Buying a used car becomes slightly less daunting next year

November 11, 2016

Buying a car can give anyone heartburn. Between all the add-ons and upgrades, the fees and taxes, the fine-print of financing, and the iffy opinion that many consumers have of auto salespeople, it's a far more complicated experience than, say, buying a book or a smartphone.

That goes double when you're buying a used car. Not only do you have to deal with all the haggling and signing and whatnot, but you also have to wonder about the way that your new ride was treated by its previous owner(s). Those concerns linger even if the vehicle is under warranty.

Thankfully, the Federal Trade Commission has just made the process of shopping for used cars slightly simpler--or at least, a little less opaque. That's because the agency has updated its Buyers Guide, which dealerships are required to post on used vehicles. 

The Buyers Guide has been around since 1985, and it provides important disclosures to consumers--things like clarifying whether a vehicle is still under warranty, and if it is, what things might be covered.

In 2012, the FTC proposed updating the Buyers Guide, and after gathering comments for four years, it's preparing to implement the changes. The new Buyers Guide will include several revisions, some major, some minor:

  • An updated description of what "As Is" means;
  • An updated warranty section that allows dealers to show whether a vehicle is covered by a manufacturer's warranty or a third-party warranty, and whether a service contract might be available to the buyer;
  • A statement that encourages consumers to visit to learn about obtaining a vehicle history report;
  • A statement that encourages consumers to visit to see whether a vehicle has outstanding recalls;
  • The addition of both airbags and catalytic converters to the list of major problem areas that might be found on used vehicles;
  • A statement in Spanish letting customers know that they can obtain a copy of the Buyers Guide in Spanish if the dealer is conducting the sale in Spanish;
  • A Spanish-language version of the acknowledgement shoppers sign to indicate that they've received the Buyers Guide.

None of that will likely change your opinion of some car salespeople, but hopefully, it'll make the buying process a little less stressful.

The Buyers Guide rules go into effect on January 27, 2017. However, dealers have a one-year grace period to use up their remaining inventory of current Buyers Guides.

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