BUYING A USED CAR OR TRUCK


Be very careful when buying a used vehicle. If you buy the wrong car or truck from the wrong people you could end up losing money and time.

Basic Consumer precautions

  • Never sign any blank documents or documents that you do not understand.

  • Always read the documents carefully.

  • Always get a copy of any document that you sign.

  • In Michigan, there is NOT a law that says that you have 3 days (or any other amount of time) to return a used car after you buy it. Protect yourself by having a licensed mechanic inspect the car or truck BEFORE you buy it. If the seller refuses to allow an inspection, he may have something to hide and you should not buy the vehicle. Although you will have to pay for an inspection, it may save you a lot of money in the long run.

  • Used cars do not usually have warranties and are sold "as-is" - so, if something goes wrong with the car after you buy it, you are responsible for paying for costs of the repairs. If the seller does give a warranty, it is usually only effective for a limited time or for a specific malfunction or defect.

  • You should make sure that the seller has the right to sell the car. The seller should have the Certificate of Title, and the seller's name should appear on the Title as the owner. If the vehicle that you buy is stolen, then the police can take it from you and return it to its rightful owner, and you have to try to get your money back from the person who "sold" you the car, which is often impossible.

  • The seller and you should transfer the title in the Secretary of State's office, so that the transfer of ownership happens as soon as possible.

  • Make sure that you get Michigan "no-fault" insurance. You cannot register a vehicle in Michigan with an out-of-state insurance policy. Make sure that you keep proof of insurance and proof of registration in your car at all times.

Insurance

  • Driving without insurance is very risky and should be avoided.

  • All vehicles driven in the state of Michigan must be properly insured. If the police stop you, they can ask to see your proof of insurance. If you do not have proof, you can be fined, put in jail, lose your driver's license, and your car may be towed - even if you let someone else drive your car.

  • Michigan requires a type of insurance called "no-fault," which means that a driver with insurance can only collect costs for medical expenses and property damage from his or her own insurance company, even if the accident was the other driver's fault. Many farmworkers buy a type of insurance called "third party," which only protects the owner if he causes damage to others and/or their property. However, this type of insurance does not compensate the policyholder for his own injuries or damage to his own vehicle. Since most insurance policies limit coverage outside of the United States, call your insurance agent to find out if your policy provides coverage if you plan to drive to Mexico. If not, you may have to purchase a separate policy for travel to Mexico.

Uninsured drivers...

  • Who injure other persons or damage their property can be sued by the injured person for the full amount of the other person's damage.

  • Who cause an accident can collect nothing for their own physical injuries or property damage.

  • Who are not at fault for the accident cannot collect more than $500 for their own damages, even if they suffer more than $500 in damages.

To locate free or low cost legal assistance:

  • Visit the Michiganlegalaid.org home page and search for local assistance by entering your zip code in the box marked “Find a lawyer, organization or related service to help you with your problem.” or

  • Look under "attorneys" in the yellow pages to find your local legal aid office, or

  • Contact the Michigan State Bar Lawyer Referral Service at (800) 968- 0738.

  • Persons age 60 or older, regardless of their income, may be able to receive free advice from the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors by calling (800) 347-5297.

This article appears courtesy of the Farmworker Legal Services.