Wisconsin Strengthens Used Car Buyer’s Guide

When it comes to buying a used car, relatively few consumers know enough about automobiles to adequately judge the quality of its steering capabilities or engine transmission. Unfortunately, in a world where most used cars are sold “as is,” it is often necessary to take a trusted mechanic shopping with you until you can find a vehicle you can both agree on. However, the state of Wisconsin is taking steps to create a better retail market for these less-experienced consumers: an updated used car inspection guide, which goes into effect January 1, will help careful buyers make safe choices at the dealership.Even before the new requirements, the Badger State already had one of the most extensive and rigorous disclosure processes for selling used cars in the United States: currently, Wisconsin and Maine are the only states that use their own used car buyer’s guide, while the remaining 48 use the FTC Used Car Guide, a less specific option. Now, Wisconsin is also choosing to increase the level of detail in this process by revising the specifications for a number of vehicle components and using new inspection stickers. While dealerships are not required to start using the new process for another month, many have already switched to the new stickers.

Wisconsin’s used vehicle inspection reports will now include checks of the car’s tie rods and ball joints, the vehicle’s status as a “manufacturer buyback” or “lemon,” inspections of gauges, heating and lighting checks, and tests of the navigation and entertainment systems. The reports will also include facts about the vehicle’s history, such as whether the car was used for “private”, “business” or “executive use,” as well as indications of whether the car was severely damaged and repaired. Dealers are also required to list all of the states where the vehicle has been titled, as opposed to the most recent one.

Because of these new requirements, a dealer is now required to test-drive the car and use the buyer’s guide to report its condition. If a dealership fails to do so, or fills out the form incorrectly, they could possibly lose their license, although the Wisconsin State Department of Transportation has stated that this would be rare. And while the buyer’s guide is not a legal warranty, dealerships may be required to make the customer whole or at least reach a compromise if they are found to have acted unjustly by the DMV.

While this update is fortunate for drivers in Wisconsin, those in other states might question the safety of buying a used vehicle in their area. Because of this, a number of used car dealerships have reassured their customers that it is quitepossible to buy a safe used vehicle in states that use the FTC Used Car Guide.

Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation reports that the state has used the buyer’s guide stickers for years, but have not updated their regulations since 2010. The requirements have now been changed to help the used car industry keep up with technology and practicality. Despite the changes, however, officials still recommend that customers have their used cars checked over by a trusted, independent mechanic before purchasing the vehicle.

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