Consumer Corner Column

August Consumer Corner: Take some stress out of buying a car

Release Date: Aug 01, 2011

By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt 

With the summer vacations winding down, and the kids going back to school or college, this can be a popular time of year for making car purchases. Vehicles – whether it is a teenager’s first car or a new family minivan – are among the largest purchases we ever make. So, to make sure you get a good deal, it is important to keep a few things in mind and avoid getting scammed or buying a “lemon.”

  • Do your homework.
    Research your options by reviewing consumer magazines or online reviews. Learn about the vehicle’s features, fuel mileage and maintenance costs. Also research the car’s “book value,” so you can be prepared to negotiate the price.
  • Know the car’s history.
    Especially with used cars, it is important to know about any accidents, repairs and maintenance history. Ask the dealer for a vehicle history report.
  • Test drive. 
    Check the vehicle’s performance on hills, highways and in stop-and-go driving.

The Internet has opened up a wide variety of tools to research and purchase vehicles. Sometimes, bargains can be found online in locating vehicles that may not be available in your local area. Unfortunately, this has also opened up an opportunity for scammers.

An extra amount of caution is needed when dealing with people over the Internet. Scammers may offer a car at a price that sounds too good to be true, and then ask for a deposit to be wired to them to hold the car until you can pick it up. Unfortunately, in many cases, the car never existed – and once the money is wired, there is no way to get it back.

Your safest bet is most always to work with a local, reputable dealer. However, if you do choose to shop for cars online, be especially cautious and skeptical. Request a full title history and vehicle inspection, and never send a payment until you see the vehicle.

As an important reminder when buying or selling used cars, “as-is” sales are not legal in Kansas unless the defects are disclosed to the buyer. Putting this information in writing is always a good idea to avoid future disagreements.

Major purchases – like cars – involve a lot of money, and therefore are a common source of consumer complaints to our office. If you feel you have been scammed in any consumer transaction, please call our office at (800) 432-2310 or visit us online at Our website also contains more consumer tips on buying cars and a wide range of other topics to help you protect yourself from scams.