A substantial number of car sales involve some form of fraud, deception, or unfair conduct. There are probably a number or reasons for this. First, the profit margin on the sale of a vehicle is quite low, giving dealers an incentive to cut corners to make more money. Second, buying a car has become a complicated transaction and this complexity gives dealers plenty of opportunities to confuse or mislead. And finally, in my experience there is a very prevalent culture of “buyer beware” at many car dealerships, where it has become an accepted practice to mislead and deceive car buyers. Auto fraud, like many other forms of deceptive business practices, tends to be directed at and impacts buyers with low incomes or credit ratings the most.
When I think of auto fraud, I put the cases into two broad categories: those involving the vehicle’s condition and those involving the financing. Below is a list of some of the most common forms of auto fraud we see. By their very nature, some of these frauds only happen with the purchase of a used vehicle. Others happen with both new and used car sales. All of them leave the buyer in a difficult spot, often with a hefty loan to pay and no reliable transportation.
Auto fraud related to the vehicle’s condition
*Rolling back the vehicle’s odometer
*Not disclosing that the vehicle has a salvage title or other title brand
*Breaking verbal promises, or express warranties, about the vehicle’s condition or the dealer’s intent to fix things that go wrong
*Failure to repair defects covered under a written warranty.
*Selling a vehicle without being able to provide title
Auto fraud surrounding the financing
*Improperly disclosing finance charges, interest rate, or other terms of the loan
*Conditional delivery or yo-yo sale
*Failure to pay off the loan on your trade-in
This is, of course, not a complete list of all of the types of auto fraud. But there are viable legal claims that arise for all of the situations described above and many of those claims require the dealer to pay the buyer’s attorney fees if she prevails. If you’ve been victimized by any of these frauds–or if a dealer has done anything else that doesn’t seem right to you–it probably makes sense to explore your legal options with an attorney who handles auto fraud cases.