Whitney Hughes, Director of the Allegheny County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, frequently appears on the “Legal Briefs” segment of Pittsburgh Today Live on KDKA-TV. Following is a transcript from a KDKA appearance.
Maybe it’s the nice weather, or the fact that many people see a new car as a great graduation gift, but we’re hearing more and more from people who have recently purchased a new or used car. Unfortunately, along with the excitement this purchase can bring, there are horror stories as well.
Below are some common misconceptions and some helpful tips if your car-buying experience has gone wrong.
The Lemon Law
It ONLY applies to new vehicles which are for family and personal use – USED CARS ARE NOT COVERED BY THE LEMON LAW
The car manufacturer has to (at no cost to you) repair or correct any defect which substantially impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle and which occurs within one year after delivery, or 12,000 miles of use, or the term of the manufacturers express warranty, whichever comes first. If the problem hasn’t or can’t be fixed after the third try, or if you are without your car for a total of 30 calendar days for repair, usually you may be able to get a replacement vehicle or the refund of what you have paid minus a small amount.
Motorcycles, off road vehicles and motor homes are NOT covered.
We all know it’s out there and we’ve heard that it can be a consumer’s best friend- giving you protection if the car you bought is truly a clunker. But there are some things to be aware of:
Buying a Car "AS-IS"
DO NOT DO THIS!
While there are some times when you may find an absolute gem that will last for years, chances are you won’t. Legally speaking, “As-Is” means with all faults. This means that you have absolutely no recourse if you drive the car off the lot and something goes wrong.
The car does have to be able to be driven on the road and must be able to pass inspection unless the seller discloses a defect.
Keep in mind though, that if you are able to take the car for a test drive and don’t, or look at the car and see that there is NOT a valid inspection sticker and you buy the car anyway- the problem now becomes yours.
Warranties and Service Polices
Many times a car will come with a warranty, either a manufacturer’s warranty on a new(er) car or an extended warranty on a used car. For most warranties there is a list of items that will or will not be covered as well as a time or mileage limit. Keep in mind that with respect to the time/mileage limit it will be whichever comes first – if the car says 36 months or 36,000 miles and you have the car for a month and put 36,001 miles on it - the warranty has ended.
If there is a problem with the car and you take it to the dealer/seller for repairs you must ALWAYS check the terms of your warranty first to determine your coverage and your costs. As long as the dealer/seller will make the repairs as set out in the warranty and is complying with the terms they are fulfilling their legal obligation.
Service policies are very similar to extended warranties in that you will pay an amount to ensure that any repairs that may arise within a given time frame will be covered at little or no cost to you. Again, pay close attention to the terms of the coverage and the limitations as well.
Let’s face it- not many of us are able to go in and pay cash for a car. Most times we will be able to make a small down-payment, or have a vehicle we want to trade in and will then finance the rest. The amount you are able to finance, and the interest rate you pay will depend on your credit history and your credit score. The more of a financial risk you pose, the higher your interest rate will be. READ ALL PAPERWORK CAREFULLY! Make sure you really know how much you are paying for the vehicle after all the fees and interest is added.
Check the car over carefully and take it for a test drive. If there is some reason you can’t- walk away.
Have a mechanic check the car before you purchase it.
Check the value for the car and see how much it is worth. Also check the value of your trade-in as well.
Check reviews of the car on-line to see what other owners are saying.
Beware of co-signing for someone to finance a car. Co-signing means that there is a significant chance that the other person will NOT pay for the car and the co-signer is stuck with the debt. This does NOT guarantee that if the borrower stops paying that you can just take over the payments and get the car.
Use common sense - if a salesman is using high pressure or something sounds or looks too good to be true... walk away.
The Allegheny County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service can help you find an attorney equipped to handle this specific type of case. To speak with an attorney or for more information, call 412-261-5555 or click here.