profile at bbb.org.
• Set a budget and stick to it. In most cases, your monthly car payment shouldn’t be more than 20 percent of your monthly after-tax income.
• Research the value of any trade-in.
• Check the car’s history. Make sure the vehicle you are buying doesn’t have any unseen problems by checking its history and safety report.
• Understand any warranties. Know what is covered and for how long.
• Before closing the deal, make sure the seller transfers the registration and title to your name.