There are laws that protect you when you are buying, leasing, financing and/or repairing an automobile. It is best to buy from a licensed car dealer. Check for complaints against the dealer and bad reviews online before buying from them. When buying a new or used car, remember there is no “cooling off period” in New York. This means, if you change your mind, you cannot return the car and get your money back. In New York City, you can look over the purchase contract for 48 hours while the dealer holds the car. Always read the contract and any financing agreements and make sure you understand them before signing. You can request to take a copy home before signing, so you have time to read and understand it. Do not sign a blank contract and do not give the dealer any money without a signed contract. If you negotiated the sale in Spanish and you finance the car, the written contract must also be in Spanish.

If you decide to lease a car, you are covered by New York’s Motor Vehicle Retail Leasing Act (MVRLA). Under this law, you have the right to receive a sample of the lease used by the dealer before signing it and the right to receive a signed copy of the lease. You have the right to dispute excess wear and damage through arbitration and to only pay reasonable early termination fees. If the dealer violates the MVRLA, you can recover any actual damages you suffer, as well as a civil penalty of $100 for each violation and reasonable attorney fees.

All new cars and some used cars, come with warranties. A warranty basically states that the car is of a certain quality and will work in a certain way for a certain period of time. But sometimes the car you buy does not live up to the warranty and is defective, or a “lemon.” There are federal and state laws, called “Lemon Laws” that protect you in such situations. To recover under the lemon law, you must meet certain requirements and follow certain steps. It is important to know your rights under these laws before you buy a new car or certain used cars. If the car is a lemon, the dealer must refund your money or replace the car. If the dealer refuses, you can file a lawsuit to enforce your rights under the lemon law and also recover your attorney’s fees.

You also have rights when you take your car for repairs. You should deal only with a repair shop that has registered with the NYS DMV. All registered repair shops display a green and white sign outside the shop. The repair shop must give you a written estimate if you request it and cannot make any repairs without your permission. Keep all estimates, invoices, work orders, receipts, and warranties in case there is dispute over the work done or the cost.

Legal Editors: David Kassell Esq., and Mark Grossman, Esq., May 2018 

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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