Do dealer fraud protections apply to private car sales?

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Shopping for a used car can be challenging, especially for someone who knows little about the workings of a car's major systems. Many in California rely on the advice and promises of used car dealers or the labels that assure a vehicle is certified. However, what guarantees does a consumer have when purchasing a car from a private seller? Do the protections against dealer fraud apply in those situations?

Unfortunately, in most cases, a person buying a car from a newspaper ad or an online trading site may not have recourse to many options if the car turns out to be a lemon. In fact, a vehicle sold in "as is" condition typically carries no warranties, whether expressed or implied. An exception to this would be if the vehicle is sold with a sales contract that includes guarantees about the car's condition. Additionally, some used cars may still be protected by the manufacturer's warranty, and this is an inquiry a consumer should make when considering the purchase of a privately-owned vehicle.

Purchasing a vehicle from a private owner may be cheaper than going through a dealer, but it is still likely an expensive purchase. Few people have money to waste on a vehicle that is only going to cause them costly issues as time goes on. Car experts recommend that those responding to ads for private sales take the time to do some research, ask the seller questions and have the vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic.

Since private purchases offer no guarantee and no legal safety net, California consumers may decide that it is worth the extra money to purchase a vehicle that includes a warranty. This would also mean that the buyer would have recourse to legal assistance if the car should turn out to be a lemon. An attorney with experience in protecting consumers from dealer fraud will be a welcome advocate.

Source: FindLaw, "Private Used Car Sales", Accessed on March 10, 2018

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