Can I Get a Refund for my Used Car in Florida?

The Frustration of a Faulty Purchase

By Rosario from Orlando, Florida, Orange County

On April 16, I financed a pre-owned vehicle from a used car lot. I found myself in a dire situation and urgently needed a car without the luxury of a test drive. After signing the papers and providing a down payment of $700, I drove off. However, it quickly became apparent that the car had some issues – it was jerking and stalling. Initially, I attributed these problems to low fuel and promptly filled up the tank. To my dismay, the car’s air conditioning didn’t work either, so I contacted the sales representative at the dealership. He assured me that the AC could be fixed by installing some freon over the weekend. Despite this temporary solution, the car continued to stall and drive erratically. Seeking advice, I called a friend who suggested I get the oil changed. The mechanic, upon inspection, made a troubling discovery. He informed me that there was transmission fluid in the motor and warned me that the car was on the brink of a breakdown. Furthermore, he confirmed that the AC issue was not due to freon but rather a damaged compressor. He estimated that the cost of repairs would exceed the value of the vehicle itself. With this newfound knowledge, I immediately called the dealer’s salesperson, expressing my desire for a refund due to the non-functional car. Much to my disappointment, he refused to entertain the idea, claiming that the responsibility now fell solely on my shoulders. Our conversation abruptly ended when he hung up on me. Despite numerous attempts to reach a resolution, both the salesperson and the owner have adamantly refused to engage in any discussion. In an attempt to resolve the matter, I even had the car towed back to their lot, offering to forfeit my deposit. However, they simply refused to accept the return, insisting that I keep the car and fulfill the monthly payments. Threatening legal action, they claimed that if I failed to comply, they would take me to court. All I want is for them to reclaim the vehicle and reimburse my money. I’ve already sent them a written request, but what legally can I do next?

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Upholding Consumer Rights

Dear Rosario,

After carefully examining your situation, I can understand your frustration. Firstly, it is important to establish whether you signed an “As Is” warranty or not. In Florida, most used car dealerships require buyers to sign this form as a standard procedure. Assuming you did sign an “As Is” agreement, it typically means there is no warranty attached. However, even in such cases, you may still have avenues to pursue. Under Federal law, there exists an “implied warranty of merchantability” which stipulates that an item sold by a dealer must fulfill its intended purpose. In the case of a car, its primary function is to transport you from point A to point B, so issues with the air conditioning might not affect this core functionality. That being said, the burden of proof lies on you to establish that the defect preventing the car from functioning properly pre-existed the purchase. From your account, it seems you acted swiftly and took all reasonable steps thus far. In order to recover your down payment, it is likely that legal action will be necessary. Whether the dealer initiates a lawsuit or not, you can file a counter suit to reclaim your down payment. You can argue that the car had a pre-existing defect rendering it unsuitable for sale. I experienced a similar situation a few years ago when I bought a used car and found myself stranded the very next day. Returning the car to the dealership and stopping payment on my down payment check resolved the matter without any further legal action. I have included some information and links for you to review. Good luck!

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How to Protect Yourself: Buying a Used Car
Source: The Florida Attorney General’s Office
Buying a Used Car
Federal Trade Commission
March 2002

Warranty of Merchantability

Please note that the answers provided here are for general informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. If you require legal assistance, we recommend utilizing LagalMatch’s free Lawyer Referral Service. Many lawyers offer free initial consultations. Take advantage of this service to secure the legal advice you require.

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