Be prepared if buying a used car at an auction

When buying a vehicle, many Pennsylvanians overlook the possibilities, and potential pitfalls, of a car auction. Some find it a rewarding experience by getting a car at a low price, while others may get stuck with a clunker that may never be road-ready.

The key, if you decide to look for a car at an auction, is to be educated about the process and be prepared to walk away if you are unsure of making a deal. Pennsylvania lemon laws only apply to new cars, and there are no federal laws that require sellers to disclose flaws, damage or recalled vehicles.

Beware of salvage titles

Many of the cars sold at an auction have salvage titles, which are vehicles that are not operable and can’t pass an inspection, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. These are cars where the repairs generally cost more than the vehicles are worth.

If you buy a salvage vehicle, it becomes your responsibility to make all the necessary repairs so that it can be driven and pass a safety inspection. PennDOT says all reconstructed vehicles must be restored to “original operating condition” meaning it must have seat belts, air bags and other components that were original features.

Car dealerships buy used cars at auctions

Dealers often purchase vehicles at auctions because they can buy them at the lowest prices possible and mark them up once they’re on their lot. Since sellers at auctions aren’t required to disclose issues with a car, you probably won’t be able to get an accurate repair history.

While buying a car at an auction offers very little protection for the consumer, you do have rights when buying a used car through a dealer. An experienced attorney here in Pennsylvania can help you recover losses due to dealer misrepresentations, such as “bait and switch” advertising, odometer tampering or claiming a vehicle has options that it does not have.

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