Lemon Laws Don’t Protect Used Car Buyers
Most buyers of new cars are probably familiar with lemon
laws, which allow consumers a refund or replacement when their car turns out to
be defective. These laws generally cover leased cars as well as purchased ones,
and they have worked well as a consumer protection tool. Unfortunately, no such
laws exist for used cars, and buyers should be careful when purchasing them.
Many car dealers offer “certified used cars” that come with some sort of
warranty, but most independent used car dealers do not. In most states, the law
permits used car dealers to sell cars “as is”, and in that case, anything that
goes wrong, even if it happens five minutes after purchase, becomes the buyer’s
problem. Dealers selling cars on an “as is” basis often aren’t even required to
disclose any problems a vehicle might have to potential buyers. Most independent
car dealers sell older, less expensive cars than those sold at major auto
dealerships. A lot of the profits that independent used car dealers make come
from financing, particularly from financing those with bad or poor credit. Those
with problem credit often find that such dealerships, which self-finance, are
their only chance at obtaining a car loan. These loans, with their resulting
high payments, often leave buyers without any extra cash to pay for repairs of
undisclosed problems. Legislators in several states are considering laws that
will require used car dealers to have their cars inspected by certified
mechanics prior to their being offered for sale. This will help, in time, but
what can a potential buyer do now?
Ask to have a certified mechanic examine the car before purchase. Any
reasonable dealer should allow you to take the car to a mechanic; if not, you
should probably shop elsewhere.
Get a list of the car’s known problems in writing prior to purchase. Inquire
as to whether you have any recourse should something go wrong after the sale.
Ask the salesperson if the car has any sort of warranty, and if so, get it
in writing. If they tell you the car is sold “as is”, ask them to define those
Contact your local Better Business Bureau to see if they have had any
complaints about that particular dealer.
If possible, purchase a used car from a dealership that offers certified
used cars with a written warranty.
Buying a used car is more problematic than buying a new one. After all, a used
car is one that someone else didn’t want anymore. Buyers who are considering a
purchase of a used car should be aware that their protection under the laws of
most states is quite limited. Asking a few questions and doing some
investigation prior to making the purchase may save buyers thousands of dollars
down the road.
©Copyright 2005 by Retro Marketing. Charles Essmeier is the owner of Retro
Marketing. Retro Marketing, established in 1978, is a firm devoted to
informational Websites, including LemonLawHelp.net, a site devoted to
automobile lemon laws
and End-Your-Debt.com, a Website devoted to information about
debt consolidation and
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