Beginning on July 1, 2006, California granted its car-buying residents a new set of protections under the Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights. Not only will these new rights change the way cars are bought and sold in California, they're already spreading across the country and being adopted by other states as well.
The protections under the new law apply to vehicles (cars, trucks, SUVs) purchased in California for personal use from a dealer/dealership. They do not apply to private sales, out of state purchases, commercial vehicles, RVs and motorcycles.
What are the protections?
1. The Two Day Return
Used car buyers now have the opportunity to protect themselves with a two-day return option. This is designed to help buyers who may not have had the time to have the vehicle properly inspected by a mechanic, for those who are purchasing a car “as is, " or for those car buyers who might have succumbed to the pressure to buy on the spot.
There are a few limits on the two-day return protection. First, the option only applies to used vehicles purchased through a dealership for personal use that cost $40,000 or less. Second, the dealership can charge you for this option (anywhere from $75 to $400, plus a restocking fee, all depending on the price of the vehicle). Additionally, the vehicle must be returned within two days, having been driven fewer than 250 miles, and be in the same condition as when it was purchased.
With the two-day return option, the dealer is required to hold onto your trade-in until the option expires. If the dealer sells your trade-in early, you're entitled to the vehicle's fair market value or the price listed in the cancellation agreement, whichever is more.
3. Certified Used Cars
In the past, any used car that a dealer has had inspected by a mechanic could be advertised as a “certified pre-owned vehicle. " This is no longer the case. Dealers can no longer advertise (or sell) certain problem cars as “certified pre-owned vehicles. "
4. Seller Disclosures
Under the new law, auto dealers must provide the following in writing:
a. The price of the vehicle without extra options and add-ons.
b. The specific price for add-ons, such as anti-theft devices, fabric protection, extended service contracts and “gap" insurance.
c. A copy of your credit score if you're getting a loan through the dealership. Your credit score will range from 300 to 900, and reflect your credit worthiness as primarily determined by the timeliness of your past loan payments. If your credit score is high enough, you can often benefit from lower interest rates.
5. Limit On Interest Rate Markups
It's a common practice in the industry for auto lenders to pay dealers an incentive for getting buyers to pay a higher interest rate than they should be paying, according to their credit history. This additional boost in the interest rate is referred to as a “markup. " The new California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights limits the markup a dealer can receive from a lender to a maximum of 2.5% for loans up to 60 months and to 2% for longer loans.
The New California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights is designed to make it safer for you to purchase your next used vehicle through a dealership without fear that you're going to get stuck with something you either don't want or something that doesn't live up to its advertising. Knowing your rights can save you both months of headaches and significant money, but only if you take advantage of them.
D. Silva is the webmaster for Car Buyer Central, a site dedicated to educating car buyers in the car buying process so they can get the best deals available.