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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > June 2018 > Six Questions to Ask Before Buying a Used Car

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Six Questions to Ask Before Buying a Used Car

For most consumers, automobiles are one of life’s biggest expenses. Buying a car, maintaining it, and repairing it can involve many different costs and decisions. Under Ohio law, consumers do not have a general right to cancel the purchase of a used vehicle to get their money back. Therefore, it is important to understand your rights and responsibilities before buying a used car.

In 2017, motor vehicles topped the list of consumer complaints reported to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, so before buying a used car, ask yourself:

1. Am I choosing a reputable dealer?  2. Is the car in acceptable 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.
3. Do I know 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 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 (
4. Am I getting 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. (Dealers offering little or no interest often charge much more than the car is worth). 
  • 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.
5. Who is 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 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.)
6. Have I reviewed and received 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.
In addition to asking key questions, here are some other issues to consider when buying a car:
  • Lemon Law. Ohio’s Lemon Law only applies to new vehicles during their first year or 18,000 miles, whichever comes first, so in order to potentially qualify as a lemon, the vehicle must fall within that range. A “lemon” is a new motor vehicle that has one or more problems covered by the warranty that substantially impair the use, value, or safety of the vehicle. Under the Lemon Law, the auto manufacturer must be given a reasonable opportunity to fix the problem, and if the problem is not corrected, the consumer might be eligible for a refund or a replacement.
  • Warranty expiration notices. Many new- and used-car buyers receive warranty expiration notices that appear to be from their 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. Find out if the notice is a car warranty scam. Use the contact information you already have for the manufacturer or dealer. Don’t rely on the notice, which may contain only contact information for a scammer.
  • Service contracts. Service contracts may be available from the manufacturer or your dealership, but third-party contracts may have fine print that excludes many repairs. If you receive pressure to make an immediate purchase, do not feel compelled to give out any money or personal information.
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