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Let Your Keystrokes Beware

Aug 18, 2007
Finding a good used-but-new-to-you car has never been an easy proposition. Sifting through car ads and dealer lots trying to decipher the secret code of used car talk is an exhausting process.

Does "easy to handle" mean you won't have trouble pushing it out of the road every time it stalls? Is "classic" an accurate way to describe its status or is it simply old. Will it be covered by state "lemon laws"?

For people who simply don't have that much time or patience, online used car shopping would seem ideal. You can use search engines and keywords to arrive at exactly the vehicle you are looking for. However, even a good process can have some snags along the way and online used car buying is one arena where it's best to be aware of them.

What's The Real Story?

It's best to use reputable online dealers and people approved by your state's Better Business Bureau. While you may think you are getting a better deal from an advertisement off Craiglist or a community online bulletin board, it's much harder to know how much of what they say is true and enforce that truth in a dispute.

Make sure to research the seller and find out as much as you can about where the car came from and its history. Websites such as CARFAX offer vehicular history but their information comes from insurance and public notice claims, not the private things people don't want to disclose. Those sites can also alert you if the car has been registered as a stolen vehicle. The more you can verify about the car and the seller, the better your purchase experience will be.

What's The Real Picture?

Used cars advertised online always seem ready for their close-up, but some pictures don't give you a realistic view. Similar to the nightmare stories that come out of the world of internet dating, the picture you get and the car you end up with may not be the same thing.

The seller can be placing a picture of the car from when it was new, or show one side on the car while neglecting to photograph the big scary dent on the other. Some cars, like cover models, may even have their pictures "photoshopped" before placement. If possible, see the car before agreeing to purchase or put a down payment on it or if its in another city ask a friend or acquaintance who is close to take a look.

Always require the seller to supple pictures of all sides of the vehicle and interior. Ask them to send you a picture of the car with the daily newspaper on the hood with the date visible. That will ensure it's a recent picture.

What's The Deal?

Every state has differing laws about how to handle disputes when it comes to used car purchases. Check the laws in your state and the state you are buying the car in to make sure you meet the requirements to be protected. Have the seller put in writing the condition of the car and note any problems, dents, or wreck history the car may have.

Also put in writing the full terms of the agreement including the terms of payment, how the car is going to get from the seller to the buyer (and who pays for that), the disclosed condition of the car and any photographs the seller supplies. Keep hard copies of all emails and transactions during the purchase. If there is a discrepancy in the car's appearance or condition, document it with photographs. The more clear things are spelled out, the better protected both the buyer and the seller will be.

The internet is a friendly place full of people ready to make deals and sell treasures. Buying a used car online is one way to find what you are looking for quickly and make an easy transaction in the process. Like any other friendship or business relationship, in online used car buying trust must be earned
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