WHAT CAN I DO TO CHECK THE HISTORY OF A USED CAR BEFORE I BUY IT?

  1. Check for safety recalls. For FREE. Here's where to check, on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website. Just enter in the VIN. If not repaired, don't buy.
  2. Check NMVTIS. Cost: about $6. If totaled, don't buy.
  3. Check Carfax and Autocheck. Cost: about $50. While the information does not purport to be complete, these sites are an additional tool. If major damage /frame damage / deployed air bags/odometer discrepancy show up, don't buy.
  4. Get the car thoroughly inspected by a qualified independent auto tech and body shop of your own choosing, before agreeing to anything. Cost: about $100
  5. Take the car for a test drive before agreeing to anything.

More tips including how to test drive a car and links to Consumer Reports "best buys" in various price categories.

TheNational Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) will give information about the reported history of a used vehicle. (Not all states are participating yet.)

DOES THE DEALER HAVE TO TELL ME IF THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE CAR?

Before a used car dealer may sell a car with 75,000 miles or more, the dealer must conduct a reasonably thorough inspection of the vehicle's engine and "drivetrain". The dealer must disclose to you in writing any defects which were discovered or should have been discovered during the inspection. (NRS 482.36662)

The "drivetrain" of the vehicle includes the transmission, drive shaft, torque converter, differential, universal joint, constant velocity joint, and all other systems components that transfer power from the engine to the wheels.

It is best for the buyer to take the car to an independent mechanic for an inspection before signing a contract to purchase the car.

If the dealer does not inspect and disclose defects of a vehicle with an odometer reading exceeding 75,000 miles it is safest not to buy. You may report the dealer's failure to the Enforcement Division of the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety (DMV) at 486-4222 or 486-08620. DMV has the power to fine the dealer up to $2,500 and to make the dealer provide warranties on all future car sales after three substantiated complaints.

The dealer also has a general common law duty to exercise reasonable care in inspecting vehicles offered for sale for the purpose of detecting defects that would make the vehicles dangerous. If you discover that you were sold an unsafe rebuilt wreck which the dealer did not disclose to you, contact an attorney.

The dealer would violate the law [NRS 598.0915 (7)] if it represented to you that the car was of a particular quality if the dealer knows, or should have known, that it was of another quality. Also, a dealer cannot make a false representation in a car sale or lease transaction pursuant to NRS 598.0915 (15). A dealer may not knowingly fail to disclose a material fact in connection with the sale or lease of a car pursuant to NRS 598.0923 (2).

If you suffer any damages as a result of the dealer's failure to inspect and/or disclose defects you may sue as a victim of consumer fraud to recover your damages. See NRS 41.600. If your claim is less than $7,500, you may file a Small Claims action without an attorney. Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada provides free classes in representing yourself in Small Claims court, or self-help packets upon request. Please see our Free Classes section of this website.

IS THE DEALER REQURED TO DISCLOSE WHETHER THE VEHICLE IS A "SALVAGE VEHICLE"?
Yes, under NRS 487.830, dealers must:

  1. disclose in writing any information that the dealer knows or reasonably should know concerning whether the vehicle is a "salvage vehicle" before executing a contract of sale or a long term lease;
  2. provide a copy of the disclosure to the buyer; and
  3. retain the written disclosure in the dealer's records.

A "salvage vehicle" means a motor vehicle that at any time has been declared a total loss vehicle, (which means the cost of repairs are more than 65% of the vehicle's Fair Market value), flood damaged vehicle, non-repairable vehicle or had salvage or a similar word placed on any title issued for the vehicle. Moreover, a dealer shall not remove or conceal a marking on a title which indicates that the vehicle is a salvage vehicle.

If you are harmed by a dealer who violates the new law, contact an attorney immediately. Violators may be charged with a crime and ordered to pay restitution to the victim. A person who violates the new law, with the intent to defraud, is liable to any purchaser or lessee of a motor vehicle who is harmed by the violation for either three times the actual damages, $5,000 or actual damages plus punitive damages allowed by the court, whichever is greater. If you win a lawsuit, you can recover costs plus reasonable attorney's fees.

When buying a car, check www.nicb.org for whether the vehicle had been stolen or declared a total loss by an insurance company. The VINCheck service, recommended recently in Consumer Reports Money Adviser, is free and made available through the National Insurance Crime Bureau. But just like CarFax or AutoCheck -- paid services -- none will guarantee that the car is pristine. Its best to take it to a trusted mechanic who should be able to tell you whether its been in a major accident or in a flood.

IS THE DEALER REQUIRED TO DISCLOSE WHETHER THE VEHILCE IS A "LEMON LAW BUY BACK"?
Yes, under NRS 597.684, dealers must disclose on a 8 ½” x 11” form and in 10-point black type on a white background:

  1. The year, make, model and vehicle identification number of the motor vehicle.
  2. Whether the certificate of title for the motor vehicle has been inscribed with the notation “Lemon Law Buyback.”
  3. The nature of each nonconformity reported by the original buyer or lessee of the motor vehicle.
  4. The repairs, if any, made to the motor vehicle in an attempt to correct each nonconformity reported by the original buyer or lessee.

A “Lemon Law Buyback.” means a car which was reacquired and repaired after a buyer returned the car under the new car “lemon law”. If you are harmed by a dealer who violates the law, contact an attorney immediately. Violators may be sued for actual damages, punitive damages, costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF AGAINST FALSE STATEMENTS?
It is a deceptive trade practice for the dealer to knowingly make a misrepresentation of material fact or knowingly fail to disclose a material fact. Obviously, such matters are difficult to prove and typically lead to a lawsuit. To protect yourself, get anything important in writing. If the dealer will not put anything in writing, Don't buy the car. These laws apply to used car sales and if a dealer violates them, the consumer may sue the dealer for "consumer fraud" under NRS 41.600. If successful, a court could award the consumer both actual damages and attorney fees. Punitive damages under NRS 42.001,et seq. could also be awarded.

It is difficult to prove false statements especially if you later sign a contract stating that you are buying the vehicle "as is" or "with all defects". It is best to have another person present as a witness to your conversations with the dealer. It is also wise to read all documents before signing and to insist that any spoken promises about the car's condition or the dealer's obligation to repair defects are placed in writing. If the dealer will not put his promises in writing they may not be enforceable by a court.

WHAT FEES SHOULD I PAY?
Most commonly, there are three categories of car-buying fees: vehicle registration fees, sales tax and a document fee or "doc fee". To understand how they work and what to expect., see Edmunds

SHOULD I PURCHASE GAP COVERAGE?
In deciding whether or not to purchase "GAP insurance" see Edmunds Starting October 2015, the Nevada Legislature has authorized the sale of a GAP waiver by a car dealer/creditor which, depending on the terms of the particular contract, may cover the same risk as GAP insurance.  Check pricing and terms with their own insurance agent BEFORE agreeing to purchase GAP insurance or a GAP waiver from a car dealer/creditor.

IF MY CAR BREAKS DOWN OR NEEDS REPAIR AFTER I BUY IT, WHAT CAN I DO?
Whether or not the dealer has any responsibility to repair your vehicle depends upon whether the vehicle is covered by a warranty. Warranties may be "express" (meaning that the terms are spelled out, i.e., "expressed" by the dealer to you - usually in writing) or "implied" (meaning that a law imposes or implies a warranty even when the dealer has not given one). Dealers often attempt to sell a vehicle "as is" (meaning there are no implied warranties).

EXPRESS WARRANTIES
In an express warranty a dealer lets you know exactly what types of repairs are covered, how long the warranty lasts and the cost covered. For example, a dealer might agree to cover 2 of the costs of necessary repairs to the engine and drivetrain for the first 1,000 miles or 30 days following purchase, whichever comes first.

Under the federal Magnuson-Moss Act (15 U.S.C. 2301-2312), express warranties must be "full" or "limited". "Full" warranties require repairing defects within a reasonable time without charge and allowing the consumer to choose either a refund or replacement if the item cannot be repaired.

"Express" warrantees must be clearly disclosed and must state:

  • who can enforce it.
  • what is covered (i.e. what parts, service, etc.)
  • how long it lasts.
  • the consumer's duties.
  • whether any informal dispute or settlement mechanisms are available. ! whether implied warranties are limited.
  • any rights under state law.
  • whether a warranty card must be returned.

IMPLIED WARRANTIES
Unless disclaimed with clear language like "as is" or "with all faults" a used vehicle is sold subject to two warranties which are implied by the law. They are the IMPLIED WARRANTY of MERCHANTABILITY and the IMPLIED WARRANTY OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

A car is MERCHANTABLE if it is of minimally adequate quality at the time of sale and is fit for the normal use of a car, i.e. driving on the roads. This warranty may be waived if you inspect the car and buy it any way.

The law also implies a WARRANTY of FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. If the seller has reason to know the purpose for which you are buying your vehicle (example: to get to and from work) and that you are relying on the seller's skill and judgment in helping you select a car to fit that purpose then you may be covered.

A seller may have a defense to any of your breach of warranty claims if you did something to cause the problem with your vehicle. If for example, you wreck it, fail to change the oil, take it off road, fail to keep coolant in the radiator, etc. you may be held responsible for problems.

Express warrantees for vehicles with over 75,000 miles.
Starting 10-01-97 you may be entitled to a new type of express warranty required by Nevada law. These warranties must be given in sales of used vehicles with odometer readings exceeding 75,000 miles by dealers who have incurred three unresolved complaints with DMV. NRS 482.36662. Check with DMV at 486-4222 or 486-8620 to see if your dealer has 3 violations.

Such express warranties must contain a statement that if operation of the vehicle becomes impaired due to a defect in a part of the engine or drivetrain the dealer shall, with reasonable promptness, fix the defect or get it fixed by someone else.

The duration of the express warranty depends upon the mileage on the vehicle's odometer at the time of purchase. NRS 482.36663.

Mileage to purchase Length of Warranty

75,000 -- 80,001 miles 30 days or 1,000 miles
80,001 -- 85,001 miles 20 days or 600 miles
85,000 -- 90,001 miles 10 days or 300 miles
90,001 -- 100,001 miles 5 days or 150 miles
100,001 and above miles 2 days or 100 miles

The time periods do not run (i.e. they are tolled) while the vehicle is in possession of the dealer or is otherwise inoperable (not running). Dealers who do not comply with this new law may be sued for damages for consumer fraud under NRS 41.600.