Consumer Advocate

Sign up for newsletters and other news
Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > April 2021 > The Basics of Buying a Used Car

Consumer Advocate RSS feeds

The Basics of Buying a Used Car

For most consumers, automobiles are one of life’s biggest expenses. Some Ohioans may want to use their income tax refund and/or stimulus payments to help with such an expense. However, whether it is paid for or financed, buying, maintaining, and repairing a car can involve many different costs and decisions.
Under Ohio law, consumers do not have a general right to cancel the purchase of a vehicle to get their money back. Additionally, in general, Ohio’s Lemon Law does not apply to used cars, protecting cars only for the first year after purchase or 18,000 miles, whichever occurs first. Therefore, it is important to understand your rights and responsibilities before buying a used car.

In 2020, motor vehicles topped the list of consumer complaints reported to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, so before buying a used car, consider the following:

Choosing a reputable dealer Evaluating the car’s operating condition
  • Carefully and completely inspect the car’s exterior and interior.
  • Take the car on an extended test drive on highways, in stop-and-go traffic, and in other conditions.
  • Have an independent mechanic of your choosing inspect the car.
Reviewing the car’s history
  • Use the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to research who owns the car, the last odometer reading, and other facts at, and to check on issues such as potential flood damage through the National Insurance Crime Bureau at
  • Review all available service records, including work the dealer performed since buying the car, and obtain copies for your records.
  • Research safety recalls through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at
Paying a fair price
  • Research the price using guides such as the National Automobile Dealers Association (, Edmunds (, and Kelley Blue Book ( 
  • Consider the total price of the car, not just your monthly payments.
  • Understand how interest is being calculated on your car loan.
  • Know when monthly payments are due and understand all late fees.
  • If trading in a car, confirm with the lender that any lien will be paid within two weeks after the trade-in.
Knowing who’s responsible for repairs and maintenance after the purchase
  • Know whether the car is being sold “as is,” in which case you are generally responsible for all repairs once you buy it and drive it off the lot.
  • If purchasing an extended service contract, read its terms and conditions. (A service contract is an agreement to repair, replace, or maintain a car for a specific period. It is different from a warranty, which is generally offered by the manufacturer and included in the purchase price.)
  • Beware of warranty expiration notices. You may receive notices that appear to be from your car manufacturer, dealership, or state Bureau of Motor Vehicles but are actually sales solicitations for vehicle service contracts. If you get a notice about your warranty expiring, check with your manufacturer before responding. by using the contact information you already have for the manufacturer. Don’t rely on the notice, which may contain only contact information for a scammer.
Reviewing the written contract and any other necessary documents
  • Confirm that all verbal promises and representations about the car and its condition are in the written agreement.
  • Make sure there are no blank spaces on the written agreement.
  • Obtain a copy of the written agreement.
  • Obtain the title from the dealer within 30 days of the purchase.
Before buying a used car, download the Ohio Attorney General’s Used Car Buyer Checklist. If you experience problems buying a used car or receiving your title, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or