Stimulus checks have brought on a noticeable increase in used-car dealership complaints.

The Better Business Bureau regularly receives calls and complaints from consumers that purchase vehicles “as is” and want to take them back when a problem occurs.

Tax refunds and COVID-19 stimulus checks have brought on a noticeable increase in these types of calls. This office, which during the second quarter of 2019 received 3,157 inquires, has seen inquires increase 41% to 4,451 during the second quarter of 2020.

When a car is sold “as is,” the car is sold in its current condition, which means the buyer accepts the car with all known and unknown problems at the time the car is purchased. So, if something goes wrong or breaks down after you purchase the car, the cost of any repairs is almost always the buyer’s responsibility.

Generally, unless the dealer made a representation about the condition of the vehicle that he knew to be false, “as is” pretty much covers the dealer on any faults the car has.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no “cooling off” period when it comes to car purchases. Further, lemon laws do not apply to used automobiles, and verbal promises made during the sales process are practically impossible to prove.

However, there is information that offers buyers some protection, and which is required by law to accompany every sale of a used car by a dealer. It is contained in the Federal Trade Commission’s Buyer’s Guide, which must tell you:

• Whether the vehicle is being sold “as is” or with a warranty;

• What percentage of the repair costs a dealer will pay under the warranty;

• That spoken promises are difficult to enforce;

• To get all promises in writing;

• To keep the Buyer’s Guide for reference after the sale;

• A brief description of the major mechanical and electrical systems on the car, including some of the major problems you should look out for; and

• A reminder to ask to have the car inspected by an independent mechanic before you buy.

Whenever you purchase a used car from a dealer, you should receive the original or an identical copy of the Buyer’s Guide that appeared in the vehicle that you bought.

The guide must reflect any changes in warranty coverage that you may have negotiated with the dealer. It also becomes a part of the sales contract and overrides any contrary provisions that may be in the contract. If the dealer promises to repair the vehicle or cancel the sale if you’re not satisfied, make sure the promise is written on the Buyer’s Guide.

If the promises are not written on the Buyers Guide, you will have a hard time getting the dealer to make good on his word.

Consult your copy of the Buyer’s Guide to determine if the vehicle was in fact sold “as is.” If the dealer failed to provide a Buyer’s Guide or to indicate that the car was being sold “as is,” with no warranty, you may have some recourse against the dealer.

The best rule when buying a used car is to take the car to a mechanic of your choosing, not one recommended by the dealer, to have a thorough inspection. What may seem like a waste of money and time now can end up saving you thousands if the mechanic finds a mechanical problem with the car.

Kelvin Collins is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, which covers the Augusta-Aiken metro area. Directo questions or complaints about a specific company or charity to (800) 763-4222 or [email protected]

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