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Tips for Consumers: Buying a used car

Tips for Consumers
Buying a used car

With today's high gas prices, many folks in the Hagerstown area are looking to buy a more fuel efficient used car. There are many excellent bargains that can save you gas and provide reliable transportation.
But used cars are not the same as new! For example, many consumers make the false assumption that all used cars must come with a guarantee or that they have three days to cancel a purchase. Not true. There is NO three-day rule or "lemon law" on used cars in Maryland, nor any requirement that cars be guaranteed. Here are some other important buying tips:
* If buying from a dealership, the Federal Trade Commission requires the car to display a window sticker disclosing any warranty, which might exist. Read it carefully. Private sellers don't have such a rule.
* When shopping, take a friend with you to provide an objective opinion.
* Examine the doors, windows and trunk lid for fit and ease of opening and closing. Look for ripples or uneven spots in the paint that may indicate collision damage.
* Start the engine and try the electrical system-wipers, lights, heater and the radio. Have the person with you check all lights, including back-ups and turn signals.
* Look at the smoke from the exhaust. Continuous blue smoke might mean bad valves or rings. Listen for clattering or rumbling noises that might indicate bad rods or bearings.
* Check the accelerator and brake pad pedals to see if they show signs of wear consistent with the car's mileage.
* Look at the tires for uneven wear and bald spots, which may mean bad alignment or worse.
* During your test drive, make several starts and stops at different rates of acceleration. Try turning at various speeds. Drive the car over rough roads and listen for rattles.
* One of our best tips is simple--pay a trusted mechanic or car expert a few dollars to examine the car. Many shops are happy to do this.
* When you decide on a possible purchase, order a vehicle history report from a service like CARFAX ( It searches a national database and provides a vehicle history report. These reports aren't infallible but can be very helpful.

To file a complaint visit: or write: BBB, 1414 Key Highway, #100, Baltimore MD 21230. Their office serves Baltimore and all of Greater Maryland.

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