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Motor Vehicle Laws

For many Americans, one of the biggest purchases that they might make is the purchase of a vehicle.  While more Americans tend to utilize the vehicle ride share services, the purchase of a vehicle for the majority of Americans is still very necessary to get them to where they and their families need to go.

This necessity of having a vehicle makes it that much worse when there is something wrong with the vehicle.  Unfortunately, sometimes during the manufacturing process of a new vehicle, there are defects in the vehicle. Sometimes, used vehicles are also sold with defects, or after they have not been properly maintained by the prior owner.

Often dealerships, despite many efforts, cannot fix the defects in a vehicle during its warranty period. Warranty periods can be provided for by law, or in an agreement between the manufacturer or dealer and the consumer.  Unfortunately, not all, but some vehicle manufacturers and used car dealers hide the defects in vehicles from consumers before the vehicle is purchased.  Some manufacturers and used car dealers and repair shops also lie about the quality of the repairs that they provided to a vehicle.

Sometimes dealerships will not disclose to consumers that the vehicle that the consumer purchased was not properly maintained by the prior owner of the vehicle.  Not properly maintaining a vehicle can often void the manufacturer’s warranty for the vehicle. Therefore, a dealership not disclosing that a vehicle has not been properly maintained, such as that it has not been getting its regular oil changes, can be a form of misleading the consumer into thinking that they will be purchasing a vehicle that will have its manufacturer’s warranty intact and free and clear of any possibility of it being void when that is not the case. Often in those situations, when the vehicle has a defect that needs repairing, and a manufacturer authorized dealership examines the vehicle for the manufacturer to determine if the manufacturer should cover the cost of repair(s) for the defect under the warranty period, the manufacturer will deny to cover the cost of repair(s) if it sees that the vehicle has not been properly maintained in the past.  This can be extremely problematic for consumers in situations where the defect needing repairing or replacement is regarding a part like a transmission, or an engine, which can cost thousands of dollars to replace including labor costs.

At times, dealerships have been found to mislead consumers into thinking that they are doing repairs, when they are really trying to keep the vehicle in their physical possession for as long as possible, so that they can exhaust much or all of a consumer’s warranty period under the law.  Sometimes a state’s lemon law will say that a dealer has to cover the cover the cost of repairs at its dealership for a certain period of time.  If a dealership misleads a consumer into leaving the vehicle with the dealership, in an attempt to exhaust most of the lemon law warranty period for the vehicle, that can leave a consumer without warranty protection once that lemon law warranty period has been exhausted if the vehicle is also not covered under a manufacturer’s warranty.

There many other examples of auto fraud that can be committed by a dealership and a manufacturer. Sometimes, a dealership will roll back the odometer of a vehicle, to mislead a consumer into thinking that the vehicle has much less mileage on it than it actually does.  Dealerships and manufacturers have been found before to put vehicles that are under recall(s) and should not be sold, out for the public to buy, which would be illegal; especially if they are not disclosing those details regarding the recall(s) to the consumers purchasing the vehicles pre-purchase. Dealerships have often hidden and/or outright lied about the fact that a vehicle was in one or multiple accidents before the sale of the vehicle to a consumer, going as far as to also not provide the consumer with any vehicle history reports that can let the consumer know whether a vehicle has been in an accident or not.  Consumers often then only learn if a vehicle that they purchased has been in an accident subsequent to their purchase of the vehicle. Sometimes, this occurs when the consumer is looking to sell the vehicle to another dealership or to a private person, or to trade in the vehicle to a dealership towards the purchase of another vehicle, or when they are looking to obtain insurance on the vehicle, or when an auto repair or body work shop alerts them to the damage, and so on.

Dealerships have been found to engage in scams where they tell a consumer that the consumer has been approved for an auto loan, and they then let the consumer drive off the dealership’s lot with the vehicle, and then they call the consumer back in the coming days or weeks, or sometimes a month(s) or so later, to give the consumer a fabricated reason as to why the financing for the alleged auto loan for the vehicle fell through, as a ploy to get the consumer to go back in to the dealership and to agree to pay further unnecessary fees, or to get the vehicle back from the consumer but retain the down payment or other fees that the consumer had previously provided to the dealership; because the consumer will believe that the situation is their fault when it is really not their fault.  These scams are often referred to as Yo-Yo Scams, or as Spot Delivery Scams.

When a consumer purchases a vehicle, some dealerships will try to sell the consumer what they call an extended warranty, when it really is not one and is a vehicle service contract offered by the dealership or a third-party company.  Warranties generally come with the purchase of a vehicle and cover all defects unless expressly stated otherwise.  Vehicle Service Contracts do not always cover everything that the initial warranty that comes with a vehicle would cover.  It is for that reason that calling a vehicle service contract a warranty can be something that could mislead a consumer, and be deemed illegal.  Dealerships sometimes lie to consumers and tell them that they have to purchase a vehicle service contract at the time of the purchase of the vehicle if they want to be able to get a vehicle service contract, as though they cannot purchase it at any other time, which is false.  It can also be an unfair business practice for a dealership to tell a consumer that they need to or should buy a vehicle service contract at the time of the purchase of a vehicle given that if the consumer’s vehicle is already under warranty, then a consumer does not need to buy a vehicle service contract that might cover the same things as their warranty or less.

Finance companies for vehicle loans and vehicle leases have been found to lie and mislead consumers in regard to the total amount that they would be paying over the lifetime of the loan or lease, and to make other inaccurate or false disclosures to consumers in their loan or lease agreements.  Dealerships have been found to be complicit at times in these types of schemes.  These types of schemes can be found to violate not only different federal statutes, but also state statutes depending on the state.

Under a respective state’s laws and federal law, there are many protections that for consumers in regard to the unfair and deceptive business practices by dealerships, manufacturers, vehicle service contract companies, and vehicle loan and vehicle lease finance companies.  These laws can provide consumers with a private right of action through which they can sue these companies for damages. Some of these laws can also provide consumers with the opportunity to recover any possible attorney’s fees and costs that they might have incurred in order to be able to pursue the companies that have committed illegal acts which violate their motor vehicle related rights. Law firms will often file class action lawsuits where appropriate, on behalf of consumers against companies for violations of the law that are similar.  No one’s rights should be violated during the process of them buying a motor vehicle, or during the process of them getting it repaired, whether it is a new or used vehicle, a boat, an RV, a camper, a motorcycle, and so forth. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and properly, and to be given accurate and full disclosures.

A state consumer protection agency in the state that a consumer resides in, the office of the Attorney General in a consumer’s respective state, or an attorney who is licensed to practice law in the state that a consumer resides in, as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and also the Federal Trade Commission, can all help consumers in determining if their rights have been violated under consumer protection statutes, and if they are entitled to monetary damages and other forms of relief.