Dealing with Automobile Dealerships | South Carolina Bar (2022)

Nearly everyone has had an unpleasant experience in buying or maintaining an automobile or knows someone who has. Also, nearly everyone knows of cars that have given years and years of trouble-free service. To protect your legal rights and ensure that your purchase will meet your needs and provide minimal aggravation, you need to take certain steps both before and after the purchase.

As with any major purchase, the watchphrase is "take your time and do it right." Before you go into an automobile dealership, know just what sort of vehicle you need. If you need an all terrain vehicle, a sleek sports car will not serve your purpose, and vice-versa. Do you need the vehicle for family transportation? Is gas mileage a major factor? Consult Consumers Guide and other automobile magazines, which are available at the public library or at a newsstand, to get a basic price range. It never hurts to specifically ask the dealer if the car has ever been wrecked, particularly if it is a used car.

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Comparison Shop

Be prepared to make a few visits to dealerships without committing to a particular deal. You may be overwhelmed with innumerable makes, options, financing deals and so on, so make certain you are comparing apples with apples. Remember that the salesman is in business to make sales, not to have you go home and carefully analyze your options, so be prepared to simply say you are not ready to buy yet. Here are some areas to give particular attention:

Window stickers-Federal law requires that new cars contain window stickers revealing both the estimated gas mileage and the number and costs of factory installed extras.

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Usually the total sticker price will include a built-in profit margin recommended by the manufacturer, so the dealer may be willing to sell for less. It may be possible to have the car ordered with only the extras you want and no more, although this may take longer. If the window sticker has been altered or defaced, the dealer may be violating the law and may be trying to hide information. Beware of stickers that look like the manufacturer's sticker but merely add on items such as undercoating. These are products the dealer wants to sell at a higher cost. If the vehicle does not already contain such options and the dealer indicates that you must buy them, the dealer may be violating state law.

Financing deals -Often dealers advertise low Annual Percentage Rates or low monthly payments to encourage you to buy from that dealership. Make sure you understand the total amount you will pay. Never focus only on monthly payment. Low monthly payments may be no bargain if they are to be paid for a long time. Low interest rates are not bargains if another dealer will sell for a much lower cash price to begin with. Library publications will tell you exactly what the vehicle and various extras cost the dealer. Start with the dealer's cost and bargain up from that price rather than down from the dealer's sticker price. Remember that all extras, including insurance or service contracts, cost money. Also, review your credit report before you start shopping. You can check your report for free at www.annualcreditreport.com.

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Advertisements-If an advertised special sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Advertisements may range from confusing to outright misleading with small print, as well as vacation offers and other "free" offers. Beware of the outlandish offer.

Warranties -Before you make a final decision, be sure you understand what the warranty covers, and more importantly, what it does not cover. On used cars, the law requires that a description of the warranty be disclosed on a window sticker. If the sticker says "as is" the dealer makes no warranty. He is not even guaranteeing you can drive it off of the lot. You may want to readAutomobile Warranties.

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If the salesman promises you anything, make sure he writes it down and it is signed by the dealership. If they will not write it down, the dealership likely will not honor the promise. Any sort of statements about the quality of the vehicle should also be made in writing, such as the car has never been wrecked, the mileage is correct and the car has only had one owner, etc.

By now you should have done your homework. Once you sign a contract, you have an obligation to pay. Although some people think so, there is no three-day right to rescind automobile sales. No such automatic rescission rights exist.

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Many times a defect in a car will not show up until it has been driven for a while. If you believe your car is defective or that certain repairs need to be made, follow this procedure:

  • First, re-examine your warranty terms. The warranty will describe in detail your rights and those of the dealer and manufacturer. Sometimes dealers and manufacturers disagree on who has the responsibility to make a particular repair, and you may need to remind them what the warranty says.
  • Second, give the dealer a chance to correct the problem. Explain what is wrong with the car in as much detail as you can, but do not make assumptions about what is mechanically wrong unless you are sure you understand the problem. Do not act with anger or hostility. Just ask the dealer what he will do to fix the car and when it will be finished.
  • Third, keep a record of everything. This includes repair invoices, labor statements, letters and even old parts when practical. Be able to show all your efforts to get your car repaired and your complaint resolved.
  • Fourth, use the informal dispute resolution procedures that are available. These procedures are a special type of arbitration used to help resolve car problems. Check the phone book to see if your city has a Better Business Bureau to help you resolve complaints. Call the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs. The telephone number is 803-734-4200 in the Columbia area, or 1-800-922-1594 for other parts of the state. These organizations may be able to help resolve your complaint to your satisfaction.
  • Fifth, try a consumer action board. This board is another type of arbitration procedure. Your new car warranty should contain a toll free number for contacting the consumer appeals board to help settle disputes for your particular car. Such a board may be made up of a single arbitrator or a panel of three or more arbitrators. That is, they cannot work for the dealer or manufacturer. If the appeals board rules in your favor the ruling may be binding on the dealer, but if it rules against you it is not binding on you. However, you may be required to use such a board before you can pursue your other legal rights, so read your warranty information carefully.
  • Sixth, if necessary, consult a private attorney. Even if none of the above steps solves your problem, you may still have legal rights that can be used. If the dealership refuses to, or cannot repair the car, the dealer or the manufacturer may have violated the written warranty. The defect may also amount to a breach of the warranties implied under the law. Also, the salesman and the dealership may have defrauded you, or the defect may be caused by a misrepresentation about the condition of the car or an understatement of the car's actual mileage because the odometer has been tampered with. Your attorney can help you understand your legal options, but you will need to discuss the practical side of pursuing your remedies. Sometimes it is not worthwhile to pursue a legal remedy you may have, especially when your recovery will not exceed the expected costs. So, you should discuss this with your attorney.

This information was prepared to give you some general information on the law. It is not intended as legal advice about any particular problem. If you have questions about the law you should consult a lawyer. If you do not know a lawyer, you can call the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The number is 799-7100 in Richland or Lexington Counties, and 1-800-868-2284 from other parts of the state.

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FAQs

Can you return a used car if it has problems? ›

You do not need to allow the supplier to repair or replace the goods, you can demand a refund as soon as you become aware of the defects. The Motor Industry Ombud does not share our view and will recommend that the vehicle be repaired if possible, even if it is contrary to the wording of the CPA.

Does lemon law apply to cars? ›

Lemon Law benefits consumers whom have unintentionally bought a defective or 'lemon' product including used cars, and would like a repair, refund or replacement from the seller.

How long can a dealership hold your car for repair in North Carolina? ›

Regardless of if your car is new or used, the car dealership has 30 days to repair your car as long as the vehicle is under warranty. This 30-day period does not have to be consecutive days.

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

Problems with cars bought from dealers

(For a used car, “satisfactory quality” takes into account the car's age and mileage.) You have a right to reject something faulty and you're entitled to a full refund within 30 days of purchase in most cases. After 30 days, you lose the short-term right to reject the goods.

Does the Consumer Rights Act apply to used cars? ›

The Consumer Rights Act came into force on 1 October 2015 and covers the purchase of goods, digital content and services including new and used cars from official dealers (it doesn't apply to private sales) as well as servicing, repairs and maintenance work.

How many days do I have to return a car? ›

Your rights when buying a used car from a dealership

If you've bought a used motor from a dealership, you have the right to return the car within the first 30 days of purchase.

What is the minimum warranty on a used car? ›

A used-car warranty typically lasts for three, six or 12 months, with older cars often supplied with shorter policies. Cars sold by franchised dealers are often marketed under an 'approved used' scheme and are generally covered by a 12-month warranty.

What does the Cpfta stand for? ›

The Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act 2003 or CPFTA was enacted to protect consumers against unfair practices and to give consumers additional rights in respect of goods that do not conform to contract, and for matters connected therewith.

What is a lemon unit? ›

What is a lemon car? A “lemon” car is a vehicle that is brand new and has defects straight out of the showroom or dealership floor. These are vehicles that are also bought from official and authorized dealerships in the country.

How long is too long for a car to be in the shop? ›

Dealerships should not take more than thirty days to fix your car. They should not be able to take your vehicle from you for more time than is necessary. There are very few circumstances where they do this for a legitimate reason.

How long do you have to return a used car in North Carolina? ›

A contract is binding.

Unless the contract specifically says otherwise, you can't cancel it once you and the dealer have signed it. There is no three-day right to cancel nor any other “cooling off” period.

What happens when a dealership can't fix your car? ›

If the fault can't be fixed, then you can claim a refund or a price reduction if you still want to keep the car. You'll be entitled to a full or partial refund instead of a repair or replacement if: The cost of the repair or replacement is more than the value of the car.

Can you return a used car if you change your mind? ›

But you don't have the legal right to simply change your mind either before or after taking delivery. You have signed a contract and you are expected to fulfil it. A dealer may be prepared to negotiate changes to the contract in order to keep you from walking away.

Can I reject a car after 3 months? ›

Final right to reject – the first six months

If you have had the car for more than 30 days but less than six months, you have to give the selling dealer one attempt to fix the fault before moving to reject the vehicle. If the repair has not fixed the fault, you can reject the vehicle.

Can I return the car I just bought? ›

If you've purchased a new or used car and have second thoughts about it, you usually won't be able to return the car. The dealer who sold you the car is typically not legally obligated to take the car back and issue you a refund or exchange after you've signed the sales contract.

Do car dealers have to give a 3 month warranty? ›

Many used cars are sold with a three-month warranty, some have one year while others may have none. This is entirely legal. Although warranties do not have to be offered Lawgistics recommend car dealers provide customers with something in writing (dealer guarantee, claims procedure or simple terms and conditions).

What period can a consumer reject a faulty vehicle? ›

Broadly speaking there are three time periods for rejection: within the first 30 days of purchase; after 30 days but before six months; and after six months.

What does a 30 day warranty cover on a used car? ›

The warranty must cover essential components, such as the engine, transmission, brakes, steering and most electronics. If the dealer is unable to repair problems that arise in the first 1,000 miles or 30 days, it must offer the customer a refund on their purchase.

How long do I have to change my mind after buying a car? ›

The federal cooling-off rule

You may have heard there's a three-day cooling-off period for some purchases, but in most cases, it doesn't apply to vehicles.

Can I cancel a car finance agreement? ›

No, you usually cannot do this. However, if you made your purchase from a dealership and want to refinance something else, they may accommodate you in the name of good business. Dealers generally aim to have you return one day when you're ready to make your next purchase, after all.

What happens if I'm not happy with my new car? ›

In situations in which there's a clear problem with a new car, the dealer will often fix it under warranty. If no warranty exists, as with many used cars, you can still lobby to have the car fixed. The dealer's incentive to make such repairs is to build goodwill and attract repeat customers.

What happens if car warranty is not honored? ›

When your warranty company refuses to honor the terms of a warranty, you may have a claim for breach of contract. The amount allowed in small claims varies from state to state, but for most products, you can sue in small claims court.

What is the FTC Used Car Rule? ›

The Used Car Rule, formally known as the Used Motor Vehicle Trade Regulation Rule, has been in effect since 1985. It requires car dealers to display a window sticker, known as a Buyers Guide, on the used cars they offer for sale.

Is it worth taking out an extended car warranty? ›

You might want to consider taking out an extended car warranty if: The manufacturers' warranty on your current car is coming to an end and you want to continue to have cover. You don't have much money saved in an emergency fund to be able to pay for any unexpected repairs.

What is considered unfair practice? ›

An act or practice is unfair when it (1) causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers, (2) cannot be reasonably avoided by consumers, and (3) is not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition. Congress codified the three-part unfairness test in 1994.

What are the 4 legal rights of consumers? ›

The worldview on international consumer rights

The right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choose and the right to be heard.

Why is it called lemon law? ›

The kinds of goods lemon laws cover and how far consumers are protected depends on the jurisdiction of the law, but the term "lemon law" originally referred to defective automobiles that were called lemons. Lemon laws are generally used to legally hold manufacturers to reasonable implementation of their warranties.

What cars are considered lemons? ›

In most states, for a car to qualify as a lemon, the car must have a significant defect that is covered by the warranty. It also must have occurred within a specified period, either in time or miles, from when you purchased the vehicle. Also, it must still not be fixed after a reasonable number of attempts to do so.

How Lemon Law benefits car buyers? ›

One of the government's jobs is to protect consumers from fraud and defective products. To protect consumers from defective cars, states have enacted "lemon laws." These laws give car buyers the right to receive a refund or new car, if the new car they purchased has serious defects or mechanical problems.

What is RA 10642 all about? ›

Introduction. Republic Act 10642, or the Lemon Law, endeavors to protect consumers should they purchase new, albeit nonconforming, motor vehicles from manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or retailers (collectively, “Seller”).

What takes the longest to fix on a car? ›

After surveying a variety of testimonials from automotive mechanics, these were widely claimed to be the most difficult car repairs to perform.
...
Most Challenging Car Repairs
  1. Replacing an Engine.
  2. Clutch. ...
  3. Spark Plugs. ...
  4. Transmission. ...

What kind of lawyer do I need to sue a mechanic shop? ›

If a mechanic failed to ensure a vehicle was safe to drive, they should be held accountable for their negligence. If repair issues led to an accident, you need a good car accident lawyer.

How long can a car be in a garage? ›

Studies by the Centers for Disease Control found that CO concentrations reach the Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH) concentration of 1,200 parts per million (ppm) in only 7 minutes when a small 5 horsepower gasoline engine is run in a 10,000 cubic foot room.

Is there a buyers remorse law in NC? ›

As a general rule, a contract is binding as soon as you sign it, and you do not have the right to cancel the contract. However, in some instances, North Carolina law, and sometimes federal law, gives you the right to cancel certain transactions even after you have signed a contract or agreement.

How long do I have to change my mind after buying a car in NC? ›

Typical Process For Cancellation

Notice must be given within three business days -- no later than midnight of the third business day. Business days do not include weekends and holidays, even if a business is open those days. You should expect a full refund of any deposits or fees provided.

Can you return a used car if it has problems? ›

You do not need to allow the supplier to repair or replace the goods, you can demand a refund as soon as you become aware of the defects. The Motor Industry Ombud does not share our view and will recommend that the vehicle be repaired if possible, even if it is contrary to the wording of the CPA.

How do I write a complaint letter to a car dealership? ›

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: I am writing to notify you of the problems I am experiencing with my (INSERT YEAR, MAKE, MODEL, & VIN NUMBER OF YOUR VEHICLE) and to request that you correct this problem within thirty (30) days of your receipt of this letter.

What happens if your engine blows on a financed car? ›

“If your engine blows up on a financed car, you're still on the hook for the payment. Unfortunately, your car insurance won't pay for the damages either, as even full-coverage policies won't cover this.

Can you return a financed car back to the dealer? ›

If you financed a vehicle purchase through a dealership, it's possible that you may be able to return it. But this will depend on the dealership's return policy and rules. Similar to lemon laws, there may be a time limit on how long you have to return a financed car back to the dealer.

Can I return a car if I am not happy with it? ›

Can I return a car? In most instances, you'll have to prove the car does not match the description, is not fit for purpose, or is not of satisfactory quality. Crucially, you'll have to prove this was the case before you bought it.

Is there a lemon law for used cars in Kentucky? ›

Likewise, there is NO used car lemon law. You can file a complaint with this office and with the Kentucky Motor Vehicle Commission in Frankfort. Neither agency, however, can represent you individually nor give you rights that you do not already have (e.g., buying a car “As Is” really means no warranties of any kind).

Is there a 30 day warranty on used cars in Illinois? ›

CHICAGO (CBS) -- People who buy used cars are protected in Illinois by a law that took effect on July 1, 2017. It requires used car dealers who sell cars "as-is", even auctions, to provide a limited powertrain warranty for 15 days or 500 miles, whichever comes first.

What is the minimum warranty on a used car? ›

A used-car warranty typically lasts for three, six or 12 months, with older cars often supplied with shorter policies. Cars sold by franchised dealers are often marketed under an 'approved used' scheme and are generally covered by a 12-month warranty.

How long do I have to change my mind after buying a car? ›

The federal cooling-off rule

You may have heard there's a three-day cooling-off period for some purchases, but in most cases, it doesn't apply to vehicles.

Can I cancel a car finance agreement? ›

No, you usually cannot do this. However, if you made your purchase from a dealership and want to refinance something else, they may accommodate you in the name of good business. Dealers generally aim to have you return one day when you're ready to make your next purchase, after all.

Can I cancel my car finance within 14 days? ›

All agreements come with a 14-day car finance cooling-off period, which means you have a legal right to withdraw from the arrangement or cancel it within the first 14 days of signing the contract. To cancel your credit agreement within the 14-day cooling-off period, you need to contact the lender directly.

Do car dealers have to give a 3 month warranty? ›

Many used cars are sold with a three-month warranty, some have one year while others may have none. This is entirely legal. Although warranties do not have to be offered Lawgistics recommend car dealers provide customers with something in writing (dealer guarantee, claims procedure or simple terms and conditions).

How long can a dealership hold your car for repair in Kentucky? ›

According to tortdeform.com, a dealership can hold your car for about 30 days. After this, you are potentially entitled to: A lemon law case, which you can further understand with research. Financial compensation for the time that has been wasted.

Can I sue a dealership for not giving me a title in Kentucky? ›

It's an illegal practice and an unfair one, and most states have laws that give you a right to sue over unfair business practices. Call us at 657-845-3100 and we can evaluate your claim. There's no cost for the evaluation.

What is the used car Rule? ›

As per the norm, cars that are older than 15 years cannot be used. Though they can be transferred to a new state for re-registration, it is a hassle. Instead, one can scrap the car. In India, car scrapping is not an organised activity like the sale of used cars.

Do used cars usually come with a warranty? ›

Most used cars from a dealership come with a limited 30-day factory warranty that protects a vehicle's most important components, such as the engine, cooling system, and electrical systems. After that, drivers can choose to purchase used car warranty coverage through their dealer or a third-party warranty provider.

What is not covered by powertrain warranty? ›

Anything that does not directly affect the power of your vehicle is not covered by a powertrain warranty. This includes parts such as radios, air conditioners, windows, and add-on features. Additionally, powertrain warranties don't cover normal wear-and-tear parts that are expected to be replaced at regular intervals.

What happens if car warranty is not honored? ›

When your warranty company refuses to honor the terms of a warranty, you may have a claim for breach of contract. The amount allowed in small claims varies from state to state, but for most products, you can sue in small claims court.

Is it worth taking out an extended car warranty? ›

You might want to consider taking out an extended car warranty if: The manufacturers' warranty on your current car is coming to an end and you want to continue to have cover. You don't have much money saved in an emergency fund to be able to pay for any unexpected repairs.

Does warranty cover seized engine? ›

Generally, no. A typical car insurance policy only covers repairs to your vehicle if they're related to some kind of accident. You likely won't be covered if your engine simply has a mechanical failure or other malfunction.

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