Our law firm helps Chicago area consumers who are victims of auto and RV fraud or who purchased vechicles that are lemons to pursue lawsuits to regain their lost investment. For more information about our Nationwide Consumer Rights lawyers click here.
There are many practical ways to protect yourself from auto and RV fraud or from purchasing a lemon vechicle.
The National Association of Consumer Advocates provides the following well thought out advice on how to avoid auto fraud:
Purchasing a new or used automobile is a major investment for the average American today. Not only is there the initial cost of the automobile itself to consider. In a commuter society, reliable transportation is a key factor to financial prosperity for most Americans. Many of us depend on our cars to get to the places where we can earn more money, so that we can not only pay off the car loan, but also the car insurance, the mortgage, the credit card, and the household bills. Having a dependable vehicle is as central as ever to the way most Americans earn their daily bread.
The last thing an auto buyer should expect after buying a new or used car are problems that result from auto fraud, which occurs when the seller of the vehicle either fails to disclose the complete history of the car you are buying, or alters or destroys evidence pertaining to any part of the vehicle’s age, condition or inherent or acquired defects. Auto fraud can come in a variety of forms when purchasing a used car. Odometer rollbacks, salvage or flood vehicles, yo-yo sales, credit consolidation sales, and resale of damaged vehicles without full disclosure are all examples of auto fraud.
SIX QUICK STEPS TO AVOID AUTO FRAUD:
Tip 1: Make friends with a mechanic
A mechanic can be your best friend when it comes time to purchase a car. More than anybody else, a good and experienced mechanic can tell you the specific problems to watch out for when buying a particular brand or model of a car, and can also tell you which cars are relatively hassle-free. Based on what type of car you are looking for, your needs for the car could widely vary. Once you know the type of vehicle you want, twenty minutes talking to a friendly mechanic can help you determine the best manufacturer.
Tip 2: Arrange for financing through your bank or credit union
Whenever possible, you’ll want to seek financing approval from your bank or credit union before shopping for your car. Banks almost always offer a substantially lower rate than what a used car dealership will offer. If you have a prior lending history with your bank and are in good standing, you can usually receive up to 90 per cent financing. Car dealerships make huge profits by providing their own financing to auto buyers, so they want you to borrow from them. By securing an auto loan through your bank for an amount you can afford before purchasing a car, you’ll find yourself in far more control when negotiating a final price.
Tip 3: Ask for a copy of the warranty, take it home and read it
Many used car dealers are notorious for providing “dealer warranties.” While the big print in these documents promises comprehensive coverage and prompt service for the vehicle you buy, it is the small print that dealers refer to when something actually does go wrong with your car. The phrase “wear and tear items not included” is a common one in dealer warranties, and one you will hear over and over again if your car begins to have problems.
Remember that car dealers are always trying to increase the final sales cost of your car through add-ons and features. A dealer warranty is often pitched as a vital add-on by the car salesperson, but unfortunately, when push comes to shove the true value of the warranty is sometimes questionable. Make sure you clarify exactly what is covered with the car salesman. If your concerns are not explicitly answered in the warranty, ask for a signed, authorized amendment from the dealer with the correct wording that you are seeking.
Tip 4: If necessary, amend the warranty to protect yourself from Lemon fraud
After you have satisfied yourself that you are getting adequate repair and maintenance coverage for the price of your warranty, you’ll want to make sure the following statements are somewhere on the warranty:
“THIS CAR HAS NOT BEEN RETURNED TO A DEALER OR MANUFACTURER BECAUSE OF LEMON LAW DEFECTS OR COMPLAINTS.”
“THIS CAR HAS BEEN INSPECTED FOR COLLISION DAMAGE AND COLLISION REPAIRS AND HAS BEEN FOUND TO BE FREE OF COLLISION DAMAGE OR REPAIRS.”
If these statements aren’t on the warranty, insist that they be added, acknowledged and signed by an authorized representative of the dealership.
Tip 5: Take it for a long spin
Leave a copy of your driver’s license with the dealer and take the car out for a while. Drive the car in multiple road conditions: city streets with heavy traffic, highways with open spaces, straight and curvy roads, and hills. Test the brakes, steering, features, air conditioning and gauges. If you can arrange it, pick up your new friend the mechanic and bring his highly trained ear along for the ride. Let him take a look under the hood. If he likes what he sees, and you have faith in his judgment, then you are probably in good shape.
Tip 6: Don’t be in a rush
Above all else, don’t let a car salesman rush or cajole you into a one-day, stop and shop sale. Avoid impulse buying. It is to the salesman’s benefit, and only his benefit, if the sale happens quickly. It is to your benefit to do as much research as possible to insure you purchase a safe and reliable vehicle. You should be prepared to spend at least two weeks doing adequate research before making a used car purchase.
State lemon laws have been created to protect consumers when they have purchased a defective vehicle. Typically, a lemon law requires a manufacturer to provide a refund or replacement for a defective new vehicle that is not repaired within a reasonable number of attempts. Most such laws provide for refund or replacement when a substantial defect cannot be fixed in 4 tries, a safety defect within 2 tries or the auto is out of service for 30 days, within the first 12-18,000 miles/12-24 months.
Beyond state lemon laws, a consumer has the right to a refund or replacement of a lemon vehicle under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). The main difference is the UCC law does not define a lemon so it’s up to a court to decide if an auto company must give you a refund or or a new car. The federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act provides for the award of attorney fees from the manufacturer if you have to sue to return a lemon under the UCC. Many state lemon laws also provide for attorney fees.
Practical Tips for Using Lemon Laws
Success in using state lemon laws depends upon keeping good records and providing the right notice to your vehicle’s manufacturer:
Repair Record: Keep close track of the number of repair attempts and the time the car is out of service. Submit a written, dated list of problems to the dealer each time the car is in for repairs (keep a copy). List the symptoms your car has; for example, “stalling” instead of “check carburetor.” This establishes a record of what problem was addressed even though the dealer may work on different parts in attempting to fix the problem. Insist on getting a copy of the repair order that lists the symptoms described, repairs done, any parts replaced, and the time the car was in the repair shop.
Notice Required: You must follow your state’s notice requirement before you are entitled to a refund or replacement. Where written notice to the manufacturer is required, send a certified, return receipt letter stating your vehicle’s need for repair to the manufacturer’s consumer relations office and to the nearest zone/regional office listed in your owner’s manual or warranty booklet. Make sure you send this notice by the time you take the car in for the repair attempt that qualifies it as a lemon. Give the dealer a copy of this letter when you deliver the car for repair; keep a copy.
Your Refund Or Replacement: After you believe your vehicle qualifies as a lemon and you have followed the above steps, ask the manufacturer for a refund or replacement. You may have to pay a small offset for use of the car but no more than for the mileage up until the first repair attempt which qualified you for the lemon law. If the manufacturer has a valid arbitration program that is incorporated into your written warranty, you may be required to go through arbitration to get your refund or replacement.