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Don't Get Stuck With A Lemon; Consumer Reports Looks At Used Cars

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Five On Your Side and the Attorney General's Office hear around 650 complaints each year about used cars. It is a big problem, especially considering North Carolina's Lemon Law does not apply to used cars. The bottom line is it is up to you to check out a car before you buy.

A used car can look great, but what is hidden under the hood? It could have a faulty engine problems from a wreck or flood damage, so more dealerships are offering "certified" used cars. They come with a limited warranty, which can give you good protection but you still have to shop carefully.

"Certification programs vary. You want to make sure that the car has been thoroughly inspected and you're not just getting a checklist of the features it has,"

Consumer Reports

tester Rik Paul said.

A certified used car should have a warranty backed by the manufacturer not just the dealer, and no matter which used car you are considering, check it over carefully.

Consumer Reports

suggests making sure the panels on the car match. You should also check the paint on the car.

Consumer Reports

also said that it is important to also inspect the interior. Stains or a moldy smell can be signs of a leak or worse, flood damage. Look under the car for oil or coolant drips, which are other signs of trouble.

Finally before you buy a used car, get an independent inspection. Be sure the mechanic is thorough, including a compression test. That is a good way to find out the condition of the car's engine.

The entire check-up should cost about $100, which can be money well-spent to avoid thousands of dollars in potential problems.

Something else you should do is check out a car's title history before you buy it. The most comprehensive report available right now is through a company called CARFAX. The report will cost you $15.

©2002 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. All rights reserved.

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