Experienced and Knowledgeable Consumer Law Attorneys Answer Frequently Asked Questions about Auto Dealer Fraud in California
Q. What is Lemon Law?
A. Lemon Law is an individual claim against the manufacturer based on repairs done under factory warranty.
Q. Does Lemon Law Apply After 18 Months/18,000 Miles?
A. Yes. Lemon Law applies as long as there are repairs under factory warranty. For example, most of the vehicles come with a basic factory warranty of at least 3 years or 36,000 miles and sometimes a problem with the vehicle doesn’t arise until later on; if the car problems arise during the warranty period -even if it is over 18 months/18,000 miles- you may still have rights under the Lemon Law.
Q. Does Lemon Law Apply to Used Cars?
A. Yes. Lemon Law applies to Used Cars as well, if the manufacturer warranty was still in effect at the time of purchase and if you have repairs under factory warranty.
Q. How do I know if the car I bought has been in an accident?
A. Once a car has been involved in a collision, it may suffer serious structural and mechanical issues that make it less safe to drive in the future, even following a repair. Being involved in a crash can affect a car’s safety as well as its resale value. Some cars are fully repaired after a wreck and may be “good as new” with any weakened structural issues resolved. But in some cases, the insurance company will opt not to repair the car because it is cheaper to “total” the loss and give the insured a check instead of a repaired vehicle. These damaged cars are often then sold as “salvage” or “junk.”
A problem occurs when a junked car is not actually scrapped or salvaged for its parts, but is instead picked up by an unscrupulous used car dealer who merely gives the car a cosmetic makeover without paying attention to serious mechanical or safety problems that may exist. The dealer then sells the car without disclosing the vehicle’s crash history, putting an unreliable or dangerously unsafe car back on the road.
Having a used car inspected by a mechanic of your choosing, or obtaining a vehicle history report from an independent source, can help you determine whether the car has been in an accident and whether repairs were adequately made. If a dealer tries to discourage you from pursuing these options, there may be a problem they don’t want you to know about. If you purchased a used vehicle that you think may be a rebuilt wreck, call our office to discuss what options may be available to you in the event you were the victim of auto dealer fraud.
Q. How do I know the mileage on a used car is accurate?
A. Tampering with a car’s odometer is a violation of the Truth in Mileage Act, which makes odometer fraud a federal crime. In fact, odometer fraud is a felony offense punishable with up to three years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Despite these steep penalties, unscrupulous used car dealers may still violate the law by physically tampering with a car’s odometer (mileage meter). It is also against the law to falsify the mileage in writing on the car’s title or other documentation, or to fail to disclose that the odometer has been changed in any manner. If you suspect that odometer on the “low-mileage” used car you purchased was tampered with, contact the Nita Lemon Law Firm for a consultation. We would be happy to discuss with you the ways in which odometer fraud can be uncovered and to assist you in any claim against the dealer.
Q. Should I go through the dealer to finance the purchase of my car?
A. Many new and used car dealers have their own financing departments, and you may be able to get a better rate through dealer financing than you can at a bank or credit union, depending on your credit score and other factors. However, it is wise to pay close attention to detail whenever financing any major purchase from any source, and in particular when financing a vehicle purchase through the dealer. In many dealerships, the financing department may be an even greater profit center than the sales department. Make sure you understand the terms of your loan or lease, including any variable interest rates or balloon payments and the total cost of your loan, before you sign or take delivery of your vehicle. A common dealer tactic is to allow the purchaser to take delivery of the car before the financing has been finally approved, after which the purchaser is told that the financing didn’t go through and a higher interest rate than originally negotiated will have to be applied. Watch out for tactics like this or other predatory lending practices. Unscrupulous lenders are only all too happy to place you into a loan which they know you cannot afford, or to hide interest rate hikes and balloon payments in the fine print without disclosing the terms to you as required by law.
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