Shady car dealers are becoming quite adept at sneaking things into purchase documents. To the point where car buyers today have no idea that they signed away many of their legal rights – until it is too late. Here are the top five things most car buyers miss in the paperwork they sign when buying a car.
Many dealers are now slipping binding arbitration clauses into their purchase agreements. Do you later think that the dealer defrauded you? If so, you might not be able to sue them. You may have to file an arbitration claim with an organization hand-picked in advance by the car dealer. Guess whose side they are on?
Shortened Statute of Limitations
Many car dealers are now taking advantage of a little known section of the Uniform Commercial Code that allows them to shorten the statute of limitations on any claims against them to one year. If you found out later that you had somehow been ripped off you’d better get to an attorney before that one year runs out if this clause was hidden in your paperwork. Without this clause, you’d have four years in most states.
Statements Made by Salespeople Are Unenforceable
Almost every purchase agreement used by car dealers today contains language specifying that verbal and oral statements of the dealer are meaningless unless they are reduced to writing and added to the purchase agreement. So EVERYTHING the salesperson told you – EVERYTHING – can be ignored. After all, the purchase agreement you sign when you agree to buy the car has you acknowledging that you agree with this.
Every used car in the US is sold with the “Buyer’s Guide” specifying if the vehicle is being sold with a warranty or “As Is.” In states that allow As Is sales (which is most states) most used cars sold by dealers are sold as is. And the Buyer’s Guide has a whole list of things on its reverse that could be wrong with the car you are buying. Frame cracks? Engine block cracks? Transmission housing cracks? All three are among the fun things listed on the back side of this form – which no one reads when they buy a used car. And when something cracks on that used car you bought? The fact that you had this form in front of you before you bought the car means you were on notice of just such a contingency.
Many people car shop and when they get a good deal they let their guard down. That’s when some dealers slide various add-on items into the purchase agreement – below the price of the car but above the bottom line. Credit life and disability insurance? I’ve seen dealers that sell it to everyone without asking. If you ask, they’ll remove it. If you don’t notice it? You’re paying for it. I’ve also seen all of the usual suspects here: Rust proofing, paint sealant, fabric protection. You know: The stuff no one would buy in real life if they were asked.
Steve Lehto is a writer and attorney from Michigan. He specializes in Lemon Law and frequently writes about cars and the law.
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