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Ask SAM: I bought a defective used car. What can I do?

Ask SAM: I bought a defective used car. What can I do?

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Q: I needed a car so I went to a used car dealership and bought a Ford Explorer after test driving it. The next morning, we found the automatic transmission was bad. I called the dealer to see if he would make it good and he said no, that we signed an as-is no warranty paper. I asked him if he would split the cost with me because he had to know about it and he said no. So be careful who you buy a car from.

P.H.

Answer: P.H. is correct to warn people to be careful when buying used cars, said Lechelle Yates, director of communications for the Better Business Bureau of Central and Northwest North Carolina.

"When you purchase a used car in North Carolina, remember this phrase ‘buyer beware,'" Yates said. "By law, dealers either sell used cars with a warranty or 'as-is.' If you buy it 'as-is,' you'll sign a paper that says you understand 'the dealer does not provide a warranty for any repairs after the sale.' That means the moment you drive the vehicle off the lot, any existing problems it might have become your problems - yours and yours alone."

The Federal Trade Commission has a buyer’s guide on its website that show the different types of window stickers that dealers are required to put on used vehicles indicating whether it has a warranty. The guide can be found at www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/plain-language/cfr_buyers_guides_english.pdf.

Yates said that asking a third-party mechanic to inspect the vehicle prior to buying it is the best way to protect yourself. “They'll check for everything from prior wreck damage to the car's mechanics. Used car inspections cost around $100 on average. BBB recommends you take this step even if a dealer says the vehicle's been through its own inspection process. If the dealer won't allow you to have the vehicle inspected, walk away.”

Be aware that dealers can sell used cars with open recalls. To check for recalls, enter the car's vehicle identification number (VIN) in a database maintained by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. That database can be found at www.nhtsa.gov/recalls.

Veteran benefit update

After Sunday's question about veteran benefits, SAM heard from Diane Kemp with the Winston-Salem office of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with additional information and advice for securing veterans' benefits.

Veterans who would like to file or check the status of a pending VA claim or appeal can choose an option that best fits their individual needs. To file or check the status of a claim online visit https://www.benefits.va.gov/WinstonSalem// to create or access your account. This website offers one easy-to-use place for Veterans to check a disability claim and appeal status, have access to various VA benefits and eligibility summary letters, find out how much money they have left to pay for school or training, refill prescriptions and communicate with their health care team, and more. To contact the Veterans Benefits Administration by phone, they can call 1-800-827-1000, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. to speak with a VA representative.

If the Veteran prefers to talk to someone face-to-face, they can contact their local VA Regional Office. For the State of North Carolina, the Winston-Salem VA Regional Office is located at 251 N. Main Street in downtown Winston-Salem and is currently open on an appointment-only basis. In-person appointments or virtual calls can be scheduled through the website www.benefits.va.gov/WinstonSalem.

Email: AskSAM@wsjournal.com

Online: journalnow.com/asksam

Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101

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