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Legal Questions to Ask Before Buying a Used Vehicle

Greg Artim

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Purchasing a used vehicle is a large undertaking. No matter the actual price of the vehicle, it is a major expenditure for most of us. With that in mind, there are several things that you need to know, ask or do before signing on the dotted line.

1. Does the vehicle come with a warranty?

This is an extremely important question. Is there a warranty? What does the window sticker say? Even if the warranty is only a 30 day/1000 mile warranty, it is better than nothing. In my practice of law as a lemon law attorney, you would not believe the number of phone calls that I get where the client advises that they have just purchased a used vehicle and it suffered a major breakdown immediately after driving it off of the lot.

2. Has the vehicle been in an accident?

Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a favorite motto of used car dealers. Many states do not make it mandatory that a dealer disclose prior accidents to potential buyers. However, if you ask the specific question “Has the vehicle been in an accident?", they cannot lie to you, and must provide you with the truth, at least to the best of their knowledge.

3. Do you have a Carfax or similar vehicle report that I could review?

Carfax is a company that maintains reports of vehicle accidents and other associated problems with vehicles. While their system is not foolproof, it definitely provides useful information to the potential buyer. If the dealer does not have one for the vehicle that you are considering, I would suggest that you spend the couple of dollars necessary to obtain one before you make the purchase.

4. Have you (the dealer) thoroughly inspected and reviewed the vehicle? ( Have you found any problems or made any repairs?)

This is another important question because the dealer must answer it honestly. If they have not reviewed the vehicle, that likely means that it came directly from auction and they have not had it on their lot for very long. If they have reviewed it then that is a good thing for you. It may help create some liability in the event that something goes wrong with the vehicle immediately after purchase, in that you can make the argument that the dealer should have discovered the problem before sale.

5. How did you obtain the vehicle?

Specifically ask the dealer how they obtained the vehicle. Was it a trade-in, an auction vehicle, or something else. If they give you a story about a little old lady, then you merely have to review the Carfax report to determine how truthful the dealer is.

Please know that this list is not meant to be exhaustive by any means. These are just a few of the questions that I believe are necessary to ask prior to purchasing a used vehicle. In my experience, I have found that many of my clients have failed to ask these simple questions, and today are very sorry that they didn't.

Greg Artim is a Lemon Law Attorney based in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Please visit his website at Pennsylvania Lemon Law . If you live in a different state, Greg recommends visiting State Lemon Laws .


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