Used car sales

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COLUMBIA- Nearly 40 million used cars are sold in the United States each year. Many of them look good externally, but if buyers fail to do enough research they could drive off the lot in less than they bargained for.

In addition to possibly being sold a junk car, it may be very expensive junk. Quarterly reports from Edmunds suggest used vehicles have also increased in price this year.

Shahriah Hill, who recently purchased a used vehicle in Columbia, said she experienced problems as soon as she left the dealership. 

"Everything was all good. I signed all the paperwork and got the keys. Three or four minutes after I pulled off the lot, I was pulled over," said Hill. "I had to call for a tow right back to the dealership."

Hill said it took the dealership two weeks to repair her vehicle and they did not tell her what was wrong with it. 

Now she's experiencing another problem with her car. Hill said she has already spent more than a thousand dollars on repairs and she's only had the vehicle for a couple months.

Sean Spence, regional director of the Better Business Bureau of Mid-Missouri, said buyers should be very careful when purchasing used vehicles.

"Take someone that you trust with you to the dealership or lot. It's important to look for external damage, but also take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic to check it out."

If the dealership or lot won't allow you to take the car to be checked out, there's a huge chance something may be wrong with it.

But Spence says there are other red flags to watch out for.

"Also be mindful of rust, odd smells like mildew or mold. That could mean the car has been in some type of flood."

Many buyers don't realize that car reports like CarFax or AutoCheck will only list things that have been reported to the previous owner's insurance company.

That means if an owner gets into an accident and repairs the vehicle himself without contacting his insurance company, that damage will not be recorded nor available for the next owner.

Many states have lemon laws that will compensate car buyers when they purchase a car with immediate defects that are deemed irreparable. 

Unfortunately, Missouri's lemon laws only apply to new vehicle purchases. So without a previous warranty, it's almost impossible for a used car buyer to be compensated.

Remember these tips when you're in the market for a used vehicle:

  • Always research the vehicle's Kelley Blue Book value
  • When you think you're really interested in purchasing a vehicle, take it to be looked at by a trusted mechanic
  • Check inside, around and underneath the vehicle for mold and rust. This could mean the car was caught in a flood
  • Get a vehicle report on the car, but don't rely solely on that to determine your decision to purchase it
  • Ask tons of questions at the lot or dealership. If the salesman tries to avoid answering them, it may be time to look elsewhere
  • Take the car for a test drive
  • Remember to turn the radio completely off and listen for any strange noises coming from the vehicle