One of the top questions I am asked as a consumer protection attorney goes something like:
“I just purchased a new (or used) car and I had a change of heart. Can I return it?”
Unfortunately, the answer is usually no. At least not without significant difficulty and expense.
Florida has no “cooling off” period or other specified time within which a buyer may voluntarily and unilaterally return the vehicle free of penalty and cancel the sales agreement in typical transactions. Once you sign, the vehicle is yours. This is especially important in used car sales, many of which are “as is” sales.
In an “as is” sale, what you get is just that. The vehicle, AS IS.
This means if the tires are dry rotted, the body is rusted through, the door locks are broken and the battery is dead, that's how you purchase the car. AS is IS when you sign the papers. This is why its critical that you have a mechanic of your own choosing (and at your cost) go over any used car you are considering purchasing AS IS.
As with so many other things in life, though, there are indeed exceptions to this general answer.
If the sale was procured by fraud or other undue means, there exists the possibility that you can have the court “undo” your agreement with the seller. This is known as rescission of the contract in Florida. As a general rule, though fraud is difficult to prove. It takes an experienced attorney to investigate the facts and circumstances of the situation and all attendant details to determine if such a claim would have any chance at success given the evidence available.
There are also various consumer protection statutes in Florida which provide certain causes of action for consumers who have been victimized by unethical or illegal business practices which are inherently unfair or deceptive.
Florida's consumer protection statutes can be found in Chapter 501, Florida Statutes.
Regarding used vehicles which develop mechanical issues shortly after purchase; absent a warranty there is little that a consumer can generally do other than to repair the vehicle at his or her own cost.
There is no “lemon law” or similar protection for used cars in the state of Florida so the general rule is “buyer beware.” Always have a mechanic of your own choosing thoroughly inspect the vehicle and report to you any potential issues that are found. Often these issues can be used to negotiate the price to a point which can account for the necessary repairs or inform you of defects so severe you should skip the vehicle altogether.
Take my word on this, the cost of having a mechanic inspect a used vehicle before you buy it (let's say $200 or so) can save you THOUSANDS of dollars in the long run, headaches, potential job loss due to lack of transportation, and the list could go on.
Spend the money. Get that professional opinion.
At the Law Office of Alex McClure, I pride myself on working closely with my clients to provide practical solutions to their consumer legal problems.
I do everything in my power to provide options that my clients didn't even know existed before consulting with me.
Contact the Law Office of Alex McClure today to find out how I can help you properly address your consumer legal issues.
The Law Office of Alex McClure provides services in Lake Mary, Sanford, Longwood, Deltona, Deland, Orlando and all of Seminole, Volusia, Orange, Brevard and Lake Counties.
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