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Car Tips

State Of Arkansas
Consumer Protection Division

Tips for First-Time Vehicle Buyers

General tips for buying a used or new vehicle:

  1. Shop around! It is essential to compare prices and financing options as well as the features of the vehicle.
  2. Don't rush. Take your time. Refuse to be pressured into buying a vehicle quickly.
  3. Do your homework. Find out as much as you can about the vehicles you are considering. Consumer Reports' guide to purchasing a vehicle is very informative.
  4. Do negotiate price and terms. Negotiate the price before you talk about any trade-in allowances. Talk trade-in only after you have negotiated a price for the vehicle you wish to buy. Don't be afraid to negotiate a fair trade-in allowance. Get more than one quote on your trade-in allowance.
  5. Insist upon taking copies of all paperwork home with you to read thoroughly before you sign anything. If you do not understand terms in the paperwork, talk to someone who can help you, whether it is a friend, relative, lawyer, or the folks at the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division. Don't sign anything until you are certain that you understand it.
  6. Make sure you get the title or the "official titling papers" at the time of purchase. The law requires this.

Tips when buying a new car:

  1. Watch for special deals for first-time vehicle buyers. Some manufacturers have programs designed for you.
  2. Ask about rebates, special low-interest financing arrangements and other sale incentives.
  3. Know what kind of warranty the manufacturer offers on the vehicle you want to buy - read it!
  4. Closely scrutinize leasing arrangements. In particular, know what kind of credit you get for your down payment. Also, some leasing arrangements so closely resemble purchase arrangements that consumers sometimes thing they are buying the vehicle when it is merely a lease.
  5. Get a Consumer's Guide to the Arkansas Lemon Law. Arkansas law requires that this guide be given to every consumer buying a new vehicle as long as the vehicle is not over 10,000 pounds (however, motor homes over 10,000 pounds gross vehicle rating are covered). If the dealer does not provide you with a copy, you should immediately contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division. Free copies are available from the Consumer Protection Division as well as online.

Tips when buying a used car:

  1. Go to a reputable dealer if you opt not to buy from an individual.
  2. Look for the Federal Trade Commission's Buyer's Guide - it must be affixed to the vehicles. It tells you whether the vehicle is being sold "as is" or with a warranty.
  3. Carefully scrutinize the terms of any warranty before you buy the vehicle.
  4. "Service contracts are not warranties. Know the terms before you buy!
  5. There is no "used car lemon law" in Arkansas. Have a trustworthy, independent mechanic inspect the vehicle before you buy it.
  6. Get the name of the previous owner and call him/her. Ask questions.
  7. Look at the odometer and be cautious. If the vehicle is a 1979 model and the odometer shows that the vehicle has only been driven 10,000 miles, remember "if it looks to good to be true, it probably is". The history of a vehicle can often reveal an odometer rollback.
  8. Ask if the vehicle has ever been wrecked or damaged. If you suspect that the vehicle may be a "salvage title vehicle", call the Office of Motor Vehicles at 1-900-28-TITLE (this call costs $5.00, but may be well worth it).

The Arkansas Lemon Law

A new car is a major investment. You expect ideal performance from your new car from the moment you drive it off the lot. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. That is why the Arkansas General Assembly enacted the Arkansas Lemon Law.

The Lemon Law and How It Works

The Arkansas Lemon Law applies to any consumer who buys, leases, or registers a new motor vehicle in Arkansas. The manufacturer or one of its authorized agents must provide the buyer with a booklet drafted by our office explaining owners' rights and obligations under the Lemon Law.

Do I Have a Lemon?

You may have a lemon if:

  • The manufacturer or its dealer has made three or more attempts at repairing a defect that is a "substantial impairment of the safety, value or use" of the car;
  • The manufacturer or its dealer has made one unsuccessful attempt at repairing a defect that is likely to cause death or serious injury;
  • The manufacturer or its dealer has made five or more attempts at repairing different problems that, together, substantially impair the use or value of the car; or
  • Your car has been out of service for a total of thirty days.

When Contemplating Filing a Lemon Law Claim

  • Keep all repair records.
  • Make sure to follow the instructions in the Consumer's Guide to the Arkansas Lemon Law, available online or from the Consumer Protection Division.
  • If you have a potential lemon law claim, you must give the manufacturer written notice of the defect and allow the manufacturer one more chance to repair the defect before requesting arbitration of your claim for a refund or replacement.

Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car is a way to get a good car at a reduced price. However, since the car has had a previous owner, a smart consumer should pay close attention to the history of the car and should be aware of the possibility of extra repair expenses.

Buyer's Guide

When purchasing a used car, federal law requires that a used car dealer post a Buyer's Guide on the window of the car. The purpose of the Buyer's Guide is to tell consumers if the car is sold "as is" (that is, sold with all defects, known or unknown) or if the car comes with a warranty. While an individual who sells a single car is not required to post a Buyer's Guide, dealers who sell six or more cars a year are required to do so by law.

Important Buying Tips

  • Check to see if the car comes with a warranty and, if so, what the specific protection is that the dealer or seller will provide.
  • Ask to have the car inspected by an independent mechanic, or arrange an inspection yourself.
  • Make sure to get any promises made by the dealer or seller in writing (for example, to replace a broken tail light). Verbal promises are difficult to enforce.
  • Ask whether or not the dealer or seller offers an extended warranty or service contract. If you decide to purchase a service contract, make sure you understand what it covers and how long it will last.
  • Inquire about any prior damage to the car and about the car's repair history. Don't automatically accept the seller's response as accurate. Consider contacting the Department of Finance and Administration at 1-900-28TITLE for more information about the car's title history. Currently, there is a $5.00 charge.
  • Always test drive the vehicle.
  • Contrary to popular myth, neither state nor federal law gives consumers a right to cancel a car purchase. Therefore, make sure that you have had the car thoroughly inspected by an independent mechanic before you agree to purchase it.
  • Remember, if you buy a car "as is" and have problems with it, you must pay for any repairs yourself.

Odometer Rollbacks

It is illegal to disconnect or replace an odometer for the purpose of changing the number of miles on it. Both federal and state laws give protection to consumers who suspect that they have purchased a car with a rolled back odometer.

What Is The Law?

It is illegal to tamper with an odometer. It is also illegal to sell or advertise any device for tampering with an odometer. Additionally, it is unlawful to operate a vehicle with a disconnected or non-functional odometer with the intent to defraud.

When a vehicle is sold, the seller must give the buyer a written odometer statement disclosing the following information: the vehicle's true mileage at the time of transfer; the date of transfer; the buyer's and seller's names and addresses; the vehicle's make, year, and body type; and the vehicle identification number. If the seller knows that the mileage has exceeded the mechanical limit of 99,999 miles, he or she must provide that information to the buyer.

Take Precautions

  • Know the reputation of the person or dealer who is selling the car.
  • Obtain the odometer mileage statement before completing the transaction.
  • Don't fool yourself. A car that is ten years old will rarely have less than 100,000 miles on the odometer.

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