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What should I do about getting a refund on a used car that doesn't work and was purchased not knowing it hasn't passed smog?

Glendale, CA |

I bought a used car that appeared great & drove well during the test drive.The day after the purchase, the engine light turns on, turns out I have thousands of dollars worth of repairs. The dealership will not give me my money back. I have proof that they knew that they were selling me a bad car. Certified mechanics stated that they turned of something in the car to prevent the "check engine light" from showing up while I test drove it. The light came on after driving more that 50 miles, which is normal for it to come back. I cannot afford the repair works! I declined the "Cancellation Option" only because they said it was only valid for 24hrs and worth $400.00! They used this to get me stuck with the car. It is actually $75.00 for the Cancellation Option for a car under $5k I paid $4k.

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You are right, the dealer is wrong, and if they won't help you out then talk to an experienced car sales fraud lawyer and go after them in court. California has some special laws that govern used car sales. California has a special Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights law that you can read about on this web page ( that gives the buyer the right to buy a 2 day contract cancellation option with their used car. But in a used car sale, your legal rights are mostly determined by the paperwork that you sign and the promises the dealer makes to you and whether or not the dealer hid anything from you during the sale. Look to see if anything was written down about any kind of warranty or guarantee or right to cancel the deal. If so, then that may be binding on both you and the dealer. When you bought it can matter too. If you bought it very recently, then you may have more legal rights (again, depending on your paperwork and what representations were made to you when you bought it). But that’s still not the end of it. If the vehicle has hidden damage the dealer knew about and didn’t tell you then that could be fraud too. There’s also a federal law that requires all car dealers to post on the window of all used cars they are selling a special “Buyer Guide” form (it’s often called a Used Car Window Sticker) that discloses whether or not a warranty comes with the car. Many small lot car dealers don’t comply with the law. If they don’t, then you may end up with a warranty after all and you may even have the right to cancel the sale. The back side of the form has to be completely filled out and many car lots, big and small, fail to do that too and that can also trigger your right to cancel the deal. You can see what the Buyer Guide form looks like on this web site page ( There’s only way to know for sure what your legal rights are - talk to a local California Consumer Law attorney who deals with this kind of case (it's called "autofraud" or car sales fraud). You can go to this web site page for a Free Online 50 State National List of Consumer Law Lawyers (Http:// and find one near you (lawyers don’t pay to get listed here and most of them are members of the only national association for Consumer Law lawyers, Or you can look for one under the Find a Lawyer tab on or call your local attorney’s bar association and ask for a referral. But act quickly because for every legal right you have, there is only a limited amount of time to actually file a lawsuit in court or your rights expire (it's called the statute of limitations), so don't waste your time getting to a Consumer Law attorney and finding out what your rights are. If this answer was helpful, please give it a “Vote UP” below. And don’t forget to mark your best answer so Avvo lawyers can know how good a job we are all doing. Thanks for asking and good luck.

For a Free Online 50 State National List of Consumer Law Lawyers, click here

Learn Car Sales Fraud Tricks So You Won’t Be Ripped Off, Click Here

What Is Fraud? Read this Free Online Avvo Legal Guide

Read a Car Dealer's Slang Dictionary, Click Here

There Is a Law Against Unfairness and Deception - Read it Here

This answer is for general purposes only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The law in your state may differ and your best answer will always come from a local attorney that you meet with privately. For a Free Online 50 State National List of Consumer Law Lawyers, click on this link ( and find one near you


I'm sorry to hear about the problems you are having with this car. If you can prove that the seller knew that the car was defective when it was sold, then you have the right to unwind the deal and get your money back (and, perhaps, more). It would really help to know how long ago you bought the car, whether you have written estimates from a mechanic stating the repairs needed, and whether you signed anything that said "as is" when you bought the car.

I would recommend that you call a local Lemon Law attorney and set up an appointment to go over all the documents and facts. Most of us do not charge for this. In fact, the dealer may have to pay your attorney's fees if you hire an attorney.

In the meantime, feel free to visit my website and read my blog for more information.

Best of luck!

--Doug Sohn


Very sorry this happened to you. My firm handles matters like this statewide. Suffice it to say that the vehicle MUST pass smog BEFORE you buy it. THEY KNOW this and you have excellent claims if your facts are correct. I recently blogged on this subject here:

and we've had excellent success in dealing with smog issues. Doug Sohn, who posted earlier is sharp on this stuff too. You need to find a consumer protection law firm handling auto fraud and lemon law matters for a no fee consultation. Most firms like mine will have such an offer.

Ronald Lee Burdge

Ronald Lee Burdge


Read Scott's blog on this - it'll tell you exactly where you stand.


Sorry to hear you are dealing with this. It sounds like the selling dealership unfortunately took advantage of you by concealing pre-existing defects at the time of the sale. The fact you did not purchase the cancellation option does not vitiate or take away from that claim. The bottom line is that if the dealership knew there was a pre-existing problem then it should have disclosed it to you. I have been representing consumers against car dealers in cases such as this for years. I have also represented auto dealerships in the past and am very familiar with the ways in which some of them go about putting things over on consumers. Based on your post, I think I can help you. My office is in Diamond Bar and not far from you. Feel free to contact me for a free consultation to discuss this further. I wish you luck getting this resolved!


William Blasser, Esq.

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