Having Used Car Problems? Read On.

Is there a way to get out of a bad car deal and not having to damage my credit?

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Bill's Answer: Answered by Mark Cappel

Frequently consumers who have purchased a used car soon realize that the vehicle’s mechanical condition is not as impeccable as the dealer led them to believe. Unfortunately, you usually cannot return the vehicle and expect to receive a refund of the purchase price.

Generally speaking, automobile purchase agreements do not include a “cooling-off” or return period, so the dealership will likely not allow you to return the vehicle for a refund your money. However, since you are experiencing mechanical problems with the vehicle, federal and state law may provide you some protection. The first thing you should do, if you have not already done so, is contact the dealership that sold you the vehicle, to explain the problems you are experiencing and to ask what the dealership will do to repair the vehicle. Since you purchased the vehicle 30 days ago, hopefully the car is still under some sort of warranty, even if it is only a short-term warranty provided by the dealership. If the car is still under warranty, the dealership should repair it at little or no cost to you. If the dealership refuses to repair the vehicle despite the warranty, or if the vehicle is not covered by a warranty, you should research your state’s “lemon law” to find what recourse is available to you. Lemon laws are a type of state law designed to prevent consumers from being stuck with a vehicle with persistent problems.

Most state lemon laws deal with vehicles that are still under manufacturer warranty. However, many states also include a provision to protect consumers who have purchased used vehicles. Visit CarLemon.com to find if your state’s lemon law applies to used vehicles, and if so, what protections it provides.

If you find that your purchase is covered by your state’s lemon law, but the dealership continues to refuse to repair or replace the vehicle, you should contact your state Attorney General’s consumer protection division to discuss the options available to you. You may also want to consult with an attorney to discuss your legal rights and the legal recourse available to you. Even if your state’s lemon law does not apply to used vehicles, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit for fraud if the dealership misrepresented mechanical condition of the vehicle. Again, you should consult with an attorney familiar with consumer protection law to discuss the legal options available to you.

I wish you the best of luck in resolving the issues you are experiencing with your vehicle.

I hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.




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Comments (55)

Lorrain C.
Ottawa, KS  |  March 27, 2014
My son bought a 2007 ford focus, March 11,2014. He took it to Midas for an oil change, they said it was leaking oil. the serptine belt was wore out. He brought it to my mechanic and he said it was leaking oil bad. so bad that he couldn't tell where it was coming from. The dealership replaced the power steering pump and it wasn't new. Plus Midas said the car had a torn boot. There is a 30 day warranty, can we take it back.
March 28, 2014
Lorrain: Consult with a lawyer in your state who has consumer law experience to learn what, if any, recourse you have. In the meantime, you mentioned a 30-day warranty. I suggest you take advantage of that and return the vehicle to the dealer immediately to repair the defects you mentioned.

Other readers: Lorrain's experience is a cautionary tale of what happens when you do not hire a mechanic to inspect a vehicle before you buy it. A competent mechanic would have spotted the worn belt, leaking oil, bad steering pump, and torn CV boot in minutes, and probably would have advised Lorrain to not accept delivery of the vehicle until these items were repaired.
Jessica S.
Washington, KS  |  March 19, 2014
I purchased a 04 Kia Optima from a small auto dealer. I was told all vehicles get serviced before going on the lot. My husband checked the fluids before leaving the lot and noticed there was almost no oil in the car so we had get that plus a week later CV shaft axle went out had to pay half the repair and having more mechanical issues and seen Kia Optmia 01-04 has recalls. I was later told the car got inspected and repaired by auto dealer mechanics, but he said they don't release that information to the buyer. I feel like I was lied to and there's some type of fraud there but I need advice.
March 20, 2014
Consult with a lawyer in your state who has consumer law experience. He or she will read the purchase contract you signed, review the repairs you've paid for, and discuss your options.
Khali J.
Powder Springs, GA  |  February 22, 2014
I bought a Nissan dec 14, 2103 in Cobb county. When I bought the car I asked for the emissions test. The dealer took the the car that day to get one. The next day I was taking the car to have the oil changed and realized it was for a nissan sentra. I then had the emissions done again. It failed. I went back to the dealer and told him I wanted my money back it did not pass the emissions test. He told me no, I stopped the check for the remainder of the money that I gave him he then agreed to repair the car. I took it to his mechanic on the 20th of Dec to have repairs and then took it to have the emissions test done it passed. As soon as I left the parking lot the ses light came back on it was the same problem they claimed to have fixed. I went back to the dealer again & said I wanted my money back since I paid him thinking he would do what he said. He told me no it was my problem, and all I needed was an ignition coil.I paid 1,000 to have the ignitions coils and engine valve replaced. The problem still persisted. I took it to the nissan dealer and found out that I need a new engine. It is now Feb. I have been spending money on this car ever since I bought it can I take the dealer to court to get my money back for the car and repairs since it technically was sold without a valid emissions test.
February 26, 2014
Consult with a lawyer in your state who has consumer law experience. He or she will be able to answer your question about cancelling the contact due to the lack of or invalidity of the emissions test.
Maria S.
Amsterdam, NY  |  January 28, 2014
I bought a used 2004 honda civic in april 2013, from a small dealer in NY with a 4 month warranty. Now the first thing is that when i looked up the car online it said the car had 94,000 miles on it. I did a Car fax on the vehicle and it looked a little weird to me because on the car fax it said the car was at 194,000 miles. But I was still interested, and went to go test drive it anyway. I loved the car everything looked okay to me. Made a guy an offer and he sold me the car. Then I noticed on the title the car mileage was marked down as 96,000 miles, so 3 different odometer readings for this car. At the time i thought it was a miss type. A few months later I was having transmission problems to where the car wasn't even shifting or moving. I check under my hood and was low on transmission fluid, So I put some in and called the dealer I got the car fixed because it was still under warranty and they said the problem was the dipstick was loose so I was losing fluid. They fixed the problem by replacing the dipstick and flushing out the transmission fluid and filled it back up. It was good, until I noticed sometimes my car would have trouble shifting here and there. Then at the end of November 2013 my check engine light came on. I thought it was for something minor, so I waited till now January 2014 and finally had it checked out. I had way too much transmission fluid in there, and apparently I need to replace the entire transmission. what should i do?
February 07, 2014
I assume you're asking if you have any recourse against the dealer for selling you a car with a rolled-back odometer. You mentioned New York. Consult with a New York lawyer who has consumer law experience to learn if you have a cause of action against the dealer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact one of the many New York pro bono programs to get no-cost legal advice.
Susan Q.
Greendale, IN  |  December 29, 2013
We bought a 1988 Chevy truck from a car lot and before buying it we were concerned about the oil pressure gauge was jumping up and down so we asked about it the dealer said it was only because it was a old truck and was normal! So we asked for a warranty! They gave us a ninety day warranty!! Three weeks later we took it to a mechanic to have it checked because it was drinking oil!! They said motor was shot and needed a new one! We called the car lot they looked it over said they were going to put a motor in it!! They did telling us it would cost us 250.00 deductible!! I asked several times for the rental car that was covered on the warranty but he avoided the question!! Two weeks later they said motor was in and we could pick up truck!! In this time I started recording all conversations ! I had asked him about the new motor and how many miles it had on it!! He said 140,000 and it would have a 6 month warranty! When I got there he said he had to do more work on it so it would be 500.00 I refused and he stated he didn't turn it into warranty place because it would of taken much longer!! After lots of arguing I finally agreed to give him 350.00 in which he agreed only because it was holidays and he's a good man!! Got home w truck and oil was pouring out of motor! I did a search on the vin for motor and found it has 279,000 miles on it!! I have recorded him saying it only has 140,000 isn't it illegal for them to lie about mileage!! It's been one lie after another!
December 30, 2013
It's pretty clear someone rolled-back the odometer on the truck, which is illegal in all states. Contact your state attorney general's office to learn what steps you need to take to rescind this purchase.

I realize what I am about to write will not be helpful to you now, but for the benefit of other readers, always have a mechanic of your choosing inspect a used vehicle before buying. Run a Carfax report to learn if it's a flood vehicle, on a salvage title, or had its odometer tampered with. The more you know about a vehicle before you buy it, the less likely you will be surprised later.
Jay S.
Queens, NY  |  May 17, 2013
I purchased my car back in 2011. It's an Audi a6 ran beautiful up until May 2013. The engine light kept coming on so I called the dealer to see if it is still under warranty. It was. So I brought to them to fix 3 times. Every time it was something new. Something else was damaged. The 3 times I brought it to them for the same problem. What can I do legally?
May 23, 2013
Consult with a lawyer with consumer rights experience to learn if your state has a lemon law, and if so, whether your vehicle qualifies.
Danny M.
Munster, IN  |  April 02, 2013
I purchased a vehicle from a dealership I was under the impression that I had paid them in full for the down-payment, now 8 months later I have taken my truck in for repair. The repair company says that the dealer is willing to pay for the repair since they did not tell us that the wiring system was not a part of the extended warranty, but they will not release my truck to me until I pay them the $285.00 that I was not aware that I still owe them since there has been no communication in 8 months about a balance due. Can they legally withhold my truck from me?
April 02, 2013
I can't give you legal advice, as only a lawyer can, but I will share some thoughts with you.

If I understand you correctly, it appears a third-party repair shop seized your vehicle on behalf of a dealership that claims you are in default on a loan. If that's what happened here, the answer to your question is "No, the third party has no claim to your vehicle and may not place a mechanics lien on your vehicle and withhold it from you." Consult with a lawyer in your state who has consumer law experience to learn more about your rights, and how to retrieve the vehicle from the repair shop.
Kendra B.
El Cajon, CA  |  March 02, 2013
My husband and I bought a used 2003 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer Edition with 92,000 miles from El Cajon Mitsubishi in February 2013. We took it for a test drive and the salesman was telling us it was a good car had nothing wrong with it and very low mileage. The car has a warranty on it from the dealership. We liked it and it ran beautiful so we decided to get it. We payed the down payment and signed the contract. As we were driving it off the lot at night my husband noticed the interior lights would not go off and the information screen was saying door was ajar when all doors were closed. We asked them to look at it and they said it was just a sensor and they would replace it, all we had to do was make an appointment with the service department. The next day I was taking my kids to school and the passenger window was making a loud noise and would not go down properly or go back up without someone pulling on it. We talked to the dealership and made an appointment with the service department. However, we took it in on our appointment day and when we picked it up they said they could not replace the sensor because Ford has to do it and it would cost us $60 for a new one. They said the window was off the track and is why it was acting the way it was and that we would have to take it to Ford to fix that as well and it would cost us around $350. These are problems that should have been fixed before the car was put on the lot for sale but they were not. The car is also saying low oil pressure all the time and that the engine needs to be serviced. We were assured the car was in proper working order before we bought it and now we see we were lied to about the condition of the care. I don't want to be responsible for making payments on a car that has problems with it when there should have been none. What are my options?? Can I return it for a full refund?? Is the dealership responsible for fixing these problems??
March 02, 2013
Review the warranty the dealership provided to learn what items the dealership promised to fix. The document you signed plus the salesman's promises determine what costs you or the dealership will bear in repairing the vehicle. If the dealership is now backpedaling on the promises it made in its warranty, then consult with a lawyer who has consumer law experience to learn your rights, including whether you can return the car.

For the benefit of other readers, Kendra's tale illustrates why it is a good idea to let a mechanic you hire inspect a vehicle before purchase.
James K.
October 06, 2012
I purchased a car from dealer with a 90 day warranty. The car lost power on the freeway, within the 90 days. I called dealer and I paid to tow it in. One month later, after they fixed it, the car broke down again. They had it towed in and did the same repair. 2 weeks later, the same problem. Twice this car lost power on the freeway, My wife had to avoid oncoming cars trying not to have a accident. The car lost power on me, driving past a school with kids out crossing the street. Every time this happens and is a safety issue, we have told them each time this has happened when we have taken the GMC back.
October 06, 2012
Check with your state's office of Consumer Protection, usually part of the State Attorney General's office, to find out your rights. The fact that the problem initially occurred during the time you were covered by the warranty is helpful to you, in terms of getting a long-term solution worked out.
Kaycee N.
Central Point, OR  |  April 12, 2012
I bought a car in 2012 in Oregon, hasn't even been a month. The car broke down after 5 days of driving it. There is no warranty and it was an as is purchase but the seller i talked to said that he has "driven the car" that it "is a great car" and that "it runs great." We took it for a test drive and there was nothing wrong with it, it ran great. But 5 days later it stalled when my husband was driving home for work. It went from 45 to 0 in 2 seconds, didn't sputter, didn't give any sign, just died. It hurt my husband's shoulder, and had my 4-month-old been in the car she could have been seriously injured. Is there any way i can legally make them pay for repairs? I know Oregon's Lemon law doesn't cover used cars without warranties, but i read something about them having to make sure it passes emissions for 30 days?
April 12, 2012
Consult with an Oregon lawyer who has experience in litigating consumer law. Tiny details matter in cases like these. The statements you shared may create an implied warranty, but it depends on the context of the conversation, and whether any of these statements were in response to your questions about the vehicle's reliability.

For the benefit of other readers, Kaycee's message shows why it is important for used-car buyers to take a vehicle to a trusted mechanic for a general inspection before buying. I have no idea what could be wrong with Kaycee's vehicle, and it is possible even the most detailed inspection would not have revealed the sudden deceleration issue. But then again, maybe it would have. I am also a big believer in Carfax, which shows the vehicle's history and clues to its reliability.
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