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Used Car Buying Tips

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Before making a decision to purchase a vehicle, consumers are strongly encouraged to obtain an independent vehicle inspection, get an NMVTIS Vehicle History Report via vehiclehistory.bja.ojp.gov, and consult other available vehicle information resources

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides several used car buying tips on their web site: www.ftc.gov. A summary of these tips from the FTC is provided below.

Did you hire a mechanic to inspect the car for mechanical soundness and safety?    
Did you test drive the car under varied road conditions—on hills, highways, and in stop-and-go traffic?    
Did you examine the car using an inspection checklist?

(You can find these on Internet sites that deal with used cars)

Did you check a trusted database service that gathers information from state and local authorities, salvage yards, and insurance companies for an independent and efficient review of a vehicle’s history?

(For example, the Department of Justice’s National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) at vehiclehistory.bja.ojp.gov is an online system that offers accurate information about a vehicle’s title, odometer data, and certain damage history. Expect to pay up to $4 per report. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) at www.nicb.org maintains a free database that includes flood damage and other information so people can investigate a car’s history by its vehicle identification number)

Did you ask for the car’s maintenance record from the owner, dealer, or repair shop?    
Did you research the frequency of repair and maintenance costs on the models in auto-related consumer magazines?

(The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Vehicle Safety Hotline (1-888-327-4236) and website www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov gives information on recalls)

Did you talk to the previous owner, especially if the present owner is unfamiliar with the car’s history?    
Did you ask for the car’s maintenance record?

(If the owner doesn’t have copies, contact the dealership or repair shop where most of the work was done. They may share their files with you)


For additional information for buying a used car (including questions to ask the dealer, understanding the implications of buying an "as is—no warranty" used car, and questions to ask a private seller), please see the FTC’s Consumer Guide for Buying a Used Car. More general information about buying a car can be found at: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0055-buying-used-car.