The Michigan Department of State (MDOS) and the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern and Western Michigan urges residents to practice caution when purchasing vehicles online.
More and more dealers are offering vehicles for sale online with the promise of easy financing, no hassle paperwork, and delivery, however with that ease comes certain risks buyers should be wary of.
Questions to ask and tips for a safe vehicle purchase transaction:
Is the Dealer Licensed?
When buying from a business, look for a licensed automobile dealer. In Michigan, persons buying and selling five or more vehicles in a year are required to be licensed by MDOS. Buying from a licensed dealer provides additional protections and remedies for consumers. You can check to see if a dealer is licensed on the Secretary of State’s website at www.Michigan.gov/MDOS and clicking on Online Services. From there, click on Vehicle Services. Locate Business Services, and click on Dealer Services. In addition, BBB works to verify licensing as part of its accreditation process. Customers can be assured that all BBB Accredited Businesses have the necessary licensing.
Know what you are buying
Research the vehicle ahead of time and ask lots of questions. Purchase your own vehicle history report, such as a CARFAX or AutoCheck. Don’t only rely on a report submitted by the seller.
Fully understand the warranty
Before purchasing make sure the warranty is clearly spelled out in writing. Any repair cost on a vehicle sold “As Is” is the responsibility of the purchaser. If the vehicle has a warranty, make sure you understand the terms, including what is and is not covered, how long the warranty lasts, deductibles, and if you will be required to use a specific repair shop.
Online sales often result in the vehicle being delivered to your home. Before finishing the sale look the vehicle over and take it for a test drive. Resolve any concerns in writing before finalizing the sales paperwork.
Only use traditional forms of payment. Never purchase a vehicle through a money transfer or by purchasing gift cards. Instead, use a bank or credit union and work with your dealer to finalize the transaction. Credit cards may also be an option for some purchases as they offer additional fraud protection for consumers.
Finalizing the sales documents
Carefully review the sales documents before you sign, including the terms and conditions. All promises and terms should be provided in writing. Do not rely on spoken promises. When purchasing online there may be some documents you sign before delivery, and others when you take possession of the vehicle. Make sure you are clear about what each document means and your right to change your mind and cancel the sale.
More information can be found at www.michigan.gov and searching for “Buying a Vehicle.”
For questions on dealer complaints, buyers may call 1-888-767-6424.