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Top 10 Things You Should Do When Buying A Used Car


Whether you are a first time car buyer or a seasoned veteran, you want to be equipped and ready before taking on a car dealer. If you are buying a car in Oregon, here are the top 10 things you should remember to do in every used car purchase.

10. Take someone with you


It is much easier for a salesperson to take advantage of you when you are alone because you are more vulnerable to suggestions. Also, if you don’t take someone with you, you don’t have a witness if something goes wrong.



9. Get pre-approved for your loan


Unless you are paying cash for your purchase, you should always check with your bank or credit union to see if you can get a good interest rate before you purchase your car. Dealers employ many different tactics to try to make the most out of the sale, and many of them involve manipulating financing numbers. If you get pre-approved, you take away many of the dealer’s tools to take advantage of you. Also, although it is illegal in many states, many dealers charge a higher price for financed vehicles vs. cash purchase.


8. Take the car to a mechanic


If you are serious about making the purchase, take the time and spend the extra couple of hundred dollars to take it to your mechanic to find potential problems before you make the purchase. You are already spending thousands of dollars for this vehicle. It makes sense to spend a little extra to make sure you know exactly what you are buying. If your mechanic finds problems with the vehicle, it gives you negotiating leverage if you still want to buy the car. If the dealer will not let your mechanic inspect the car, it’s a good indication they are hiding something.


7. Look up the dealership


You want to find out who you are dealing with before you even decide to visit the dealership. There are many consumer review websites, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Yelp, Google+, etc. that will give you an idea of what kind of reputation the dealership has. Also, you can look up the dealer on the Attorney General’s website to see if complaints have been filed against them. Here is the link for Oregon:

Finally, make sure to check out the dealership’s website. Sometimes dealers make all kinds of promises on their website that they may not promise in person. Some examples are “Free CarFax for every vehicle,” “All of our vehicles are fully inspected,” and “We give full warranties on all of our vehicles.” If you find these promises on the dealer’s website, print them out and ask the dealer to honor them.


6. Look up and save advertisements


Search the VIN number of the car you are interested in on Google. Many times, different ads will show different prices and offer different promises. In Oregon, the dealership is required to offer you the lowest price the dealer has advertised. Also, save every ad you can find on your car. If problems arise in the future, the ads may come in handy. For more information, see our blog post on this subject:


5. Ask for a Carfax or Autocheck


Most dealers run a vehicle history check (either CarFax or Autocheck) on every vehicle in their inventory. It only makes sense to know what they know before negotiating a price for the vehicle. So, don’t be shy about asking for a copy. Sometimes dealers leave out certain information, so you need to get the entire vehicle history. Carfax will report prior wrecks, odometer discrepancies, and service history. But remember, Carfax may not report everything. Just because the the Carfax is clean does NOT mean the car is clean. Carfax is not a substitute for an inspection by a mechanic.


4. Take pictures


Most of us carry around cameras everywhere we go. Why not put it to a good use when buying a car? If any problems arise in the future, you want to have proof of what the car looked like before you purchased it. Be sure to take pictures of the following:


  • the body on all sides  

  • close up pictures of all stickers on the car

  • under the hood

  • the dash (including the odometer)

  • the interior

  • the underside


3. Ask lots of questions


Remember, you are buying a car with a mysterious past. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you can think of. What the dealer tells you can become a promise that you can hold them to. So ask about any problems with the engine, transmission, leaks, etc. Ask if the car has been in an accident in the past. Ask whether it was inspected by the dealer’s mechanic. If it was, ask for an inspection report.


2. Read the documents


After hours of negotiating comes the signing of paperwork. Many consumers gloss over this portion because they are exhausted from hours of negotiating. Dealers know this and try to sneak in undesirable terms to your contract. This is when you need to be the most alert. If you don’t understand something, have them explain it to you. Make sure the paperwork accurately reflects what you are agreeing to. Here are some common items to look over.

  • Purchase price

  • Trade-in value

  • Addons (warranties, service contract, theft protection, etc.)

  • Unknown charges

Remember when you asked the dealer all those questions about the car? You can write down their answers on the contract and have them sign it. Also, if you don’t agree with something on the contract, cross it out and write in your changes.


1. Be prepared to walk away (don’t sign just because you are exhausted)


By the time you are in the office reviewing the contract, you are probably willing to sign anything to be done with the deal. No matter what the dealer tells you, you always have the option to just walk away. Before you sign anything, ask yourself these questions:


  • Do I really want this car?

  • Is this a fair price for this car?

  • Are they giving me a fair price for my trade-in?

  • Can I really make these monthly payments?


Don’t be pressured to sign anything you are not comfortable with. Remember, you can always walk away.

What does “As-Is” mean in a car deal?


If you just bought a used car from a dealer, you probably signed several documents saying you are purchasing the car “as-is.” What does this mean? It basically means you get what you see. No warranties, no promises.Does this mean I am stuck with this car?Well, no. Although the “as-is” clause protects the dealer to some extent, there are still remedies available to the consumer.


1. Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) Rejection/Revocation.


The UCC allows the buyer to reject any purchased goods within a reasonable time for inspection. So if you just purchased the car, you may be able to return it and get your money back. If you decide to “reject” the car, you must notify the dealer immediately, and not treat the car as you own. Even after accepting the car, if you later learn that the car is substantially different from what was described or promised, you may be able to revoke your acceptance.


2. Express Warranties

Just because the dealer is selling you the car “as-is” doesn’t mean he can turn around and make all of his promises invalid. If the dealer makes factual promises or representations of the car (such as “this car has 50,000 miles on it” or “we put a new engine it last year”), that is an express warranty that you can hold him to. In most states dealers cannot disclaim express warranties.

3. Unlawful Trade Practices Act (UTPA) Disclosures

In Oregon, car dealers are required to make disclosures about certain defects on the cars they sell. The Attorney General’s Official Commentary to the Motor Vehicle Price and Sales Disclosure Rules states:

“Unless explicitly disclosed prior to a sale or lease, a motor vehicle that is offered for sale or lease to the public is represented, either directly or by implication, to be roadworthy when it is sold, to have an unbranded title and to have no undisclosed material defects. . . Examples of negligent disregard of some things that should put a dealer on notice and trigger its duty to disclose might include, but is not limited to, a large pool of oil or antifreeze under the vehicle, dark colored smoke coming from an exhaust pipe, water stains on carpet or doors, a different color paint than the body under the hood or in the trunk or tires that are worn very unevenly.” OAR 137-020-0020(3)(o), Official Commentary.

Check your state’s Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices (UDAP) statute to see if your state provides similar prohibitions.

If you bought a car that is causing you problems, the best thing to do is to contact an attorney and ask about your rights and remedies.

Does Oregon have a 3 day return law for car purchases?



The short answer is no. The 3 day return law (or 3 day right of rescission) generally applies to real estate purchases, and not to vehicles. But that does not mean you are completely out of luck. If you really want to return the car you just bought and get your money back, you may be able to use some of the following methods:


1. Denied financing


If you signed a financing agreement at the dealership, the dealer is likely looking to “sell” the financing contract to a lender under the terms stated. If the dealer cannot find a lender who will approve the financing under those terms, you have the right to cancel the contract. Many dealers don’t know this law, so expect some opposition. They will likely try to pressure you into a new financing agreement with a higher APR and/or monthly payments. 


2. Lemon Law - Trouble with new cars


If it’s a new car you bought, Oregon’s lemon law allows you to bring the car back to the dealer for repairs. If the problem remains after 3 attempts (or 30 days in the repair shop, or 2 attempts to fix a serious safety defect) you have the right to return the car and get your money back.


3. UCC Rejection/Revocation


The Uniform Commercial Code allows the purchaser the right to reject or revoke any good if it does not conform to the contract. So if the dealer promised you a car with a V-6 engine, but you were given a 4 cylinder engine, you may be able to “undo” the contract and get your money back.


4. Unlawful Trade Practices Act (UTPA)


The UTPA provides the consumer with protections against a wide range of deceptive tactics, some of which include lying about quality of the vehicle, and failure to disclose serious problems. Although the UTPA does not specifically provide a remedy to “undo” the contract, if the problem causes severe reduction to the value of your car, you may be able to get a full rescission. Be prepared to face great opposition from the dealer, as they will attempt to hide behind the “as-is” clause of your contract.


The best thing to do is to contact an attorney who will know how to handle these situations and help you maximize your recovery. If you are determined to go at it alone, just be prepared for long waits and bitter fights. If there’s one thing dealers hate, it’s taking a car back.

Did You Buy a Lemon? Save Your Advertisement!


If you are looking to buy a car, new or used, you should always save the internet or print advertisement that first brought you to that vehicle.  This is something you should save, print, and stick in the folder with the other documents you received during the purchase.  If problems with the car start to crop up, the words in that advertisement could save the day.


Under the Unlawful Trade Practices Act (UTPA) in Oregon, a business is engaged in an unlawful act when it delivers a good or service and fails to disclose any known material defect or material nonconformity.  So, what does that mean?  Basically, as the Department of Justice has interpreted the law, the car dealer is in a better position to know and understand the condition of a car than you are and they are in violation of the law if they sell you a faulty car. 


If you think about it, it makes sense. The car dealer purchases the car through one of many available channels. After receiving the car, their mechanic looks the car over and will perform general maintenance and any necessary repairs. At that point, the dealer puts a price on the car and starts advertising. Every situation is different, but the dealer will have spent several days with the car, maybe even weeks. The buyer, on the other hand, only looks at the car for part of a day. Even with a test drive, there is only so much that you can uncover before making the decision to buy.


So what happens if the car starts having problems after you buy it? It was sold “as-is”, right? While it is correct that an as-is sale wipes out some of your warranty rights, it does not destroy them all.  Statements made in the advertisement are known as express warranties and they cannot be disclaimed with as-is language. The same goes for spoken guarantees when you are on the lot, but they are more difficult to prove. This advertisement that you have tucked away will give you a warranty claim and will also help support a claim that the dealer violated the UTPA.


If you buy a car that turns out to be a lemon, even if it’s a used lemon, you should see a consumer lawyer. Most of these cases are handled on contingency, so it will be cheap or free to hire the attorney. So remember, save your advertisement, and if your car gives you problems, call a lawyer!

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