Car Selling Tips | Tips for buying and selling your vehicle

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Tips for buying and selling your vehicle

Buying a car is a big deal. Today, you're probably going to spend more on a new car than your parents did on their first house. Next to your home and mortgage, it's likely going to be the biggest purchase/debt you ever make. So it's important to make sure you are as educated as possible about the buying process―and the immediate post-buying process―as possible.

You might not be so happy if you're planning to sell a vehicle, since the consumer laws for most states tend to favor the buyer, not the seller. But at least everything is all spelled out for the seller.

Below you'll find a guide to how and where you can get good information to make good decisions when buying or selling a car and what happens if despite all your efforts, the car turns out to be a lemon.

You'll also see generally how the states regulates dealer sales and the responsibilities any dealer or private seller has to you, the customer.

Buying a New Car

Buying a new car is a personal decision that's going to force you to take into account your wants and needs and how they fit in with your ability to pay for them. There's only so much the state can do to help you with this.

But here's a guide to some resources:

  • Most states have a strong Lemon Law that strictly regulates new and used car sales. It usually requires dealers to make sure that any vehicle sold passes inspection within seven days of the sale and does not return for repeat work on the same problem numerous times within a specified period of time.
  • The states also have pro-consumer motor vehicle legislation. It is looking to expand its regulation over car dealers, with special attention being paid to clarity in advertising and purchase-and-sale and loan agreements. Also many states have a bill or are working on bills that will give serious tax breaks to hybrid-vehicle owners and allow them special driving and parking privileges.
  • Each state's Attorney General carefully watches car sales and regularly puts out helpful consumer protection notices.  Be sure to visit your state's web site for more information and documents.
  • All states registration and titling laws are detailed in the drivers handbook available at your local DMV -- which is another helpful resource overall.

Selling a New Car

Only licensed dealers can sell new cars in most states. Dealers are carefully regulated by state law and are typically a good resource for consumers to sell their vehicle as they take care of all the paperwork for a nominal fee and can take on the liability typically associated with the sale of a motor vehicle.

Buying a Used Car

When buying a used car, you always need to be careful that you're not paying someone so you can take problems off their hands. You need to be especially well-educated about the buying process and the lemon law, in case the purchase doesn't work out to your satisfaction.

  • Most states have a strong Lemon Law that strictly regulates new and used car sales. It usually requires dealers to make sure that any vehicle sold passes inspection within seven days of the sale.
  • The Attorney General has a Guide to Buying or Leasing a Used Cars, with lots of good information about dealer requirements and consumers' rights.
  • The Office of Consumer Affairs also offers consumer guides to used car sales.

Selling a Used Car

There are no handy guides to selling, like the buying guides listed above. But if you're planning to sell a used vehicle, the best advice is to be honest. If you're a dealer, the state regulates so carefully that it's just good customer policy. Selling through a private sale? Here are some things to be aware of:

  • The Used Vehicle Warranty Law: You, the seller, are required by law to inform buyers about any known defects which impair the safety or substantially impair the use of the vehicle. This law applies to any vehicle being sold for use on the road, no matter its age or condition. If the buyer can prove that a defect exists and that you, the seller, didn't disclose it, the buyer can cancel the sale and request a refund.
  • The Lemon Aid Law: You are required to make sure the vehicle you are selling can pass state inspection. If the vehicle fails inspection within the first seven days after the sale, the buyer can return it to you and request a refund.
  • Odometer Rollbacks: Illegal, plain and simple. Get caught and you can be fined, as well as have the sale canceled.

Otherwise, just make sure you're well aware of the laws around registration and titling, as well as the value of the vehicle you're selling.

When You Need to Have a Title or Registration

If you plan to buy a used car that is newer than a 1979 model (from 1980 on), you must have the title to transfer ownership and register the vehicle. Do not purchase a vehicle that does not have a title. Also, the Consumer Commission recommends against using dealer plates until a title is available or driving on dealer plates until the title is available. Remember, no title means no transfer of ownership or registration for any car 1980 or newer.

If the car is 1979 or older, you can register it without a title. You will need to have a bill of sale. Get the bill of sale notarized if you can. You also need a copy of the last current registration for the vehicle. Don't buy a car 1979 or older without a registration.

Before a sale takes place, the car's current owner (the seller) should apply to the DMV for a duplicate title or a duplicate registration, if the documents cannot be located.