Buying a Car: Common Law

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While many people may have heard of lemon laws, most people have not heard of the Used Car Rule, despite it being in place since 1985. Don't be shocked though, as the rule really only applies to used car dealers and those pieces of paper that are taped up on the windows of used cars for sale at dealerships. However, this month, the FTC updated the Used Car Rule.

The updates to the rule are meant to help clarify used car sales for consumers, as well as protect consumers from making poor decisions and uninformed purchases. The new rule seeks to provide consumers with some common sense advice and clarification on used car warranties. All car dealers who sell used cars are required to place a Buyer's Guide (which is just a piece of paper that lists out specific information about the vehicle) in a clearly visible location on or in any used vehicle for sale.

Following up on September's Automated Vehicles Policy, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued guidance for automakers on cybersecurity. As vehicles are becoming more technologically advanced, the potential for dangerous cyber-attacks increase. Since automakers have been connecting vehicles to the internet through cellular networks, and including sophisticated computers capable of controlling every feature on a car, the NHTSA believed that cyber-security guidance was necessary to protect consumers and the public from vehicle cyber attacks.

In August, the cybersecurity researchers/hackers that famously took over a 2014 Jeep, demonstrated again that although one security flaw was fixed, the vehicle was far from secure. This time, while directly plugged into the vehicle, they were able to engage the brakes and turn the steering wheel via their connected computer, while overriding the security measures that should have prevented their actions. In response, Chrysler representatives explained that the attack was not done remotely, and as such was not as significant as the prior 2014 hack where the same researchers were able to remotely control a Wired magazine writer's Jeep.

Some of us can't afford a brand new car, and some of us are just looking for a better deal. Either way, buying a used car can present a host of financial, mechanical, and legal questions.

Here are seven of the biggest legal questions you might have before buying a used car, and where you can find the answers:

Most people regard used car salesmen with the same determined skepticism as a three-card Monte dealer on the street -- sure that there is some sleight of hand occurring to pull as much money out of their pocket as possible. And perhaps with good reason: John Oliver just exposed the seedy side of auto lending and the predatory tactics used car dealerships will use to screw over car buyers.

Well, add one more scam to the list. Road & Track magazine refers to it as the "spot delivery" scam or "yo-yo sale" and it is costing unsuspecting car buyers thousands of dollars.

5 Reasons to Sue a Used Car Dealer

If you buy a used car and are unhappy with it, you do have some legal recourse. But there are a few factors that will impact what exactly you can do, who to sue, and whether you would want to pursue legal action.

State laws vary, which means that warranties and dealer obligations will differ according to where you purchase your used car. The nature of the seller can matter, too, whether you're buying from a dealership or an individual. Specifics make a huge difference in any legal matter, so no claim can be assessed meaningfully without details. Still, let's take a look at general situations when suing a used car dealer might make sense.

Which Cars Have the Highest, Lowest Death Rates?

A new report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that while car safety has continued to improve in most late-model vehicles, some vehicles still have alarmingly high death rates.

According to the IIHS, among 2011 model-year cars or equivalent earlier model vehicles, there were 28 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years through 2012. (A "registered vehicle year" equals one vehicle registered for one year.) This is down significantly from 2008-09, in which there were 48 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years. But while nine 2011 or equivalent earlier model vehicles had a driver death rate of zero, several other models had death rates exceeding 100.

Which cars have the highest and lowest death rates according to IIHS statistics? And what should drivers know when trying to choose a safe car?

Safe, Deadly Cars

The IIHS found that in general, the smallest vehicles have the highest death rates, with the Kia Rio having the highest death rate, at 149 per million registered vehicle years. Most of the vehicles that made the institute's list of safest cars -- those with 6 or fewer driver deaths per million registered vehicle years -- were SUVs or minivans, although several midsize cars also made the list.

The vehicles with the lowest rate of driver deaths include:

  • Audi A4 4WD
  • Honda Odyssey
  • Kia Sorento 2WD
  • Lexus RX 350 4WD
  • Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 4WD
  • Subaru Legacy 4WD
  • Toyota Highlander hybrid 4WD
  • Toyota Sequoia 4WD
  • Volvo XC90 4WD
  • Honda Pilot 4WD
  • Mercedes-Benz M-Class 4WD
  • Ford Crown Victoria
  • GMC Yukon 4WD
  • Acura TL 2WD
  • Chevrolet Equinox 2WD
  • Chevrolet Equinox 4WD
  • Ford Expedition 4WD
  • Ford Flex 2WD
  • Mazda CX-9 4WD

Among the vehicles with more than 46 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years were many small or mini-size vehicles, but also one full-size pickup truck and several SUVs.

The list of vehicles with the highest driver death rates, according to the IIHS, includes:

  • Kia Rio
  • Nissan Versa sedan
  • Hyundai Accent
  • Chevrolet Aveo
  • Hyundai Accent
  • Chevrolet Camaro coupe
  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew 4WD
  • Honda Civic
  • Nissan Versa hatchback
  • Ford Focus
  • Nissan Cube
  • Chevrolet HHR
  • Chevrolet Suburban 1500 2WD
  • Chevrolet Aveo
  • Mercury Grand Marquis
  • Jeep Patriot 2WD
  • Mazda 6
  • Dodge Nitro 2WD
  • Honda Civic

Vehicle Designs Have Improved Safety

One major factor in improving the safety of automobiles is improving design and safety technology. In particular, the IIHS cites electronic stabilization control (ESC) -- which helps prevent SUVs from rollover crashes -- for taking SUVs from one of the most dangerous types of vehicles a decade ago to now being being the safest of any vehicle type. Generally, the report found that as a car's size increases, the death rate declines.

Learn more about the liability for automobile accidents and injuries at FindLaw's section on Car Accident Liability.

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Safest Used Cars for Teens: IIHS Issues Top Picks

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an independent safety group, has released its top picks for the safest used cars for teens.

The group is known for its yearly Top Safety Pick list, ranking the safety of new cars. But after a phone survey revealed that 83 percent of parents who bought a car for their teen bought a used vehicle, the group decided to compile a list of the safest, most affordable used vehicles for teens.

Recommendations Follow 4 Principles

According to the group's report, the list of recommendations follow four general principles:

  • Young drivers should steer clear of high horsepower vehicles;
  • Bigger vehicles are generally safer than smaller vehicles;
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is a must-have feature; and
  • Teens' vehicles should have high safety ratings from both IIHS and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In general, the IIHS says parents should seek out midsize or larger cars, SUVs and minivans that offer ESC, side airbags, and low horsepower. The group also notes that SUV's not equipped with ESC are more prone to rollovers and may be more dangerous.

Top Picks Broken Into 2 Price Tiers

The IIHS's top picks were broken into two tiers: cars under $20,000 and cars under $10,000, based on 2014 Kelly Blue Book value. In each, the results were separated into separate categories for large cars, midsize cars, small SUVs, midsize SUVs, large SUVS (under $20,000 only), and minivans.

Here are the IIHS' Top 3 vehicles in each of those categories under $20,000:

  • Large cars: Saab 9-5 sedan (2010 and later), Lincoln MKS (2009 and later), Buick Regal (2011 and later).
  • Midsize cars: Toyota Prius (2012 and later), Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan (2009 and later), Honda Accord sedan (2012 and later).
  • Small SUVs: Honda CR-V (2012 and later), Kia Sportage (2011 and later), Hyundai Tucson (2010 and later).
  • Midsize SUVs: Volvo XC60 (2010 and later), Saab 9-4X (2011-12), Toyota Highlander (2008 and later).
  • Large SUVs: Buick Enclave (2011 and later), GMC Acadia (2011 and later), Chevrolet Traverse (2011 and later).
  • Minivans: Chrysler Town & Country (2012 and later), Honda Odyssey (2011 and later), Toyota Sienna (2011 and later).

And here are the IIHS' Top 3 vehicles in each category under $10,000:

  • Large cars: Acura RL (2005 and later), Mercury Sable (2009), Kia Amanti (2009).
  • Midsize cars: Subaru Legacy (2009), BMW 3-Series sedan (2006 and later), Mazda 6 (2009 and later).
  • Small SUVs: Nissan Rogue (2008 and later), Ford Escape (2009 and later), Mazda Tribute (2009 and later).
  • Midsize SUVs: Mazda CX-9 (2007 and later), Ford Edge (2007-2010), Hyundai Veracruz (2007 and later).
  • Minivans: Volkswagen Routan (2009-2011), Dodge Grand Caravan (2008-2011), Chrysler Town & Country (2008-2011).

The full list of the IIHS' safest used cars for teens can be seen at the IIHS website.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a final safety rule that will make it mandatory for many new vehicles to include a "backup camera" to increase rearview visibility.

NHTSA will require new vehicles under 10,000 pounds to include rear visibility technology if they're manufactured on or after May 1, 2018, according The Associated Press. The ruling includes buses and trucks.

The backup cameras will expand the driver's field of vision to encompass a 10-by-20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle and hopefully reduce the number of traffic injuries and fatalities in backup accidents.

Accident Statistics

On average, 292 people are killed and more than 18,000 people are injured annually in accidents involving a vehicle backing up. Frequently, the victims are young children or elderly people.

Among those killed in backup accidents, approximately 100 are children under the age of 5. Further, children in this at-risk age group account for about 2,000 injuries each year.

Kids may dart into the street to chase after a toy or simply be unaware of their surroundings and walk directly into the path of a car that's backing up. With backup cameras in more vehicles, drivers will have a better view of what's happening behind their vehicles, and it could eliminate some blind spots.

Costs to the Automobile Industry

Under NHSTA's new rule, the cost to the auto industry to implement the changes is projected to be between $546 million to $924 million in 2018. Although the cost is huge, the NHSTA thinks that 59 to 73 percent of all vehicles purchased in 2018 will already have the cameras installed, according to The Detroit News. In fact, Honda and Subaru have both announced that they're voluntarily making cameras standard in all their vehicles.

Since it'll be costly for the auto industry, NHSTA rolled out a staggered backup camera plan. So after May 2016, automakers need to produce 10 percent of vehicles with cameras. That number climbs to 40 percent after May 2017, and all vehicles must be equipped with the backup cameras by May 2018, The Detroit News reports.

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10 States With the Highest Car Theft Rates

Which states have the highest car theft rates? According to a recent Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) report, the FBI collected data from all 50 states (and Puerto Rico) through the Uniform Crime Reporting Program to determine specific crime statistics by state.

Those statistics were calculated for the 2012 year, and include the rate of car theft in each state.

Based on this new data, what are the 10 states with the highest car theft rates?

2012 Car Theft Rates

The car theft rates among all 50 states and Puerto Rico, measuring the number of auto thefts per 100,000 inhabitants, are ranked as follows:

  1. Washington D.C. at 579.0 thefts/100,000 residents
  2. California at 443.2 thefts/100,000 residents
  3. Washington at 382.8 thefts/100,000 residents
  4. Nevada at 363.1 thefts/100,000 residents
  5. Oklahoma at 303.1 thefts/100,000 residents
  6. Arizona at 292.3 thefts/100,000 residents
  7. Georgia at 287.7 thefts/100,000 residents
  8. South Carolina at 279.5 thefts/100,000 residents
  9. Missouri at 270.8 thefts/100,000 residents
  10. New Mexico at 261.9 thefts/100,000 residents

Protect Your Car

Even if you don't live in the top 10 worst auto theft states, car theft may be running rampant in your area. Do what you can to protect your car. Here are some precautionary measures you should take to help prevent your car from being stolen:

  • Don't leave valuables out in the open. Leaving things like cash, brand-name sunglasses, an expensive gadget like a smart phone, or expensive purses and clothes is like an open invitation for a thief to attempt to break into your car and then steal it.
  • Make sure it's locked. Make sure, every time you get out of your car, that your car is properly locked. Check all doors -- not just the driver's side -- and make a habit of doing this.
  • Park in a well-lit area. Make sure you park in a well-lit area when you can, or a spot that sees a lot of foot traffic. The more visible a thief may be when attempting to steal your car, the less promising your car will be to the potential auto thief.
  • Be careful if you lend. If you lend your car to anyone, make sure it's trusted family member or friend. Some borrowers may be tempted to never return it. On top of that, you should also be wary of lending your car to a reckless driver; you could be liable if the driver causes an accident.

An extra couple of minutes to double check your doors or find a better parking spot could easily save you weeks of grief if your car is stolen. Remember, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

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NHTSA’s SaferCar App Taps Recall, Crash Test Info

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched an app called SaferCar that provides real-time vehicle-safety information for consumers.

Among other things, the SaferCar app allows consumers to find recall information and subscribe to automatic notices about recalled vehicles, among other features, according to NHTSA's press release. Users can also use the app to search for 5-star safety-rated vehicles and compare vehicles across brands.

The SaferCar app is especially helpful as it integrates real-time information with car safety information, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood emphasized. This will help ensure that users have all the information they need to drive safely.

Some of the features of the SaferCar app include:

  • 5-Star safety ratings. Consumers who are making vehicle purchasing choices can access the app for crash test ratings and other safety information and compare them across different makes and models.

  • Recalls and complaints. Automatic updates for recalls and complaints will be fed to consumers in real-time for vehicles they already own. The app also allows consumers to easily submit complaints to NHTSA.

  • Help with installing child-safety seats. With so many different types of vehicles and so many different types of child seats, it can be very difficult to properly install a child seat into a car. The app will give consumers directions to child seat inspection stations, and help drivers properly install their car seats and booster seats.

  • Safety headlines and alerts. Consumers can stay up-to-date on all the news and headlines from NHTSA. They can also receive "push notifications" when there's a safety alert about their vehicles.

NHTSA's SaferCar app is free and available for iPhone and iPod Touch devices. It can be downloaded from Apple's iTunes Store. A version for Android is currently not available, though NHTSA indicates that one is being developed.

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