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Purchase of a leased car

I am interested in purchasing a '08 newly handicapped modified van w/ only 25,000 miles on it. After the original lease period ended it was sold at auction and purchased by a company that exclusively modifies used vans. I would have to purchase this car over the phone and internet and would not be able to drive it until delivery. Is this risky and what are my rights?

It’s hard to wreck a car in 25000 miles. A handcapped modified vehicle is rarely raced. The worst that could happen is no oil changes and a leaky transmission not looked after. Have the seller FAX all the maintenance records to you. If everything has been done by the book, I would not hesitate to buy it. If no mainteance records, don’t buy it!

If the mileage was much higher, then a detailed inspection is needed.

You should consider contacting an independent mechanic near where this van is to do a PPI (Pre Purchase Inspection) Typically cost about $200. They would go over it and give you a detailed report.
I assume you have already seen the CarFax, not to say they are perfect. They do miss things.
You may be able to find out about the sellers reputation by contacting the local BBB or even something as simple as doing an internet search on their name.
I would also look into an extended warranty. But you need to be extra careful with those. Many are not worth the paper they are written on.
One possibility is talking to your local dealership i.e. the Chrysler Dealer and ask them about an extended warranty. REMEMBER the price is negotiable!!! They might have a suggestion about who to do the PPI also.
Do your homework and this is probably no more risky than buying it off a local lot.
Good Luck

It is risky. The company should provide references so you can talk to some other owners of cars from this company. You can contact a mechanic to inspect the van for you, you can find mechanics in the area on the Car Talk home page.

I would insist on getting all the original keys and key fobs. New cars come with 2 and sometimes 3 sets of keys. Replacement keys and key fobs are expensive due to security systems. Ask how many sets of keys you are going to get. If the answer is only 1, that isn’t enough - ask for 3 complete sets.

The purchase of a van “off lease” with these miles seems reasonable. It is a way to keep the costs down. It is the conversion that concerns me. Some companies do a very good job and others just throw stuff on the van without proper frame support. Before buying you need to investigate the reputation of the company and seller.

Since you can’t test drive the van, you must insist on a full money back deal for 1 week or 30 days. This allows you to inspect the van and be sure all is ok.

I’d want to see some maintenance records first. Do not believe anything that you’re told verbally.

The problem with lease vehicles is that many people who lease them have no intention of maintaining that vehicle because they know that in a year or so they will be unloading it so there is no way they will sink their money into a vehicle they will never own outright.

At 25k miles it could be a great van or it could have a highly sludged up engine on its last legs.
As to rights you have none except caveat emptor.

It is risky, but if it’s from a reputable shop the risk factor goes down. I know there are some classic car rebuilders who when they put a classic car up on auction there are bids from all over the world because they know what kind of work these people are putting out.