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Don't Get Fleeced When You're Buying a Car

The Bucks County Office of Consumer Protection helps a parent searching for a car for a graduate.

Q.      I have a child who just graduated high school this past June.  She will be heading off to college in the fall and I want to make sure she has a reliable car. However, I don’t have the money to buy her a new car.  I know there isn’t a used car lemon law in Pennsylvania so I’m really worried about being taken advantage of.  Can you give me some ideas on purchasing a used car?  G.C., Upper Black Eddy

A.      Even a used car can be an expensive endeavor, but if you do some homework and shop around you can save yourself a lot of money and aggravation in the long run. 

The first thing to do is decide how much money you can afford and don’t allow yourself to be talked into spending more by some sales person. Go to several reputable dealerships to check out what they have to offer.  When you have found a car that you may be interested in there are a few quick items that you can look at right off the bat. 

Look for rust on the exterior, poor suspension, and functionality of seatbelts, locks and windows.  Take the car for a test drive, paying close attention to the brakes, acceleration and alignment.  Also, check to make sure the front seats move up and back, etc.  Look at what kind of mileage the car has. 

If all this looks good to you it would be in your best interest to take the car to an independent mechanic for a mechanical and safety inspection.  If the dealer will not allow you to take the car to a mechanic you may want to bring the mechanic to the dealership.  If the dealer won’t allow that either, you should be leery of what the dealer may be trying to hide and move to another dealership. 

Another thing to be leery of is the pressure tactics.  Don’t be talked into buying a car without fully checking into the car. 

Consumers can also look on www.carfax.com to get the history on a particular used car if the dealership will not provide you with one, as many are willing to do upon request.  Also, call Bucks County Consumer Protection at 1-800-942-2669 or 215-348-7442 to check on a particular dealership.

For some helpful informational brochures on purchasing a new or used car please visit the Bucks County Consumer Protection webpage at www.buckscounty.org on our consumer tips and brochures page. If you do not have internet access you may call our office to obtain a copy of our booklet "Buying and Financing Your New or Used Car."

Always do your research before making such a large purchase.  It will help keep you from being burned by unscrupulous salesmen

bruce west July 08, 2012 at 12:19 PM
I shopped online. We narrowed our search without wasting travel time or gas. We bought a ford focus at Car Sense in Hatfield. Of course you need to drive and inspect the vehicle. Always buy a long term warranty for a used car.
Bettina July 09, 2012 at 01:35 AM
I hear Car Sense has good autos, good deals.
Lizz July 09, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Most dealerships have their inventories online...check out what you might be interested in and do your homework...read reviews online about the year/make/models you like and compare gas mileage, cost of repairs (VW and Audis cost a lot more to repair than Ford, etc). If you're looking for a car that's only 1-4 years old, look into Certified Pre Owned cars, they generally come with a warranty and sometimes even lifetime inspections as long as you own the car. If you're looking to get an auto loan, check out Credit Unions, they often have the best interest rates.

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