Don't Waste Your Money: How to avoid used-car nightmares

(Toledo News Now) - The holiday season, believe it or not, is a popular time for car sales with end-of-the-year clearances, and parents buying cars as gifts. But be cautious if buying a used car right now.

Many used-car buyers have two dangerous misconceptions: They believe they have a three-day right to return a car, and they believe there's a lemon law for used cars. Both are not true, and cause many buyers a lot of heartache.

A 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser with a clean engine and pretty interior was priced just right for Sharon Miller, until she drove it home.

"I bought it Tuesday. It died Thursday, and it died again Monday," said Miller.

Now, this first-time buyer has no money and a vehicle that's barely drivable.

"I'm on the highway and all of a sudden it's like, the brakes will not even work," explained Miller.

What went wrong? She bought it with just a test drive, not knowing its underside was rusted down to the suspension and brakes, according to certified mechanic JT Mason.

"It's just rusted out really bad. It's rusted really good. The brake system is totally disabled in the rear," said Mason.

The repair estimate was $1600.

"The control arm needs to be replaced, but she will never get it replaced because of the bolts," Mason said.

Her mistake: She bought the car from a corner car lot "as-is, no warranty," which means you own any problems.

The car buying website Edmunds has tips to avoid a car buying nightmare:

-Know how much you can afford, and look online for cars at that price.

-Don't fall in love with any car. There are many more out there.

-Test drive it at 55 mph with the radio off.

-Get at least a 30-day warranty.

-No warranty? Pay a mechanic $50 to $100 to inspect it.

Mason says he would have told Miller not to purchase the car.

The owner of the car lot promised he would work with Miller on the repair costs, but that doesn't mean he will return her money or buy the car back. Legally, he doesn't have to because the car was sold as-is. An important distinction to remember so you don't waste your money.