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Lemon Laws Don't Protect Used Car Buyers

Posted on October 26, 2021 by Trevor Schoborg

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 faulty. These laws generally cover leased cars as well as purchased ones, and they've worked well as a consumer protection tool. Regrettably, no such laws exist for used cars, and buyers should be careful when buying them.

Many car dealers offer"certified used cars" that come with some kind of guarantee, but most independent used car dealers don't. In most states, the legislation allows used car dealers to sell cars"as is", and if that's the case, whatever goes wrong, even if it happens five minutes after purchase, becomes the buyer's problem. Dealers selling cars on an"as is" basis often are not even required to disclose any problems a vehicle might have to potential buyers. Most independent car dealers sell old, cheaper cars than those offered at major auto dealerships. A whole lot of the profits which independent used car dealers make come out of funding, especially from financing those with bad or poor credit. Those with problem credit often realize that such dealerships, which self-finance, are their only chance at getting a car loan. These loans, with their consequent high premiums, often leave buyers with no excess money to pay for repairs of undisclosed issues. Legislators in a number of states are considering legislation that will require used car dealers to get their cars inspected by certified mechanics before their being offered for sale. This will help, in time, but what can a possible buyer do now?

Request to have a certified mechanic inspect the car before purchase. Any reasonable dealer should let you take the vehicle to a mechanic; if not, you should probably shop elsewhere.

Get a list of the automobile's known problems in writing before buy. Inquire as to if you have any recourse should something go wrong after the sale.

Ask the salesperson if the car has any type of guarantee, and if so, get it in writing. If they tell you that the car is sold"as is", ask them to define those terms precisely.

Contact your local Better Business Bureau to determine if they've had any complaints about that specific dealer.

If you can, buy a used car from a dealership that provides certified used cars with a written guarantee.

Purchasing a used car is much more problematic than purchasing a new one. After all, a used car is one that somebody else did not want anymore. Buyers that are thinking of a purchase of a used car ought to take note that their protection under the laws of most states is quite restricted. Asking a few questions and doing some investigation before making the purchase may save buyers thousands of dollars later on.