Pry Before You Buy (a Used Vehicle)

March 28, 2013   |   John O’Neal

Before….BEFORE you decide to purchase a used vehicle you MUST do your homework. Before buying a home people routinely have a home inspection done so why do more people not do the same before deciding to buy a used vehicle? Courts in North Carolina impose a duty on a buyer to perform due diligence and investigation before making a consumer purchase. “Buyer beware” is alive and well… how do you do your homework? Here are a few tips………

Hire an independent, experienced mechanic to inspect your vehicle. Sure you may have to spend $100 to $200 for a vehicle inspection but isn’t it better you do that and find out the vehicle’s problems before you make the purchase? If the seller refuses to allow you to have a mechanic inspect the vehicle and refuses to provide a warranty on the vehicle this should raise a red flag in your mind about purchasing the vehicle.

In addition to having the used vehicle inspected by a mechanic you should run an online check (or two..or three) on your vehicle. Obtain the vehicle’s VIN from the vehicle (not from paperwork provided by the seller) and check at least one of the following:

Be sure to test drive the vehicle and examine it closely for signs of prior damage. Drive the vehicle on city streets, open highway, and some different settings to get a more accurate idea of how it handles. Check all buttons, knobs, options, and features during your test drive(s).

Once you have determined the vehicle is worthy of some of your money be sure to get a realistic idea as to a fair price for the vehicle. It is totally free for you to review the following sources of vehicle pricing information:

For further tips on checking out that used vehicle visit the Federal Trade Commission’s webpage on the topic.

Now you are ready to negotiate on that used vehicle. Be smart in your search and good luck!

John T. O’Neal is a practicing attorney in Greensboro, NC who focuses his practice in Personal Injury/Wrongful Death, Consumer Law (includes Auto Dealer Fraud/Vehicle Issues and Debt Defense Lemon Law), and various types of Civil Litigation. A long-time NCAJ member, he is a former Chair of the NCAJ Consumer Areas of Practice Section and a two-time Ebby Award winner. [first posted to on Dec. 13, 2012]