Have you ever bought a car from someone and then discovered all the paperwork wasn't in order? There are ways to try to avoid such problems whether you're the buyer or the seller.
When you buy from a well-established, reputable car dealer, you generally don't have to worry about issues such as whether they have clear title to the car. One local woman is still trying to figure out how to get her car title from a dealership that shut down.
Jaimi Hanson bought a car from "No Fear Auto," the car dealership owned by James Bertrand -- the former pastor who has been arrested on drug charges several times over the past few weeks. His car dealership has been seized and former customers like Jaimie are struggling with the aftermath.
"I haven't gotten my title back from him, even after I paid my car off," she said.
As well, the former volunteer for Bertrand's church program had trouble with the car she purchased.
"Six months later after I bought the car, it broke down. It started smoking, so I called him up. "Oh yeah, bring it in. I'll take a look at it. He held my car for about two weeks and charged me $600 to get it fixed. He said, 'Well, I'll, since you're such a good person and you do volunteer work for me, I'll only charge you $400,' " said Jaimie.
Whether you're buying a vehicle from a business or an individual, it's important to do what you can to be a smart car shopper. For one thing, it's important to make sure the person you are buying the car from has clear title to the vehicle.
Carmen Million with the SWLA Better Business Bureau said, "You can ask them to show you proof that they have the title or you can contact the motor vehicle commission, and they will tell you who the title is from."
If you finance the car and have trouble getting the title after payoff, Million said there are agencies you can go to for help.
"This particular lady, her situation is not an easy one because the company is not in business at this point. Her only option is to go to the Louisiana motor vehicle commission and file a claim and hopefully, they can help her get a title," said Million.
If you are the seller, you also need to protect yourself.
"You want to make sure you have your money and if they test drive it, you want to make sure you're with them. You want to make sure you're properly insured in case something happens while they're on the test drive. And you also want to make sure that, however you're paid, that money clears before you release the vehicle," said Million.
And you want to transfer the title and stop your insurance before the new owner drives off with the vehicle. For more information on being a smart car shopper, see tips after this story.
Copyright 2013 KPLC. All rights reserved.
Below are tips for buying a used car from the SWLA Better Business Bureau:
Before launching your search for a good deal on a used car, spend some time considering many of the same factors that would apply to a new car purchase: how you will use the vehicle; how long you plan to keep it; the size, style, features, and appearance you need or prefer; and your budget or financing options for the purchase, as well as for operation, maintenance, and repair costs.
Terms for used auto loans at financial institutions change with the market and interest rates. You should spend some time researching the vehicles that you are interested in. Ask friends about their experiences and satisfaction with their older cars—would they buy the car again? Also, check auto and consumer books, such as Edmund's Used Cars Prices and Ratings, and magazines, such as Consumer Reports, for information on the reliability records of various models. In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) operates a toll-free hotline 800.424.9393 and a page on the Internet, through which you can find out if a particular vehicle has ever been recalled for safety defects.
To help you investigate and compare prices, several publications are available that give general guidance on value for many models. Your library, bookstore, bank or insurance agent should have a copy of the monthly National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA) Official Used Car Guide, monthly Kelley Blue Book or Edmund's to estimate a car's resale value. Comparing prices of similar makes and models can give you an idea of which seller offers the best deals.
SOURCES FOR USED CARS
Consider the following sources when looking for a used car:
Whether you are considering buying from a used or new car dealer, check out the dealer's reputation and reliability first. Call the Better Business Bureau for a reliability report (Contact and location information on all BBBs in the U.S. and Canada is located at our main website. Ask the dealer how you may contact the car's previous owner.
Note: Be wary of fraudulent, criminal dealers, commonly known as "curbstoners," who offer vehicles through newspaper ads and may disguise themselves as individual sellers. The cars offered may be stolen or damaged, and their odometers may be rolled back.
FTC BUYERS GUIDE
Under the Federal Trade Commission's Used Car Rule, all sellers of used cars (except private owners), are required to place a large sticker called a "Buyers Guide" in the window of their used cars, light-duty vans and light-duty trucks. The Buyers Guide tells you whether the vehicle comes with a warranty and, if so, which systems are covered, how long coverage applies, and what percent of repair costs the dealer will pay.
The Buyers Guide also alerts you when a car is being sold with implied warranties only, or with no warranty at all ("as is"). Once you complete a purchase of a car "as is" and drive it off the lot, the dealer has no further responsibility for the car. Be sure to sign the Buyers Guide and request a copy for your records.
Under most state laws, if the car does not come with a written warranty, and it is also not sold "as is," it is covered by an implied warranty. Implied warranties make dealers legally responsible if the cars they sell fail to meet reasonable quality standards at the time of sale. Depending on your state's particular laws, the implied warranty may guarantee that the car will run, or that it will live up to the seller's assurance that it is fit for a particular purpose, such as pulling a trailer. Your state consumer protection office can provide more information about the specifics of implied warranty coverage.
Keep a sharp eye out for the following as you get your first look at a used car:
ROAD TEST CHECKLIST
CLOSING THE DEAL
Before signing a contract or purchasing a used car, you should do the following:
Buying a used vehicle can be a rewarding experience but always remember, "when in doubt, check it out!"
QUICK CHECK LIST
Before purchasing any used car, be aware of the following: