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If I'm Buying A Car From Far Away, How Do I Know If The Dealer Is Legit?

Illustration for article titled If Im Buying A Car From Far Away, How Do I Know If The Dealer Is Legit?
Photo: BMW (fair use)

As Jalopnik’s resident car buying expert and professional car shopper, I get emails. Lots of emails. I’ve decided to pick a few questions and try to help out. This week we are talking about buying cars at a distance, unrepaired recalls, and the fate of Infiniti in the US market.

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First up, what is the best way to vet a dealer when buying a car from further away?

I am in the market for an M3 and my preferences lead to a somewhat limited pool of cars that check all of the boxes.

I have found a car at a used car dealer in California. I would love to see it in person, but I’m across the country in North Carolina.

My question is how do you vet dealers that are far away? This dealer doesn’t have much of a website or any reviews I can find. My gut is telling me something is off, and I’m going to listen to it.

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Out of state purchases are a bit trickier because you can’t see the car before you buy it. I would say the most important thing is to focus on vetting the car. If you see a lead that looks good, do some research into some respectable shops in the region that can conduct a pre-purchase inspection. Ask the dealer if they are willing to take the M3 to one of those places if the car checks out it could be a good buy.

That being said, there is a bit of a filtering mechanism to see if this is the type of operation that is likely to stock quality inventory and be cooperative. First, how are they pricing the car? If the price is substantially lower than the market, there is probably a reason for that. What does their other inventory look like? If you are shopping for an M3 and this place carries a variety of other higher-end hardware that is probably a good sign. What does the dealer look like? If the physical location seems kind of run-down and you see signs like “Your Job Is Your Credit!” that may be a red flag.

Next, is the dealer responsible for an unfixed recall?

I found out today that my 2008 Mazda 3 has an outstanding recall that needs to be fixed. The recall is an issue with the power steering assist and was issued in 2010 (recall # 10V37400). The thing is I bought my car from a dealership in 2014.

I don’t know exactly how recalls work but it seems to me that something like this should’ve been taken care of before the car was sold? What I’m wondering is if there anything I can or should try to do about it?

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If you bought a used car from a dealer they are typically not responsible for addressing an open recall from the manufacturer. However, that repair should be covered by Mazda and you can take it to a local Mazda dealer to have it addressed.

Finally, should you avoid a car that might have a questionable future in the American market?

We currently own a 2016 Nissan Murano with very low mileage. We typically keep our cars for 8-10 years or more because we average about 7-8k miles per year. We like the car, but I worry about long term ownership given Nissan’s possible bankruptcy issues. Adding to this is that I am considering an 2018 Infiniti Q50 purchase as a third vehicle to drive something other than my truck.

I have thought that perhaps I should sell her Murano and look at other marques in case Nissan goes the way of Saab? If that happened, do you think maintenance and spare parts will be an ever growing problem as time goes on after such an event? Or do you anticipate a merger that keeps Nissan solvent and able to at least provide parts for their cars into the near future?”

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I don’t think Nissan is going to disappear anytime soon. Even if they left the country they had so much market share, parts shouldn’t be hard to find, it’s not like SAAB that was very much a niche brand. If you like your Murano and it’s treating you well, I don’t see a reason to get rid of it.

Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at tom.mcparland@jalopnik.com!

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (Facebook.com/AutomatchConsulting)

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DISCUSSION

anavriniv
Zaphod's Heart of Gold

First: join the M3 forums and ask for a local to go look at it.  Those guys will know the cars better than any salesman and can tell you exactly what it is.  I have done this many times for MS3s and can give honest feedback that a dealer never will