Buying a used car is always a risky business. You can never really know what the car went through in the hands of previous owners. In order to put customers’ minds at ease, car dealerships started offering “certified pre-owned” vehicles. The “certified” label is supposed to ward off consumers’ suspicion by providing a guarantee that the vehicle had to pass an inspection before going up for sale again. In exchange for this peace of mind, certified pre-owned vehicles are usually sold for a much higher price than a standard used car. But what exactly does this inspection consist of?
It turns out there are currently no legal requirements for selling a certified pre-owned vehicle. Instead, each manufacturer and car dealer has its own requirements, which can range from a 32-point inspection to a 300-point inspection.
To make matters worse, in many instances, the manufacturers set the parameters for the certified pre-owned program and it’s up to the dealer to decide which cars to certify. Some individual dealers have even started using their own certification programs to avoid selling faulty cars under the manufacturer’s certified label. The result is a greater lack of cohesive regulations when determining what gets sold as a certified pre-owned vehicle and what doesn’t.
The numerous lawsuits that have recently been filed involving certified pre-owned vehicles is enough to make car buyers wonder if the certified label really means anything at all. One class action consumer lawsuit filed last year against DaimlerChrysler AG and a Chrysler dealership in California alleges Chrysler’s Five-Star Certified Pre-Owned program was selling used rental cars. Rental cars tend to be sold for a much lower price than certified pre-owned vehicles, because of the much higher rate of wear-and-tear they suffer at the hands of renters.
Another, more recent class action lawsuit filed against Ford Motor Co. and an auto dealership in southern California, alleges misleading advertising and unfair pricing in selling certified pre-owned vehicles that had suffered frame damage.
The prevalence of recent lawsuits like these has brought the issue to the attention of lawmakers. The California Legislature recently introduced a bill that would further specify the qualifications for selling a certified pre-owned vehicle. Among other things, the bill would make it illegal to sell as a certified pre-owned vehicle any car that is known to have prior frame damage and make it illegal to certify a vehicle if the odometer had been tampered with. Lawmakers in Massachusetts have recently introduced a similar bill for auto makers and dealers in their state.
There is still hope for consumers in other states though. Consumer advocates say car buyers should look for certified pre-owned programs that explicitly ban cars with frame or excessive panel damage. Buyers also shouldn’t rely too heavily on the car history that comes with the vehicle, because it can sometimes be incomplete. Consumers should consider certification programs that are backed by factory warranties because auto manufacturers are better equipped to repair damaged vehicles than individual dealerships, and they often come with other benefits, such as 24-hour roadside assistance. However, extended warranties will not protect from frame and other damage from an undisclosed accident that should have been caught in the inspection to certify the car and most manufacturers will then blame the dealer and will not take responsibility for their own certification. The dealer in turn often blames the manufacturer and the result is the consumer is left having purchased a car that is worth far less then what the consumer paid because the consumer relied upon the faulty certification.
Our law firm brings consumer fraud claims against the dealer and the manufacturer to remedy this unfair situation where the car never should have been certified and doesn’t meet the certification specifications.
Our Chicago autofraud and Lemon law attorneys near Rolling Meadows, Palatine, and Barrington bring individual and class actions suits for defective cars with common design defects and auto dealer fraud and other car dealer scams such as selling rebuilt wrecks as certified used cars or misrepresenting a car as being in good condition when it is rebuilt wreck or had the odometer rolled back. Super Lawyers has selected our DuPage, Kane and Cook County auto-fraud, car dealer fraud and lemon law lawyers as among the top 5% in Illinois. We only collect our fee if we win or settle your case. For a free consultation call our Chicago class action lawyers at our toll free number 630-333-0333 or contact us on the web by clicking here.