Do you know what SOL, POS, and DPO mean? May we recommend something? Get your car inspected by an independent shop before you make your decision!
This site is not affiliated with any garage, service shop, dealer, or organization related to the automotive repair industry. I’ve just been screwed and want to save you from making the same mistakes I did.
Believe me, you do not want to hear the person you bought your car from say:
“It ran when we sold it to you.”
Do you have any protection when you buy a used car?
Not at all. Unless the seller directly states otherwise, in writing. Most people don’t realize there really is no protection when you purchase a used car. Lemon laws do not apply. I’ve had arguments with people over this, but sadly, lemon laws only apply to new car purchases. Contract laws, such as the three-day rule, do not apply. Everybody who I told about my problems mentioned lemon laws followed by contract rules.
I’m here to tell you that you have ZERO protection when purchasing a used car. Zilch. Nada. None. When you sign that “AS IS NO WARRANTY” clause, you are SOL when you get the car home and discover you bought a POS. You can blame the DPO, but it won’t help.
Will your dealer pay to fix it? They don’t have to. They might to save reputation. But they don’t have to. And let’s face it: they probably won’t. And what if you bought your car from an individual?
Are there some dealers you can trust and rely on?
Sure, but that’s a risk you’ll have to determine if you’re willing to accept. Carmax is a much lower risk than Billy Bob’s Route 21 Motor Shack.
So what can you do to protect yourself? What’s this PPI thing anyway?
There is no bulletproof solution. Many people roll the dice and buy a used vehicle without an inspection and have no problems. Most people think buying a mechanical disaster just can’t happen to them. Believe me when I tell you that it can!
So what’s a PPI? It’s a Pre-Purchase Inspection. You take the vehicle you want to purchase to an independent shop and they inspect it mechanically and physically looking for any problems or potential problems. A PPI will cost you around $90-$100 at most shops, but it could save you countless thousands of dollars.
Why does it matter?
Twenty, fifteen, or even ten years ago most people bought vehicles locally. There were some bad used car lots, but when your customers are all local, you have a reputation to maintain. These days, with eBay, craigslist, AutoTrader, and a network of vehicle shipping companies, it’s easier than ever to buy cars from dealers anywhere in the country. Any car you want, from anywhere you can find it. Unscrupulous dealers now realize they can buy crappy examples of desirable cars and sell them to unsuspecting people from out of state!
Wouldn’t you rather lose $100 than $10,000? Taking the used vehicle to an independent shop to have a PPI is the best insurance against bringing home a lemon. If any dealer or individual is reluctant to make the vehicle available for a PPI, just walk away. Chances are the manufacturer made more than one. I don’t care if you just flew 500 miles. Go home and keep looking.
Will a PPI always find the big problems?
Maybe, maybe not. However, the more care you take picking a shop the better your chances. For example, if you’re buying an Audi S4, a shop specializing in German cars will be much more capable of identifying potential problems than, say, Pep Boys. But if Pep Boys is all that’s around for a 100 mile radius, then they’re probably better than nothing. I only use Pep Boys as an example because they screwed me one time on a PPI, and I never suspected the Toyota 4Runner I was about to buy had a bad engine.
I cannot stress enough the importance of having the PPI performed by someone who knows a lot about the specific vehicle you are planning to buy!
Don’t rely on the dealership to give you all the information. And don’t let them pick the shop for your PPI.
What if they gave you a warranty?
The more important question is, what does that warranty actually cover?
And if you feel uncomfortable at all, in any way. regarding the sales staff, the vehicle, or the dealership…WALK AWAY! I don’t care HOW MUCH you want that PT Cruiser Convertible. Chrysler made more than one!
What should the mechanic check for during a PPI?
Ask for a compression test! You may not have bad compression and the mechanic may look at you funny, but this simple test will tell you almost immediately whether your engine has major problems. Especially with a high mileage or a “specialty” used car. A simple compression test would have saved me thousands of dollars personally. I know what it is. I can even do it myself. But I didn’t have it done. The test is simple: all cylinders in the car’s engine should have the same compression. If one is extra low, or they all are very low, the car has problems. It might take a more exhaustive leakdown test to determine what is causing the compression leak, but that’s something to do only if you care. Low compression = bad.
The mechanic should drive the car. If the shop doesn’t take the vehicle for a test drive, then they won’t be able to find out much about it. A test drive will tell them:
- if the engine is running right
- whether the transmission shifts properly
- if the differential is okay
- the condition of the suspension, steering, and alignment
- how the brakes perform
- or if there are any unusual rattles, vibrations, or noises.
If you take the car to a factory technician at the dealership for the make and model of your car, have them check the computer for service or other history. Have them check for any recalls.
Other things the mechanic should check
- Filters (air, cabin, and fuel)
- Oil level and condition
- Coolant level and condition
- Brake fluid level and condition
- Power steering fluid and condition
- Proper A/C and heat operation
- Tires for treadwear or evidence of bad alignment
- Brake pad or shoe and disc or drum wear
- The body for dents, rust, damage, or signs of previous body work
- Condition of hoses
- Condition of belts
- They should check for oil or other fluid leaks
- Check for exhaust leaks
- Operation of electrical components, such as power windows, sunroof, or radio
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