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Portrait of stressed young man calling on cellphone for service his breakdown car

Understanding Your Rights as a Car Buyer

Meet Dave…who had been making his way through dealerships in Cincinnati to find the perfect new vehicle. Dave had been overwhelmed, but finally signed on the dotted line and drove off in, what he thought, was the right fit. And that’s when the headaches started. Unfortunately for Dave, he was fairly ignorant regarding the steps he could take to remedy his intense dissatisfaction.

Any purchase of a vehicle, be it new, used (or even a lease) can be a daunting experience. Second-only to the purchase of a home, it represents a major investment of time, resources and energy…and that’s before you even get to the dealership (just ask Dave).

Consider the inevitable hours of research required to make the most informed choice in terms of make, model and trim level. Factor in the process of confirming the ideal financing solution to fit the unique demands of your lifestyle and budget. Then, of course, there’s the time spent at the dealership itself, test-driving and crunching numbers, all before many of you leave with the knowledge that you’ve signed on for up to 5+ years of monthly payments.

We’re not here to paint the process in a negative light, but let’s be honest…there are far fewer examples of people being enthusiastic about buying a car than there are dreading all that it entails. Granted, some dissatisfied car-buyers only have themselves to blame. Perhaps they’ve overextended themselves in terms of their vehicle choice. Maybe they’ve allowed themselves to fall victim to a predatory car loan. Or they might have simply entered into a contract that they didn’t understand. But there are expectations of integrity and ethics placed upon the dealerships, as well; expectations that, if failed to be met, make formal action appropriate. That said, it’s important to understand the correct actions one should take if they have a legitimate claim against a dealership. Here are just a few.

To report a deceptive or unethical advertisement and/or dealership, contact:

To report issues related to your financing agreement, contact:

To report an issue with your vehicle warranty (private sales may be exempt), contact:

To report a safety-related issue, contact:

And remember, each state has a Lemon Law in place to protect your purchase. Qualifying conditions will differ depending on state and the nature of the complaint, but they are worth exploring if you have purchased a vehicle rife with issues. Here are some conditions to keep in mind…

  • Are the issues substantial (ie: related to major operating systems, safety etc.)?
  • Within what timeframe and mileage driven did the issues occur?
  • Have you made reasonable attempts at repair?
  • How much time has the vehicle spent in the possession of the mechanic?

Compile this information and proceed as advised by your state authorities, and don’t hesitate to contact the Better Business Bureau (http://www.bbb.org/autoline) to make a valid complaint public.

As we said at the beginning, the purchase of a vehicle is a major one. As such, it’s not unreasonable to expect trouble-free ownership, at least initially. While we encourage you to pursue the vehicle of your dreams and hope that you’ll perform all the necessary due diligence to ensure your satisfaction, remember your rights as a consumer. Only by doing so, can you protect yourself in the long-run, ensuring the greatest chance of satisfaction. Only by doing so, can you ensure a better end result than Dave got.

In fact, here’s a breakdown of what your expectations might be (as presented by the Lemon Law Group)

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