How To Get Your Money Back On A Lemon (Buying Your Used Car)

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OK, so you’re driving your used car out of the dealership lot, and the steering wheel breaks off, the hood pops open, and blood pours out of the dashboard. You were suckered. You got a lemon! Is there anything you can do about it? As Fargo’s car salesman Jerry Lundergaard might say, “yer darn tootin’!”

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1. Find out if the car has ever been reported as a lemon by someone before.Carfax.com will perform a free online check for you.

2. When choosing your not-so-new vehicle, you must realize that as a consumer, you have rights. Make yourself aware of the “lemon laws” in your state (we’d list them, but they’re incredibly diverse and changing constantly). In many areas, if your used car turns out to be a dud, you can take legal action to make sure that the dealer is held accountable. Lemon laws vary from state to state and the amount that you may be able to recover will differ. The Web Site Lemon Aid lists specific laws regarding new and used car purchases for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

3. Third, if you hope to recover anything, you need to have proof of what you agreed upon when purchasing the car. So document and get in writing every single detail you can think of, including the price, what the seller claims is new and used, and if possible, a guarantee for a refund if the car clunks out before a certain time.

4. If all else fails . . . complain. They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so if you squeak enough, you just might get some attention from a used car dealer. Tell them you will go to the Better Business Bureau, tell them you will sue them up the wazoo, tell them you will give them a bad name, tell them that your Uncle Morty is a lawyer who will take them to the cleaners. Speak with friends, call the attorney general of your state, and threaten legal action. Many companies, when faced with lawsuits, rely on intimidation to keep them out of court. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim. Whatever you have to do, make sure you know your rights as a consumer, and that you get treated fairly.

Most likely, your used car search should be enjoyable and pain-free, but it’s up to you to make it that way. Happy driving, and don’t forget to buckle your seat belt.

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