We now have an official answer to the age-old question: Are you more likely to be misled if you buy a car from a private individual or from a used car dealer? Obviously, dealers want you to buy from them — and these days, they are boasting about their record profits.
But — auto sales remain the leading cause of consumer complaints to state and local consumer protection agencies. Year after year, new and used car dealers also rank #1 among the most-complained about businesses, in terms of consumer complaints to the Better Business Bureau.
To top it all off, the leading federal consumer protection agency for America’s car buyers recently stated flat-out that you’re more likely to get accurate information about a used car’s history when you buy a car from another consumer, rather than a used car dealer.
Here’s what the Federal Trade Commission stated:
“The Commission concluded that the [Used Car] Rule should not extend to private or casual sellers of used cars because the record failed to support a finding that deceptive sales practices were prevalent in private sales. The Commission noted that in private sales, prospective customers often receive more reliable information about mechanical condition than they do from dealers…” **
** Federal Register, Vol. 77, No. 242, Dec. 17, 2012, pages 74761-74762.
Of course, you still have to be on the lookout for “curbstoners” — dealers masquerading as consumers. Be sure to insist on seeing the title and registration, and past work orders from repairs, and make sure that the names on the documents match the seller’s name.
And ALWAYS, ALWAYS insist on getting the car inspected by an independent, reliable, trustworthy mechanic / body shop of YOUR choosing, before you buy. A good place to find an expert to perform the inspection? Car Talk’s Mechanics Files.
It’s a good idea to also check the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System and other vehicle history services before you buy. The more you know, the better. NEVER trust a car dealer to tell you the truth about a car.
Twelve tips for consumers on how to buy a safe, reliable used car — without being cheated by a shady car dealer:
Happy, safe car buying and Happy New Year!