We all know the common caricature of the used car salesman as a pushy, fast-talking sneak, possibly dressed in a natty old sports coat and with a greasy, slicked-back haircut. And granted, there have probably been a few used car salesmen over the years who fit that description, but in general, it’s probably something of an exaggeration. Still, it’s a common-enough image that the consumer seeking to purchase a used automobile often can’t help but be slightly wary that the cartoony, smooth-talking swindler is going to sell him or her a lemon.
And that’s fair enough. Even if every salesperson in the world were completely honest and transparent, there’s always the chance that a machine as complex as a car is going to have something wrong with it. It happens, whether intentionally or otherwise, and while it isn’t a common occurrence, it’s something the consumer ought be aware of.
Likewise, the consumer ought also be aware of the laws in place for his or her own protection. While the government cannot guarantee that no car you purchase will ever be faulty – or that you will receive any sort of compensation if your car is faulty – there are what are known as “lemon laws” enacted on both a federal and individual state levels. These laws exist for the protection of the consumer, and ward against serious breeches of contract or of warranty in the purchasing of a previously-owned vehicle.
The consumer is advised to become familiar with these laws before buying a used car. Lemon laws vary from one state to the next, so it is important to become aware of your home state’s specific guidelines, in particular. These state lemon laws can be found by a simple Web search, or by contacting the Better Business Bureau. The BBB also has a database of state lemon laws, available on its website for consumer perusal.
There are also, however, federal lemon laws, and specifically the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975. This law – a consumer protection act – was designed to prohibit the abuse of warranties and disclaimers by merchants in different fields, both by making warranties more easily understood to the customer but also to make warranties enforceable. More specifically, the law gives the Federal Trade Commission the authority to better protect consumers by enforcing warranty stipulations.
Naturally, this law does not change the fact that not all automobiles are created equally, and that, from time to time, there are going to be problems. What it does change, however, is the likelihood that a consumer will be fooled by a deceptive or misleading warranty, or that a seller will be permitted to violate his or her own warranty agreements.
Of course, the consumer hopes that the application of this law will never become a factor in his or her own used car purchase, and, generally speaking, it does not. However, in the interest of being a responsible and savvy consumer, familiarity with these lemon laws is encouraged; the time it takes to become familiar with them could pay huge dividends – and prevent major headaches – in the long term.