Consumer Protection: Tips for Buying a New Car

Buying a used car can be a stressful experience; however, there are some things you should do before purchasing a used vehicle to ensure you do not increase your stress later on.  First, check the history of the vehicle by employing the recommendations below:

  1. Check for safety recalls. Here’s where to check, on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website. Just enter in the VIN. If not repaired, don’t buy;
  2. Check Carfax and Autocheck. While the information does not purport to be complete, these sites are an additional tool. If major damage /frame damage / deployed air bags/odometer discrepancy show up, don’t buy;
  3. Get the car thoroughly inspected by a qualified independent auto tech and body shop of your own choosing, before agreeing to anything;
  4. Take the car for a test drive before agreeing to anything; and
  5. Make sure you understand the documents you are signing.  What is the total cost of the car?  What are the monthly payments and what are the extra charges by the dealer?  Have you shopped around for the best price and terms?

You will regret it if you do not take these minimal steps!!!

Second, know what your rights are regarding purchasing a used vehicle.  Before a used car dealer may sell a car with 75,000 miles or more, the dealer must conduct a reasonably thorough inspection of the vehicle’s engine and “drivetrain”. The dealer must disclose to you in writing any defects which were discovered or should have been discovered during the inspection. The “drivetrain” of the vehicle includes the transmission, drive shaft, torque converter, differential, universal joint, constant velocity joint, and all other systems components that transfer power from the engine to the wheels.  If the dealer does not inspect and disclose defects of a vehicle with an odometer reading exceeding 75,000 miles it is safest not to buy. You may report the dealer’s failure to the Enforcement Division of the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety. DMV has the power to fine the dealer up to $2,500 and to make the dealer provide warranties on all future car sales after three substantiated complaints.

The dealer also has a general common law duty to exercise reasonable care in inspecting vehicles offered for sale for the purpose of detecting defects that would make the vehicles dangerous. If you discover that you were sold an unsafe rebuilt wreck which the dealer did not disclose to you, contact an attorney.

The dealer would also violate the law if it represented to you that the car was of a particular quality if the dealer knows, or should have known, that it was of another quality. Also, a dealer cannot make a false representation in a car sale or lease transaction.  If you suffer any damages as a result of the dealer’s failure to inspect and/or disclose defects you may sue as a victim of consumer fraud to recover your damages. If your claim is less than $10,000, you may file a Small Claims action.  Otherwise, I would again recommend contacting an attorney.  The Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada provides free classes in representing yourself in Small Claims court, or self-help packets upon request.

Last, to file a complaint, there are various entities you can call. Those entities are Better Business Bureau, Consumer Protection Division and DMV Compliance & Enforcement.

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