What rights do I have when buying a car from a dealer?

What rights do I have when buying a car from a dealer?

Purchasing a vehicle from an authorized dealership is often thought to be a safer bet than buying a car from a neighbor or local resident in a private sale.  But is this true?  Let’s take a closer look at the answer to the question, “What rights do I have when buying a car from a dealer?”

California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights

The state of California actually has a Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights that lays out the legal protections you’re entitled to when purchasing a vehicle there.  It describes a dealer’s legal obligations to buyers and publishes names and phone numbers of consumer protection agencies you can contact if you believe you’ve been wronged when purchasing a car or truck.  Here’s a short sample of topics discussed in California’s Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights:

  • Consumer Credit Score Disclosure Dealers must provide a “Notice to Vehicle Credit Applicant” written document separate from the sale or lease document that states each credit score obtained and used by the dealer, as well as other items related to your credit history.
  • Auto Financing Fee Caps If a dealer obtains financing for you, the dealer compensation for the financing is limited to no more than either 2% of the purchase amount for contracts with a 60-month term or greater or 2.5% of the purchase amount for contracts with terms with 60 months or less.
  • Purchase Price Disclosure A dealer must provide a written document with the price of specific things purchased and their effect on installment payments (California Civil Code §2982).
  • Prohibited “Certified” Used Vehicles Used cars advertised as “certified” must meet specific requirements, including making a complete inspection of the vehicle and providing consumers a copy of the inspection report.
  • Used Car Contract Cancellation Option Agreement For a modest fee, consumers who purchase a used car for less than $40,000 must be offered a two-day contract cancellation option agreement, which allows you to return a car and get your money back within 48 hours.
  • Record of Complaint Form If the dealer fails to comply with California’s Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights, you can call 1-800-777-0133 or complete and mail a Record of Complaint Form (INV 172A) to the Department of Motor Vehicles at one of the addresses listed on the form.
  • Verifying a Dealer’s License Status You can search Occupational Licensing Status Information System or contact your local DMV Inspector Office to verify a dealer’s license status.

If your dissatisfaction with a dealer is because you have been sold a defective vehicle, then you might have a legal remedy under California’s Lemon Law (Civ. Code, § 1793.2 et seq.).  A skilled and experienced lemon law attorney at Neale & Fhima can fight to get you a replacement vehicle or compel the dealer to buy back your car or truck.  Call us today at 877-308-2128 for a free consultation about your case.

Neale & Fhima has a 99% success rate in lemon law cases.

Why Choose Us?

Not every lawyer is equally skilled.  Some are just better than others.  The lemon law attorneys at Neale & Fhima are some of the toughest around.  That’s because we have an outstanding track record of success in handling claims for our clients!  Attorney Aaron Fhima has many years  of experience in aggressively representing clients who were wronged by car dealers. He is supported by a legal team that shows compassion and care for each client we serve.  We receive outstanding testimonials from our many satisfied clients.

How We Can Help

At Neale & Fhima, we have handled hundreds of claims filed by clients who bought defective vehicles and had to endure challenging interactions with dealerships and car manufacturers.  Following are the ways we can help.  We will:

  1. Explain your legal rights and your options for a remedy
  2. Gather evidence that supports your claim
  3. Build a case based on California statutes and case law that puts you in a favorable light
  4. Negotiate with dealerships and manufacturers to rectify your vehicle issues.

You have rights when buying a car from a dealership.  You don’t have to get stuck with a defective car or truck.  The California Lemon Law can protect you.  Call Neale & Fhima now to find out about your legal rights.

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Pre-Owned:  What are my rights if I buy a used car from a dealer?

You do have some rights when purchasing a used car in California, though perhaps not as many rights as you would if the vehicle were new.  Generally, you’re protected under the lemon law if your used car comes with one of two types of warranties, including (a) a new car warranty, (b) a certified pre-owned warranty, or (c) a lemon law buyback warranty.  If you purchased a used car “as is” without any kind of warranty, you have fewer legal rights.  Of course, if a dealer committed fraud during the sale — such as dialing back the odometer or knowingly misleading you about damage from a prior collision – then you have rights under consumer fraud laws.

Because used cars always have at least some wear and tear, you might consider purchasing a “contract cancellation option agreement” which gives you two (2) days to return the vehicle after the purchase date if you change your mind.

Contract Cancellation Option Agreement

Consumers who purchase a used car for less than $40,000 must be offered a 2-day contract cancellation option agreement.  Otherwise, there is no “cooling off” period should you change your mind about buying the used vehicle.  The contract cancellation option agreement does not apply to used cars priced at more than $40,000,  private party sales, new cars, motorcycles, or cars and trucks sold for commercial or business use.

Cancellation Options Explained

If you choose to purchase the contract cancellation option agreement, you can expect to pay:

  • $75 for a vehicle costing $5,000 or less.
  • $150 for a vehicle costing $5,001–$10,000.
  • $250 for a vehicle costing $10,001–$30,000.
  • One percent of the purchase price for a vehicle costing $30,001–$39,999.

If you return the vehicle within the 2-day period, the dealer can charge a maximum restocking fee of:

  • $175 for a vehicle costing $5,000 or less.
  • $350 for a vehicle costing $5,001–$10,000.
  • $500 for a vehicle costing $10,001–$39,999.

Vehicle Return Rules

If you purchased this option and return a car or truck to a dealer, you must return the vehicle . . .

  • To the dealer where it was purchased by close of business within two days, or within the time frame allowed by the contract
  • With all original receipts for the sale and contract cancellation option agreement
  • Without exceeding the miles permitted by the contract
  • Free of all liens and encumbrances, other than those created by the sales contract
  • In the same condition as received, except for reasonable wear and tear and defects or mechanical problems which occurred after the buyer took possession of the vehicle.

The dealer must provide you with a full refund of the sales tax, deposit, registration fees, and value of trade-in vehicle (if applicable) that were collected from the buyer.

Do’s and Don’ts When Buying a Car

There are several do’s and don’ts that can go a long way in protecting you when you purchase a new or used vehicle from a dealer.  Take the time to review these recommendations before signing on the dotted line.

What should you do when buying a car from a dealer?

  1. Get everything in writing.  Don’t rely on a dealer’s word.
  2. Take a test drive and research analyst reports about the reliability of the vehicle you’re considering buying.
  3. Comparison shop among several dealers to be sure you get the best price.
  4. Consider taking a second person with you when purchasing a vehicle, because two heads are better than one.  A friend or colleague can help prevent you from making a compulsive decision.  There’s power in numbers, and you’ll appear more formidable when negotiating with a sales rep.
  5. If buying a used vehicle, have your own mechanic check it out before buying, review the vehicle’s CarFax report to determine if it has been in an accident, and consider purchasing a two-day contract cancellation option agreement.

What should you not do when buying a car from a dealer?

  1. Don’t assume that a dealer has your best interests at heart, even if they’re friendly and competent.  Their job is to make as much money as possible on every sale.
  2. Be cautious about buying a used vehicle “as is,” without any type of warranty.  “As is” transactions offer you almost no protection should a vehicle turn out to be defective.
  3. Don’t get caught up in “fear of missing out (FOMO)” and allow the dealer to talk you into spending more than you had in mind when you walked into the dealership.  There are always other cars on other dealers’ lots.

More Information for Consumers

California is one of the most consumer friendly states in the nation.  State agencies abound to protect consumers from would-be schemers and fraudulent hucksters.  For assistance in filing a consumer complaint after buying a car, contact:

To register a complaint with your local Better Business Bureau (BBB) regarding a car dealership in your area, Google the website of your area BBB to find an online form or phone number.  If you believe you qualify for a lemon law claim against a dealer and manufacturer, contact a skilled lemon law lawyer at Neale & Fhima and we’ll fight for a legal remedy.

Take Action Now

Statute of Limitations on a Lemon Law Claim

If you believe you have a lemon law claim, take action promptly.  The statute of limitations for filing in California is four (4) years from the date a consumer knew or should have known that the vehicle was a lemon. This doesn’t mean that if you have had your vehicle for more than 4 years, you cannot bring a lemon law claim. Our lawyers at Neale & Fhima have successfully “lemoned” vehicles that are more than 10 years old. If you have purchased or leased a lemon, you’ll want to start the buyback process as soon as possible.

Contact Neale & Fhima Today

Some lemon law cases are harder to win than others.  The skill of your attorney can make or break your case.  At Neale & Fhima, we have a 99% success rate in lemon law cases.  Whether you pursue a buyback or choose a replacement vehicle, we can explain your legal options and negotiate aggressively on your behalf.  Our attorney’s fees are paid by the manufacturer as part of a settlement agreement, so what have you got to lose?  Call us today at 877-308-2128 to get started on your lemon law claim.  The phone call is free.

Attorney Aaron Fhima

Attorney Aaron Fhima is a trial attorney who has secured numerous settlements and verdicts against large corporations and some of the largest auto manufacturers in the world. Representing consumers and injury victims throughout the state of California, Aaron’s practice areas include personal injury, and lemon law litigation. Aaron has a long record of success taking on large defense firms; and he doesn’t hesitate to take cases to trial when necessary to enforce his clients’ rights.