Used car market is hot. Here’s how to avoid getting burned

Research can be the difference between great deal or bum ride

Consumer Reports’ car experts share some advice to help you determine whether a used vehicle is a good value or potential trouble.
Consumer Reports’ car experts share some advice to help you determine whether a used vehicle is a good value or potential trouble.

SAN ANTONIO – The pandemic-related computer chip shortage isn’t expected to end anytime soon, and it’s having an impact on the production of new cars and trucks. As a result, the used car market is hotter than ever. But pre-owned cars can sometimes have problems. Consumer Reports’ car experts share some advice to help you determine whether a used vehicle is a good value or potential trouble.

“My car started making a weird noise,” said Dan Barkyoumb. “My air conditioner stopped working again, and then when I got home from my honeymoon, the check engine light came on.”

But when he set out to buy a replacement, he learned that finding a used car for sale is a challenge.

“The shortage of new cars available for sale right now has actually made demand for used cars jump, too,” said Consumer Reports’ Auto Editor Jon Linkov. “The average price of a used car jumped 12.5% over the past year.”

So what can you do?

Consumer Reports suggests you be open-minded. Research current pricing and deals on several different models to increase your shopping pool and chances.

Also, don’t rush into a purchase when you find the used car you want at a sweet price. If the price seems too good to be true, there could be a problem.

When buying any car, check for open recalls.

“You can also get a vehicle history report,” Linkov said. “But, the best way to ensure that a car is roadworthy is to have it inspected by an independent mechanic before you buy.”

If you buy a problem car from a dealer, your state’s attorney general’s office can explain the laws that will help you

Texas’ lemon law does not apply to used cars unless it’s still under the manufacturer’s warranty. The state’s deceptive trade laws may be helpful. But if you purchase a lemon from a private seller, you’ll have fewer protections. Consumer Reports says try to get as many guarantees about the condition of the vehicle in writing in case you end up in court.

If you’re selling your car or trading it in, you will likely be able to get more for it now. That spike in used-car prices means that dealers are trying to snap up as many used cars as they can to satisfy customer demand. Dealers are most keen on finding vehicles under 5 years old, with resale prices for trucks and SUVS especially strong.


About the Author:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.