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Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Buying a Used Car

Car with For Sale Sign
LazingBee/Getty Images/iStockphoto
A For Sale sign in a car window.

Buying a used car can be a smart financial decision, especially if your budget is limited. However, with used car inventory still stretched to its limits in many parts of the country, failing to do your homework before you buy can put you in a disastrous or even dangerous situation.

Nationally, Better Business Bureau receives thousands of complaints about used car dealers every year. In Eastern and Southwest Missouri and Southern Illinois, they were among the top 10 most complained-about industries in 2021. Consumers reported cars that broke down soon after purchase, problems with warranties, and customer service conflicts.

If you find something you like in an ad, go to online sources to determine whether the price is in line with values of similar cars. Check reports on the reliability of the model you’re interested in and whether it’s been subject to any recalls. Ask about warranties offered by the dealer.

If you find a specific car you’re interested in, ask for a vehicle history report to see whether it’s been in a wreck previously. Consider having a mechanic you trust inspect the car before you agree to buy it. Set a budget and stick to it. Consider the payment you can afford, as well as what you can comfortably pay in cash. In most cases, your monthly car payment shouldn’t be more than 20 percent of your monthly after-tax income. Before closing the deal, make sure the seller transfers the registration and title to your name.

Cape Girardeau native Whitney Quick is the Regional Director of Better Business Bureau in Cape Girardeau, MO, and is responsible for outreach efforts in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. Quick is a graduate of Cape Girardeau Central High School and Southeast Missouri University where she majored in public relations. Quick enjoys helping educate consumers in the southeast Missouri region by sharing consumer tips with groups and educating them about BBB’s resources.