WALLINGFORD, CT – As Americans watch gasoline prices rise, consumers are moving away from their luxury cars and large SUVs for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

While some consumers are waiting for more hybrid cars to hit the showrooms and marketplace, others are buying what they believe are fuel efficient used cars. And according to Connecticut Better Business Bureau (BBB) President Paulette Hotton Scarpetti, it is time to remind people about an important checklist when shopping for a used vehicle.

“Information is power in the hands of a consumer,” he said. “Used-car buyers should learn all they can to save time and money and prevent problems that can turn a good idea into a nightmare. If a consumer walks into a used-car lot uninformed, what was a good, money-saving idea could end up eating away the savings if the car is a lemon.”

There are several rules of thumb for used-vehicle buyers relating to selection of a seller, the car, and financing, according to the BBB. One of the most important is, to pay a trusted mechanic to inspect a vehicle before purchasing. The extra out-of-pocket expense may save the buyer money down the road if major problems are discovered.

Connecticut BBB offers the following tips for used-car buyers:

  • Do your homework: The Internet can be an invaluable tool for researching and comparing a particular vehicle’s reviews as a used car. Shop for a car that can deliver many miles on a gallon of fuel.

  • Give the car a once-over: A used-car inspection can tell many stories about its history and reliability and always should be made in daylight to ensure you can see any dents, paint defects, cracks, and other imperfections. Check the accelerator and brake pedal for signs of wear. If they are excessively worn on a car with “low mileage,” the odometer may have been tampered with to turn back the mileage. Also examine the ease with which windows, doors, and the trunk open and close. Problems with these may indicate collision or body damage.

  • Test drive: If the car meets your standards, it is time to go for a test drive. Make a series of stops, starts, and turns at different speeds. Drive over rough road and listen carefully for any noises such as clunking and rattling. Never purchase a vehicle without first driving it.

  • Know the law: If you are buying from a used-car dealership, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Used Car Rule requires the dealer to post a window sticker disclosing terms of warranty, information on the availability of service contracts, a suggestion the buyer have the vehicle inspected, and that the dealer put all promises in writing. Many complaints to BBBs from used-car buyers concern problems found during inspection and that they received only verbal promises from salespeople that the problems would be fixed. Because the commitments were not put in the written sales contract, however, the repairs were often not postponed and the customer was left with no recourse. If the car is sold with a statement specifying the car is being sold “as is,” the consumer must pay for any repairs needed after purchase.

  • Shop around for financing: Go to several financial institutions with the seller’s proposed purchase and finance contract. This is when a high credit score can result in lower financing interest rates. Compare the annual percentage rate, required down payment, and length of the repayment period.

  • Finally, don’t shop alone when selecting a used vehicle. A second set of eyes and ears can help uncover any red flags about a particular vehicle and improve your chances of making a purchase.