"A Penny Saved Is A Penny Earned"

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Buying a Used Car - Part 4

Result of a serious automobile accident.Image via Wikipedia

If You Have Problems

If something goes wrong with your car and you think that it is covered by a warranty (either express or implied) or a service contract, refer to the terms of the warranty or contract for instructions on how to get service. If a dispute arises concerning the problem, there are several steps you can take.

Try To Work It Out With The Dealer

First, try to resolve the problem with the salesperson or, if necessary, speak with the owner of the dealership. Many problems can be resolved at this level. However, if you believe that you are entitled to service, but the dealer disagrees, you can take other steps.

If your warranty is backed by a car manufacturer and you have a dispute about either service or coverage, contact the local representative of the manufacturer. This local or "zone" representative has the authority to adjust and make decisions about warranty service and repairs to satisfy customers.

Some manufacturers also are willing to repair certain problems in specific models free of charge, even if the manufacturer's warranty does not cover the problem. Ask the manufacturer's zone representative or the service department of a franchised dealership that sells your car model whether there is such a policy.

Other Approaches You Can Try

If you cannot get satisfaction from the dealer or from a manufacturer's zone representative, contact the Better Business Bureau or a state agency, such as the office of the attorney general, the department of motor vehicles, or a consumer protection office. Many states also have county and city offices that intervene or mediate on behalf of individual consumers to resolve complaints.

You also might consider using a dispute resolution organization to arbitrate your disagreement if you and the dealer are willing. Under the terms of many warranties, this may be a required first step before you can sue the dealer or manufacturer. Check your warranty to see if this is the case. If you bought your car from a franchised dealer, you may be able to seek mediation through the Automotive Consumer Action Program (AUTOCAP), a dispute resolution program coordinated nationally by the National Automobile Dealers Association and sponsored through state and local dealer associations in many cities. Check with the dealer association in your area to see if they operate a mediation program.

If none of these steps is successful, you can consider going to small claims court, where you can resolve disputes involving small amounts of money for a low cost, often without an attorney. The clerk of your local small claims court can tell you how to file a suit and what the dollar limit is in your state.

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act also may be helpful. Under this federal law, you can sue based on breach of express warranties, implied warranties, or a service contract. If successful, consumers can recover reasonable attorney's fees and other court costs. A lawyer can advise you if this law applies to your situation.

For Further Help

If you want additional information about warranties or service contracts or about new car leasing or buying, send for these free FTC brochures:

* Warranties

* Service Contracts

* Car Ads: Low-Interest Loans and Other Offers

* New Car Buying Guide

* A Consumer Guide to Vehicle Leasing

Write: Public Reference, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580.

If you have additional questions about the Used Car Rule, contact the Federal Trade Commission Office nearest you.

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