5 On Your Side

Inspections are critical when buying used cars

Posted February 21

— Many people opt for used cars to save money, but, if previously-owned vehicles aren't inspected properly, your purchase could end up costing you.

The issue affects many people. Buying used cars is popular—in 2016, sales hit an all-time high of nearly $41 million.

Whether you're buying from a big dealership, small car lot or private seller, thorough inspections by a trusted source are necessary to ensure used cars haven't been wrecked, flooded or poorly maintained and then restored to appear flawless.

It's usually mechanical problems that bring most used car customers back to the seller with complaints. To prevent buying such a car, experts suggest remembering the following when picking out a car.

First, don't just take the seller's word about the vehicle's condition. Before you buy, take it to an independent mechanic to get it checked out. This usually costs around $100 dollars.

You should also check the vehicle's history through a paid service like Carfax. Carfax and other services like it can alert you of previous wrecks, mileage issues and safety recalls.

Another tip is to make sure the car has passed its inspection. North Carolina requires that all vehicles have a safety inspection, accurate odometer reading and damage disclosure statement. If you learn that they weren't completed, the buyer may have recourse.

Finally, know there is no "window" within the first few days of the purchase to return a vehicle if you change your mind. Many buyers think that, but most used-cars are sold "as is."

Remember that North Carolina's "Lemon Law," which is also known as the New Motor Vehicles Warranties Act, applies to new vehicles only. The law requires manufacturers to repair defects that affect the use, value or safety of a new car within 24,000 miles of its purchase.

There's nothing wrong with buying used, but, if you choose to do so, inspections are key.

For more advice on buying used, check out some tips from the N.C. Department of Justice. If auto repairs are ever needed, the organization also provides tips on how to handle them.

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