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Before Buying a Used Car

Buying a car is stressful. Buying a used car can be scary. We don’t know how the previous owner or owners cared for the vehicle. Did they:

  • Tow heavy objects with the car?
  • Keep up with regular maintenance?
  • Have an accident or incur damage?
  • Put a lot of mileage on the vehicle?

Many used cars are sold ‘As Is’. This means any problems that arise after the purchase become your problem. Even if the problem was there before you bought it. 

Before signing an agreement to purchase a used vehicle, you should:

  • Examine the vehicle using an inspection checklist.
  • Find out if the vehicle was involved in an accident or incurred other damage.
  • Ask for maintenance records.
  • Ask specific questions about the car. What is the gas mileage? How many previous owners?
  • Check online reviews for the specific vehicle’s year, make, and model.
  • Check for open recalls at
  • Run a CarFax Vehicle History Report.
  • Drive the car in different conditions. Take it on hills, highways, and stop-and-go traffic.
  • Determine the value of the vehicle with Kelly Blue Book before you negotiate.
  • Take it to a local mechanic for an independent inspection. They may charge a fee. Find out if the vehicle comes with a warranty. It may come with a full, limited, or no warranty at all. Make sure to get a written copy of the warranty documents.
  • Ask if the dealer offers a service contract. These cost extra. Be sure to read the service contract for specifics on what’s covered and how much it costs.
  • Read the terms of the purchase agreement or contract before signing documents. Get all promises in writing. Never buy a vehicle on oral promises of repairs being made after delivery.

Take your time when buying a used car. Do not let a salesperson pressure or rush you. Signing the paperwork to take ownership enters you into a binding contract with the dealer. You agreed to a certain price. You are then legally bound by the contract terms. 

It’s no secret that used cars can be pricey. But you have the right to shop around and compare when purchasing a used vehicle.  

For more information, visit Michigan Attorney General alerts:

You can file a consumer complaint here. More information about the complaint process is available on our website.

Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Fax: 517-241-3771
Toll free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form