2010-08-27 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

AUDREY PHEFFER AUDREY PHEFFER Purchasing an automobile is often considered a daunting and difficult experience. This is not surprising, especially considering that for many people their automobile purchase will be one of the largest purchases they make in their lifetime. Here are a few tips if you find yourself in the market for an automobile.

Before visiting any dealerships or private sellers, it is important to have researched the vehicles that you are considering. Several resources may prove helpful. Consumer Reports frequently reviews vehicle performance, fuel economy, price, and safety, and can be found on the Internet at www.con sumerreports.org. The Kelley Blue Book’s website, www.kbb. com, offers advice on a vehicle’s price and value. In addition, the American Automobile Association’s website, www.aaa. com, offers several related consumer guides. Once you have an idea of which vehicles you are interested in, review auto advertisements to compare prices and promotional offers at local dealerships.

In New York State, every car dealer, whether they specialize in new or used cars or both, must register with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and follow certain state and federal laws. These laws include the State’s Lemon Laws, which provide legal remedies for you if, in certain situations, your car does not live up to the written warranty and cannot be repaired, or if it has not been repaired correctly after a reasonable number of attempts. If you have an issue with your purchase that you cannot resolve with the dealer on your own, you may contact the DMV’s Bureau of Consumer and Facility Services by calling 1-518-474-8943 or going to http:// www.nydmv. state.ny.us. For more information about the Lemon Laws, you can contact the New York State Attorney General at 1-800- 771-7755 or visit http://www.ag.ny.gov/bureaus/consumer_frauds/ lemon_law.html. If you decide to buy from a private seller, you should be aware that a private seller does not have to register with the DMV and that many of the laws and regulations that protect purchases made at dealerships do not apply. In addition, private sellers rarely offer warranties. If you are not satisfied with your purchase, you must resolve the problem with the seller yourself or take legal action.

Once you have found a vehicle, examine the vehicle in daylight. When you buy a used vehicle from a dealer, the dealer must certify that the vehicle’s condition will allow you to use the vehicle on the road safely. This certification covers the entire vehicle except items that should be obvious to the customer before the sale, such as torn upholstery. Closely look at the interior. Discolored, stained, or faded upholstery or carpeting, musty odors, or signs of mud, rust, or silt in the trunk or glove compartment may all indicate flood damage. If areas inside the trunk, wheel wells, or under the hood appear to have been crumpled and straightened, the vehicle may have been in a collision. Start the vehicle when the engine is cold, listen to make sure it runs smoothly, and take it for a test drive on various road surfaces and in various driving conditions.

Additionally, if buying from a private seller, check to make sure all warning lights are functioning. Test all equipment. Verify that the lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, radio, heater, and air conditioner are all in working order. Make sure all dashboard gauges are functioning and accurate. When you apply the brakes, listen carefully for any odd noises.

Be sure to ask the seller or dealer if the vehicle owner’s manual and previous service records are available. You may also wish to consider purchasing a vehicle history report if the dealer does not provide one. In addition, when purchasing a used vehicle, it is always a good idea to have a trusted mechanic perform a prepurchase inspection prior to entering any agreements or paying any money.

If you have questions, ask, and be sure that they are all answered to your satisfaction before you decide to make a purchase. Also, be wary of purchasing additional features and services that you may not actually need.

There are many things to consider when purchasing a car. Let this article be the stepping-stone to your research prior to your next motor vehicle purchase.

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