The economic turmoil of recent years has had an unexpected affect on the availability of used cars across the country. As households tighten their belts and look for ways to make their money go farther, they are holding onto their old cars longer, leaving less used cars on the market.
The cash for clunkers program, part of the 2009 stimulus, is another culprit, removing almost 700,000 used cars from the U.S. market. The shortage of used cars paired with the shortage of available new cars has caused price increases of as much as 12% over last year’s prices. Consumers in the market for a used car should expect to pay more and plan to shop around if they are looking for a specific vehicle.
Unfortunately, the increase in prices isn’t the biggest problem used car buyers face. The shortage has left dealerships scrambling to meet customer demand. In an effort to have cars to sell on their lot, dealerships are taking cars they would not have considered selling as little as three years ago.
If you are looking for a used car, you need to be extra cautious and get any used car you are thinking of purchasing thoroughly checked out before you sign on the dotted line. You should also familiarize yourself with Arizona’s Lemon Law and make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities in the event the car you purchase isn’t the car you thought you were buying.
Matt Allen, owner of Virginia Auto Service and member of the Better Business Bureau’s Automotive Advisory Committee, has the following advice on how to avoid buying a lemon.
1. Take any used car you are thinking of purchasing to a repair shop with a good reputation, preferably one you have had good experiences with in the past. Get a pre-purchase inspection to make sure there are no hidden problems before signing any contracts.
2. If the dealer won’t let you take the car for an independent inspection, walk away.
3. Request a test drive without the sales person so you can experience the car without the pressure and sales pitch.
4. During your test drive, pay attention to how the car handles, what it sounds like, and how it drives. You can often pick up on warning signs that a problem exists and save the trouble of visiting the mechanic.
5. Ask for the maintenance record of the vehicle. Ask about the inspections performed by the dealer and if there were any repairs done by the dealership in preparation for sale.
6. If the dealership won’t provide the information you are asking for, walk away.
7. Find out whether or not the car is being sold with a warranty. While some dealerships like Honda and BMW have a “certified pre-owned” program that provides the new buyer with a warranty similar to that of a new car, most used cars in Arizona are sold “as is”. This means the dealership has no obligation to fix any problem with the car unless they have agreed to provide repairs in writing.
8. If the sales person indicates that the dealership will fix any problems you have within a certain time frame, make sure the sales person shows you where that is spelled out in the contract.
9. Ask how many days you have to return the car if you change your mind. Arizona does not have any standard cooling off period or 3 day right of rescission that allows you to change your mind about purchasing a car. Unless provided for in writing in the contract, you may not be able to return the car unless it is covered under the Lemon Law.
10. Know your rights under Arizona’s Lemon Law.
Under Arizona’s lemon law, if a major component breaks within 15 days or 500 miles after purchase, whichever happens first, the car is covered. You will still have to pay as much as $25 for the first two repairs, but may be able to recover the purchase price of the car. For more information on the lemon law, visit http://www.azag.gov/consumer/cars.html.