Used Car Buying Tips: Don’t Get Taken for a Ride!

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(Memphis) We're on your side with one way you may not want to spend your tax refund! It's the most frequent complaint to the On Your Side Investigators.

Consumers call when they feel like they've been ripped off by an unscrupulous car dealer, and are even more furious to learn the law may not be on their side.

So we've broken down the three biggest misconceptions about buying used cars, so you don't get taken for a ride.

"I'm going to get killed out here," says Diane Turner who told us she was driving along the interstate when, "The gas hand didn't work anymore, all my lights went out and it was still dark."

Turner says she felt helpless and scared for her life when the Ford Taurus she bought from Family Auto Sales died on I-40 shortly after buying it.

"All my lights are out and all this traffic is flying around me, I couldn't signal, I couldn't do anything," explains Turner.

Turner took it back to Family Auto for repairs, but later told the owner she didn't want it, and even asked to get out of paying the rest of her down payment.

"I wasn't going to give him anymore of my money because he'd showed me that I could not trust him," Turner explains of how she felt.

"I wouldn't want to be in a vehicle either if it died twice on me, even though we can explain why that happened," says Family Auto Owner Nathan Rosengarten.

According to Rosengarten, Turner's battery died because she left on the dome light.  Rosengarten replaced the battery, tuned up the car and offered Turner a credit on another purchase.

"We've got an A+ Better Business Bureau rating, we're 100% positive on Ebay, I don't want people upset like this," Rosengarten says.

Turner called the On Your Side Investigators and took her complaint to the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs.

Family Auto does have other complaints with the Motor Vehicle Commission, including two about multiple drive out tags.

Rosengarten responded to Turner's complaint. Consumer Affairs eventually said they couldn't resolve the dispute. Such disputes are especially common with used cars.

According to Better Business Bureau President Randy Hutchinson, "There's three misconceptions a lot of people share."

The first he says is, "They don't understand that as is really means as is."

That's right, as is means what you see is what you get. Hutchinson says pay close attention to the buyer's guide and find out whether your purchase includes a warranty, and what it covers.

Misconception number two, the lemon law. "People think unfortunately that lemon means bad deal, bad deal means used cars, it just isn't the case, it applies to new cars only," adds Hutchinson.

Third, there is no cooling off period, so you don't get three days to change your mind and take the car back.

"It applies primarily to sales that are made some places other than the seller's place of business, for example somebody knocks on your door to sell you something."

So your used car doesn't count. Turner actually had a warranty and says she learned a valuable lesson.

"Do you regret that part of it, the as is," I ask. Oh yeah, I'll never buy another as is," adds Turner.

"If there was anything else I could do to resolve this issue, I would and we've tried," Rosengarten says.

A few more things to consider when buying a used car:

  • Shop around for the car and dealer
  • Get the vehicle history and have your mechanic check it out
  • Don't be sold on monthly payments, know what you're paying in interest
  • Trade negotiations should be separate
  • Understand the terms of the contract

Click here for more tips on buying used cars.  To file a complaint about a dealer, go here.