Car Law from A to Z: B is for Buyer Beware
Before purchasing any used vehicle you should consider having a trusted mechanic inspect it for damage and problems. (NOTE: this blog post is focused on purchases of used vehicles; when purchasing a new vehicle you have the benefit of the manufacturer’s warranty which covers problems down the road). If you fail to have your vehicle inspected prior to purchase, you are taking a real risk especially if you do not get a warranty or vehicle service contract. Why do people have a home inspected prior to purchase but fail to do the same before agreeing to spend a large sum of money on a used vehicle?
Note the required North Carolina vehicle inspection is NOT the same as the inspection that would be performed by a mechanic who checks the major systems (ex: transmission, engine, electrical, braking, suspension) of the vehicle. If you do have an inspection performed get your mechanic to provide you a written statement of the condition of the different systems and components of the vehicle that were inspected. Like with a house, if you find problems or things that need to be repaired you can assert these to the seller and try to negotiate a reduction on the sales price and/or an agreement from the seller to have repairs done or pay for the repairs. And if the seller agrees to take responsibility for the repairs insist on receiving proof of these repairs having been performed (i.e. invoice or work statement from mechanic who performed repair(s)).
If the seller makes bold statements about the vehicle having “brand new brakes” or “a recently rebuild transmission” or the like try to get these statements in writing and signed by the seller. And ask if the seller will provide proof of such work having been done. If the seller refuses to allow you to have the vehicle inspected or is otherwise less-than-forthcoming about the vehicle’s condition or history, take this as a warning that something could be wrong.
Also on the “buyer beware” front is the need for you to do the following:
Obtain a vehicle history report (Autocheck or CarFax—note do NOT rely solely upon a vehicle history report provided to you by the seller)
Possibly even ask to review the purchase forms prior to signing so that you can take the time to understand what you would be agreeing to if you purchased the vehicle