Used Car Problems to Look Out For
Most dealers will allow you to take the car to a mechanic for a "used car exam". You should always do this.
One major concern is odometer tampering. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that consumers lose billions of dollars a year to odometer fraud. Odometer readings may be rolled back or documents can be forged. Making miles disappear helps increase the car's value to the seller, but can mean increased maintenance and repair costs to the buyer.
In addition to odometer fraud, there are other significant events in a car's past that unscrupulous sellers may try to hide. Every state has laws designed to protect consumers from buying used cars that may not be road worthy. Consumers should be direct when asking sellers about a vehicle's past, and they should get a detailed vehicle history report. The person selling you a used car should provide a detailed vehicle history that answers questions to your satisfaction.
If the seller cannot provide a detailed vehicle history report, you can use the 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) to secure a history from either the state or a private vehicle history company. These companies have compiled data from multiple sources to help you get a better picture of the used car's past!
Other problems you may want to avoid include:
- Damage Disclosure, Salvage & Rebuilt Titles. These titles are issued by states when the vehicle has sustained damage as a result of one or more incidents. States issue salvage titles when an insurance company takes possession of a vehicle as a result of a claim. This generally occurs after a vehicle has been declared a total loss. A state may issue a rebuilt title if a vehicle sustained damage and was rebuilt or reconstructed, then placed back on the road. States issue junk titles to indicate that a vehicle is not road worthy and cannot be titled again in that state.
- Lemon Laws (Manufacturer Buyback Titles). "Lemons" are sometimes resold to consumers as used cars. The lemon laws were enacted to protect consumers from having to keep a new car that has recurring problems. If someone buys a new car with major problems, and the manufacturer fails to repair the defect in a certain amount of time, the manufacturer may be required to refund the consumer's money by buying the vehicle back. Unfortunately, some of the vehicles which are bought back are subsequently resold as used cars.
- Flood Damage Title. States issue flood titles when a vehicle has been in a flood or has received extensive water damage.
Here are more answers and opinions from other FAQ Farmers:
- A good rule of thumb when shopping for a used car is, no more than 12,000 miles a year for every year that a car is old (i.e a 2002 model should have a max of 24,000 miles on it, 2001, 36,000, etc.). The 12,000 miles rule is the national average for miles driven, according to the insurance industry. The reason for paying attention to the odometer is simple. Major components begin to fail with wear,i.e. mileage. The higher the mileage, the greater the probability that you will have repair bills. A 1-year-old vehicle with 38,000 miles on it is NOT a good deal! Keep shopping. The lower the mileage on a used vehicle, the better. The deals on gently used cars are out there. Your patience will reward you with reliable wheels.
- You should always have a trusted mechanic look at the car, especially to check oil, trans fluid, steering fluid, spark plugs, etc. Pretty much what you would want is to have a tune up and see not buy a used car that is going to need a lot of mechanical work. Don't believe if a person tells you that all that is done, even if you see that paper work, it is to your advantage to have your mechanic look at it before you buy.
- As I know my way around vehicles fairly well, I look at all sorts of things. If it is through a dealership, ask to put the car up on a lift and inspect the undercarriage. Look for impacts to the rocker panels (dents)(paint missing). Look at the tires. Not just the tread thickness, look at the outer and inner walls for bulges indicating bad cords. Look at the exhaust system, is it rusted and if so.. how bad? Are the shocks and struts showing signs of oil leakage or heavy rust? Any leaks? Fuel, oil, tranny fluid, brake fluid? Is the undercarriage very clean or is it fairly a mess?Look at the car, walk around it. Look at the body lines, where the door meets the fender. Are the gaps all the same. Does the hood gaps look good or are they touching in places or showing missing paint from touching? Signs of bad body work. Listen to the car on startup for any ticking noises. Smell anything like exhaust? or fuel? when it warms up, do you smell antifreeze? The list goes on but you get the point. Shop smart people, don't trust anyone and twice as much, don't trust a dealership.
- You should be wary of all the problems you might encounter. This sort of thing is a common problem. We hear the same concern from a reader almost every day. It is the reason that all buyers of used vehicles should take it upon themselves to do a title search on the vehicle before buying
- Find out if the car has unusual or complex systems that are expensive to maintain or repair. For example, instead of changing relatively inexpensive shocks or struts some air suspension systems require complete replacement and/or much more expensive parts. Some engines, transmissions, and other major components were installed for only a short time even in popular vehicles selling in large numbers. The model years or months with those limited run engines, transmissions, etc. should be avoided because parts will be expensive or even impossible to find.
- One thing to check is the millage of a car, check history of the car cause millage can be tampered and so is the papers. Asking for an expert mechanic's opinion is a must too when buying a used car.
If a car in the State of Florida is considered a lemon then it has to be
stated as so on the title. What some dealers do is to ship the car to
another state and title it there. Then it will show a clean title.