Car Buyer, Beware!

By Chaya Sher

Paperwork, paperwork, and even more paperwork! Please sign your name at the X on this page, your full name as it is on your driver's license on this page with your printed name here. We also need your signature over here and, just once more on this form.

If you think signing your name about half a dozen times when you purchase a car is tedious, just try verifying the miles on a car before the purchase. It is tedious, tiresome, time consuming, frustrating and sometimes rewarding. While the Federal Government has stiffened the penalties for odometer fraud, the temptations for the less than honest car seller still outweigh the fear of getting caught.

Buying a car from a private party has its own pitfalls. However, if the private party is the original owner and shows you the title proving that he bought this car when it was new, that it still has the same name and address on the front of the title with perhaps its repair records showing how the miles accumulated, you may be fortunate to have found this bargain. To make sure it is in sound operating condition, bring it to your mechanic. When you leave a Private party's driveway, all the problems are yours.

The reason you want to match the name and adress on the car title with that of the residence of the car and owner, is for your own protection. Unfortunately, there are many people called, "curbstoners" who sell cars through the classified ads. These are people who buy cars from various sources, clean them up and even add some reconditioning before selling them. The problem is that they frequently turn back the odometer and cover up problems. These people are professionals (professional crooks!) and sell to the innocent public. Often one will pose as a concerned son-in-law, nephew (or niece) brother-in-law, etc. Why is he always a relative? The title is not in his name, but his uncle (grandfather, etc.) is sick and can no longer drive. He hardly used the car (the miles are very low) and he is willing to sell it to a nice person like you "at a loss". This professional bought the high mileage car for very little money fixed the miles, and the consumer "was taken for a ride". He has no recourse, as he bought it from a private party."

When purchasing a used car from a mew car dealer, if you get the car on a trade-in directly from the customer, you are pretty safe as long as it is a one-owner car (you can own detective work on that!) However if the new car dealer bought the car at an auction or from a wholesaler, BUYER BEWARE it will be almost impossible to verify the miles.

The same rule applies to the independent used car dealer. It is almost impossible to verify miles on a repossessed car (such as, from a motor-credit corporation). Even if the miles seem reasonable, there are many two-year old cars with well over 100,000 miles on them! If the independent dealer bought the car directly from the new car dealership, who took it in as a trade, it is just as good going to the new car dealership directly, with some more points in your favor. The independent dealer will tell you if he has reconditioned the car, and if so, should be able to show you what he has put into it. He will take care of you on a personal level, as an independent dealership is smaller than a new car dealership. Most can also offer you som sort of extended warranty, depending on the miles of the vehicle.

At an independent dealership, the consumer is aIways the primary customer.

(Article originally published in the Good Book '95-'96)

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