In the not too distant past, this last inquiry was fraught with danger, as those who set foot on a used car lot could never quite be certain as to whether they were getting a great deal or inheriting another person’s mechanical nightmare.
Fast forward to the present, however, and things have changed considerably as far as the used car market is concerned. That’s because many dealers and used-car lots now offer consumers the option of purchasing what they call “certified” used vehicles.
For those unfamiliar with this sales phenomenon, certified used vehicles are those with slightly higher price tags owing to the fact that they are typically subjected to vigorous multi-point inspections prior to sale and come with additional warranties, many of which are backed directly by the automaker.
While the certified used car market has transformed people’s views of the used car buying process, a recent ruling by the Federal Trade Commission may make people considerably more wary about these kinds of purchases.
The ruling, handed down in a settlement reached between the agency, General Motors and two used-car chains, indicates that dealerships can legally advertise used cars as certified despite having unrepaired safety defects provided that 1) they post notices indicating that the vehicles could be the subject of a recall and 2) they inform customers as to where such recall information can be found.
As to why the FTC took such a puzzling and potentially dangerous stance that runs contrary to that taken by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, its officials argued that they simply do not have the authority to order the repair of safety defects.
In the meantime, consumer safety experts have devised a few safety tips for those mulling the purchase of a certified used car:
- If you are leaning toward purchasing a particular vehicle, run its Vehicle Identification Number through the NHTSA’s safety recall database to ensure it’s not subject to any outstanding recalls.
- Avoid dealerships where vehicles with undisclosed safety defects/unfixed recalls are being sold.
Here’s hoping Congress steps in to address this major safety oversight …