Ask Amy: Does a car salesperson have to tell you about previous car damage?

If you are in the market for a new or used car there are key questions you should ask while negotiating the deal. Dani Karni from Lone Star Legal Aid joined Amy for an episode of Ask Amy. She says don’t be afraid to ask the dealer specific questions.

Questions to ask before signing the deal on a new or used vehicle. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Questions to ask a car dealer

  • Has this vehicle been in an accident?
  • What kind of accident?
  • Ask if the vehicle was a trade-in or if they got the vehicle at auction.
  • Ask what kind of condition was the vehicle in when they got it.

What if the dealer says they don’t know the specifics of the vehicle? Do they have to tell you?

“The dealer is not necessarily responsible for knowing all of those questions but if you ask and if they do know the answer they are required to tell you the truth,” explains Karni. “That’s where I feel like a lot of consumers come back to a dealership and say, ‘You scammed us. You should have known this. You didn’t disclose it to me. I asked and you failed to disclose it. Now I’m stuck with a car note.’”

The dealer may say there is no right in Texas to return a vehicle.

Can I return a vehicle within three days of purchase if something goes wrong?

Karni says contrary to what people there there is no right to return a vehicle in three days in Texas.

Texas Business and Commerce code says the “three days to return” right only applies to purchases that meet the following criteria:

  • The seller solicits a buyer at a place other than the seller’s place of business. For example, a seller selling goods or services at a temporary location, an event, or the buyer’s home.
  • The buyer makes the agreement or offer to buy at a place other than the seller’s place of business.
  • The goods or services are worth more than $25 or the amount of real estate is worth more than $100.

Warning about yo-yo financing trick

Karni also warned about yo-yo financing. This is where the dealer says you are approved for a certain rate but then changes the terms later. The salesperson changes the terms after you think the deal is done.

“If the dealership comes back and says you can get financing here, we had to take your deal elsewhere and now this new or different finance company wants different terms, higher interest rates, you can tell them here are my keys, give me back my trade-in and my downpayment. You can hold them to their own terms.”

You should also watch out if a salesperson tells you they can reduce the monthly payments. In reality, they are just adding an additional year of payments and spreading out the payment schedule.

See the full Ask Amy episode with Karni here.

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About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.