In the State of Florida, both federal and state laws apply when a used car is sold. The purpose of these laws is to protect consumers who are purchasing cars as well as to make sure that the dealer’s rights are protected during transactions.
With the sale of used cars, buyers and dealers may have disputes over warranties. The laws governing warranties are determined by the federal code in numerous states.
There are many states that have adopted a version of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). In Florida, however, there is no law that would be referred to as a lemon law if the vehicle is purchased as is.
Implied warranties of merchantability apply when a vehicle is purchased in Florida. This means that a product will do what it is supposed to and that it is fit for the purpose for which it is being sold.
Beyond this warranty, any other warranties have to be written into the terms of the purchase contract. In some cases, an extended service contract may be a good idea.
However, it is important for an individual to consider if the repairs covered in the extended contract are already included in the warranty that is offered by the dealer. It is also important to note that Florida does have a lemon law that applies to new or demonstrator vehicles or recreational vehicles that are sold or long-term leased in the state.
What Is the Used Car Rule?
The Used Car Rule is a rule that was established by the Federal Trade Commission. This rule was intended to reduce or eliminate the purchase of used vehicles when their warranties have been misrepresented or their condition has been misrepresented.
Because of this rule, there is a Buyer’s Guide that is required to be placed in the window of any used vehicle in Florida. This guide has to include:
- The VIN number of the vehicle;
- Any outstanding warranties; and
- Any warranties that do not apply to that particular vehicle.
Failure to include any of this required information may be considered a breach of an express warranty.
What Other Protections Exist?
Prior to purchasing a vehicle in the State of Florida, it is important for an individual to conduct thorough research and compare prices of the models they are considered in similar years and similar conditions. There is a Vehicle Safety Hotline in Florida that an individual can call to see whether a particular model of vehicle has been recalled for any safety issues.
In addition, the Better Business Bureau offers information on specific dealers. If there have been complaints about dealers running scams, the Better Business Bureau will have reports.
It is also important for an individual to ensure the vehicle they wish to purchase has been recently inspected by a mechanic other than the one that is selling the vehicle. If the dealer will not pay for an independent inspection, it may be a red flag that there is something wrong with the vehicle.
What Are Used Car Scams?
Buying a used car may be treacherous in some situations because an individual is not always sure about the history of the vehicle. Certain used car dealers may take advantage of their customers by engaging in deception or misrepresentation to sell a vehicle.
Used car scams may involve many issues, including:
- Cloned vehicles: A cloned car has had its vehicle identification number, or VIN, replaced with another VIN, often to hide the fact that it’s a stolen car;
- Defective titles: There may be some defect or misrepresentation concerning the car’s title, for example, selling the same title to two different purchasers;
- Misleading brand history: The brand history describes the vehicle’s previous or present condition, for example junked or salvaged;
- Faulty parts: It can be hard to tell whether all the vehicle’s parts are in working order;
- Stolen cars: If the car turns out to be stolen, you may not be able to register it with the DMV; or
- Insurance fraud: There may be issues with insurance related to the vehicle.
An individual should be aware of these and other types of schemes when they are considering purchasing a used vehicle. Before purchasing one, it may be helpful to search automobile databases, such as the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS).
What Is Fraudulent Misrepresentation?
Fraudulent misrepresentation is a false statement or lie that is used to mislead an individual into an agreement such as purchasing a vehicle. Misrepresentation may occur in many ways, such as:
- Written words;
- Spoken words;
- A gesture or body motion, for example, a nod, and
- Through silence or inaction.
For example if an automobile dealer lied about the accident history of a used vehicle in order to get an individual to sign a purchase contract, it would be considered fraudulent misrepresentation.
What Is Negligent Misrepresentation?
Negligent misrepresentation occurs when an individual states a fact or facts without verifying their truth. In order to establish negligent misrepresentation, the plaintiff must show:
- The defendant made a certain representation in a contract;
- That representation was incorrect;
- That representation was made either without reasonable grounds to think it was true or carelessly;
- The plaintiff reasonably relied on the defendant’s representation; and
- The plaintiff’s reliance on that representation was the legal cause of the plaintiff sustaining damages.
A representation may be a statement, for example, the brakes work fine, which can be shown to be true or fails. Reasonable reliance is how an individual who has normal intelligence and common sense would believe the representation upon hearing or reading it.
It is important to note that, if the individual did not believe the representation, there was no reasonable reliance. Negligent misrepresentation only requires that the individual who made the representation failed to exercise reasonable care or competence to obtain or communicate true information.
What if I Have Been a Victim of a Used Car Scam?
If an individual has been a victim of a used car scam, they may be able to file a claim against the party who sold them the vehicle. The individual should take several steps, including:
- Keep and make copies of any receipts, documents, and forms that they may have signed in connection with the sale;
- Take note of the party that sold them the car, being sure to list contact info, addresses, and the business license, if possible;
- Compile any info or testimony from witnesses or other individuals who may have been scammed; and
- Compile any records related to any injuries they may have suffered from a defective car.
One of the issues with used car scams is that the purchaser may have been put on notice that the car was not in perfect condition. For this reason, an individual should be aware of any language in their contract or document that seems suspicious.
Another issue with used car scams is that the perpetrator may be difficult to locate once the scam is completed. For example, they may leave the community or have been operating under a false name.
Because of these issues, it is important for an individual to consult with an attorney as soon as they realize they have been scammed.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to a used car purchase in Florida, it is essential to consult with a Florida auto lawyer. Your lawyer can review any purchase contract before you sign it and ensure there is nothing suspicious about the transaction.
If you have already signed a contract and believe you have been a scam victim, your lawyer can help you obtain compensation for your losses. Your lawyer will represent you in court and provide you with the best possible chance at recovery.