Consumer Guide: Buying a Used Car

Consumer Guide

Before the Sale

Determine what car you need

  • Be careful here, there is a difference between Need and Want.Make sure the car you purchase fits your budget and family.

Know what it’s worth

  • Check to see the price the car has sold for on sites like eBay, then bring the printouts to the dealer.
  • Check the Kelly Blue Book to see what the experts are valuing the used car.

Research the vehicle’s past

  • Before signing anything ask for a Vehicle History Report.
  • Sometimes dealers will do this for you, if not go to
  • You will need the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) from the car you want to purchase.

Visit a trusted mechanic

  • Finding out what’s wrong with the used car before you buy it will save you time and money.
  • Have an independent certified mechanic inspect the car.
  • DO NOT have the dealer’s mechanic do this for you.

Check for extended warranty

  • First ask the dealer what warranties come with the used car and read the fine print.
  • If the warranty only covers the car for the first 3 months, you may want to purchase an extended warranty, but research the warranty company with the Better Business Bureau.

After the Sale

Lemon Laws – Dealer

  • A used car bought from a dealer may qualify as a “lemon” if:
  • It has been in for service three times for the SAME defect within its dealer warranty period.
  • It has been out of service for 15 days within the warranty period.

Lemon Laws – Private Sale

  • According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Lemon Law DOES NOT apply to used cars sold between private parties.
  • If you buy a used car through a private party it must meet the inspection standards of the state.
  • The car must be inspected within five business days of the sale.

How to file a dealer complaint

  • The Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board enforces the Lemon Law for NEW VEHICLES ONLY.
  • If a dealer fails to honor a warranty, contact the manufacturer. Otherwise, work with the dealer to repair a continuing problem, or consult with an attorney.
  • Source:
  • For help with a RI dealership contact the Motor Vehicle Dealers License and Hearing Board at (401) 462-5731.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Download Mobile Apps from WPRI 12
DOWNLOAD APPS NOW: Apple App Store | Google Play Store

Don't Miss

Viewer Pa on


More Live Cams