Buying a car, whether new or used, can be a little like playing the lottery. Even if you do all your homework, you can still end up with a lemon car or a previously damaged car.
Say a dealership does sell you a bad car – you’re going to need to know what to do. To help, we’ll take you through what dealers are liable for and the steps you should follow if you do end up for a bad car.
What Are Dealers Liable For?
Most state laws hold car dealers liable if their vehicles do not meet reasonable standards of quality under what are called “implied warranties.”
The most common type is the warranty of merchantability, which essentially means the dealer guarantees the vehicle will function as it is supposed to.
It is better to get a limited or full warranty in writing than to rely on implied warranties. Be sure to get a copy of the warranty as it will lay out in detail which systems are covered and who is legally responsible for making repairs.
In many states, dealers may sell cars “as-is” or without any warranty. If the “As Is – No Dealer Warranty” box on the Buyer’s Guide is checked, you are releasing the dealer from liability for all issues with the vehicle.
However, the dealer is still required to disclose all previous accidents and damage to the vehicle. If they fail to do so, you could have a dealer fraud claim against them.
What If a Dealer Sells You a Damaged Car?
By law, car dealers are required to disclose all previous vehicle damage to potential buyers.
This includes frame damage, flood damage, salvage status and prior accidents. If a dealer fails to disclose any of this information during the sale, you may have an auto fraud claim.
You should always check a car’s Carfax report before buying it. If the car was involved in an accident within the last six months, the accident might not have shown up yet. Use the VIN number to look up the car’s accident history and contact the previous owner.
If the car was involved in an accident or suffered damage and the dealer failed to disclose this information to you at the time of sale, you may have an auto fraud case.
1. Document Everything
The first step is to gather up documentation of all repairs, copies of the Buyer’s Guide, and any applicable warranties.
All of this documentation will come in handy when it comes time to file a complaint, launch a claim, or start a lawsuit against the dealer.
2. Contact Your State’s Consumer Protection Agency
If you suspect that a dealership sold you a bad car, you should contact your state’s consumer protection office and file a complaint.
You should also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Although this will not necessarily help you get a refund or a replacement vehicle, it is an important step you should take to help others to avoid getting scammed.
3. File a Claim with the National Center for Dispute Settlement
If the vehicle is still under the manufacturer’s warranty, your next step should be to file a claim with the National Center for Dispute Settlement (NCDS).
The NCDS is a third-party agency that resolves disputes between car manufacturers and car owners.
4. Proving Misrepresentation or Non-Disclosure
There are many forms of auto sale fraud. One of the most common types of fraud is misrepresentation or non-disclosure; not telling you everything you need to know about the vehicle before you buy it.
If a dealer sold you a car without disclosing or lying about previous damage or mechanical issues, you can sue them for fraudulent misrepresentation or non-disclosure.
In order to win a judgment of fraudulent misrepresentation or non-disclosure, however, you must prove that:
- The dealer made false representations
- The dealer knew the representations were false
- The dealer knew the buyer would act on the misrepresentation
- You acted on the misrepresentation
- The misrepresentation was reasonable enough to believe
- You suffered damages as a result of the misrepresentation
Proving these factors and winning a judgment will require extensive documentation and the help of an attorney experienced in auto fraud cases.
5. Contact an Auto Fraud Attorney
If you a dealership sold you a bad car and did not disclose all the facts during the sale and now you’re wondering “what can I do,” your best option is to contact a knowledgeable auto fraud attorney.
What To Do If a Used Car Dealership Sold Me a Lemon
If you bought a bad used car from a dealership, you may be protected under your state’s lemon laws.
Used car lemon laws vary by state.
In New Jersey, for example, a used car must be returned for repairs at least three times or be out of service for more than 15 days within the warranty period. Typically, the more miles the car has, the shorter the warranty period.
In New Jersey, the warranty periods are:
- 90 days or 3,000 miles for vehicles with 0-24,000 miles
- 60 days or 2,000 miles for vehicles with 24,000-60,000 miles
- 30 days or 1,000 miles for vehicles with 60,000-100,000 miles
Dealers are required to replace or repair any defective part while the vehicle is still under warranty. Warranties must cover engine, transmission, front- and rear-wheel drive parts.
If a dealer fails to honor the warranty by making the required repairs or replacements in a timely fashion, your next step is to seek redress with the help of an experienced lemon law attorney.
Not all states have used car lemon laws. Check here to see if used vehicles are covered by your state’s lemon laws.
What to Do If You Bought a New Lemon
Nearly all states have new car lemon laws.
In order to be eligible for a refund or replacement, the defect must appear within a certain number of miles or years after the initial purchase or lease, it must significantly affect the vehicle’s use, value or safety, and it must require a certain number of repairs or put the car out of service for a certain amount of time.
If your vehicle is no longer covered by your state’s lemon laws, you may still seek redress under the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This law is intended to ensure that manufacturers honor their warranty guarantees.
Contact a Lemon Law Lawyer
If a dealership sold you a bad car, you should contact an experienced lemon law lawyer to discuss your options.
The attorneys at Robison Lemon Law Group have extensive experience in lemon law cases and offices in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.
Contact us today for your free consultation.