Skip to main content
Buying a used car online? Check out the Buyers Guide

Buying a used car instead of a new one might save you some money. But finding, researching, and negotiating to get a used car can be challenging. Online sellers might claim to make buying a used car cheaper and easier, but some sellers use tactics that might end up costing you time and money.

The FTC says online seller broke the law when it failed to give people required Buyers Guides, misrepresented vehicle inspections, didn’t post copies of its warranties, and failed to give customers the option to cancel and get a refund when the company didn’t deliver many cars on time.

The law says dealers must put a Buyers Guide on every used car. The Buyers Guide tells you if the car has a warranty or is being sold “as is.” And, for online sales, dealers must give people the option to cancel their order and get a prompt refund when their car doesn’t ship on time. If you’re shopping for a used car, here are some steps to take:

  • Get a vehicle history report. Start at to get free information about a vehicle’s title, the most recent odometer reading, and condition. For a fee, you’ll get other reports with additional information, like accident and repair history.
  • Get help from an independent mechanic. This is a good idea even if the car has been “certified” or inspected by the dealer. You’ll have to pay the inspection fee, but it can help you avoid buying a car with major problems.

Learn more about buying and owning a car at You have the right to know the facts about any car you buy. If the dealer isn’t honest, let the FTC know at and tell your state attorney general.

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system, and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system. We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.

The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

Lowanna Strickland
July 03, 2024

Thank you! These few paragraphs were very resourceful and the links helpful.

Kerry Starks
July 03, 2024

Dealerships on the side of the street will not allow you to take their cars to get an inspection. I will never buy from one of these sellers again.

July 03, 2024

Thank you as I have been struggling with online buying and don’t feel they provide all the facts.
This was most helpful.

Elizabeth Smith
July 03, 2024

I found a good deal on a used car. The dealer would not schedule a time to see the car. However he wanted us to pay online instead of in person. Appears to be a scam. That seems to be happening quite frequently. Beware of such transactions.

July 05, 2024

Great article! Very timely and informative.