Buying a used vehicle: What you need to know before you buy your next car

TULSA - Zac Doyle bought a car for his dad from someone he found on Craigslist. 

The seller claimed it had a few minor issues but overall was a reliable vehicle. 

Zac took his word. "To be told there's just a few things wrong and to find out just about everything on the vehicle is a mess," he said.

Zac was helping several family members through some rough financial times.  

"Supporting three households and having two cars, we needed to get a vehicle on a budget."

The budget? $600.       

Zac quickly found out at the tag office that what he'd paid for was trouble. "That it was several hundred dollars behind on the taxes. In fact it was behind more than the price of the car," he said.

Kenneth Whitehead, Deputy Director Oklahoma Used Motor Vehicle and Parts Commission urges people to do their homework before buying a car because there's very little anyone can do after a deal goes south. 

"Our agency we regulate licensed dealers, we can't assist you with an individual sale you have to avail yourself to the court system," said Whitehead.

The news got worse when Zac's dad had to take the car to a mechanic.  

"The trunk was different from the doors, all the keyholes were different. The trunk actually had a Ford key that was supposed to go in it. Then he had explained to my father that it was as he called it a "chop shop" car."

Taking a seller's word that the vehicle is in good condition is risky business.

In addition to having a mechanic go over the vehicle thoroughly and buying a CarFax.com report, learn how to read the title.

Whitehead says, "You should absolutely make sure the person selling you the vehicle is the owner of the vehicle. That's what a title does, ask to see the title. If the title is not in the individual's name he's not the legal owner of that vehicle."

Green, red, orange titles. What do the different colors mean? http://bit.ly/TS4702

The tags are another important clue. In Zac's case the tag on the car didn't match the title.

Whitehead says, "If you're physically looking at the vehicle look at the tag. If the tag is expired there's probably taxes due on it because they didn't pay it bring it up to date and pay their taxes on it."

Zac had to unload the car and move on down the road. He sold it for scrap.

When Zac tried to contact the seller the phone was disconnected and no email replies. He wants to help others learn from his bad experience. "People really need to slow down," he said. "Don't trust what people put online."

Since used cars are sold "as is" in Oklahoma it is up to the buyer to lock down all the details before paying up.

Click here to learn more from Deputy Director Whitehead in a tutorial on reading paperwork and cross-checking records so you can be certain the used vehicle you're buying is what it appears to be.

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