Sometimes the legal rights you get when you buy a used car will depend on whether it was a private party sale or if you bought it from a car dealer. The difference is big. Buying a car in a private sale can be risky (online or off) because the law is very different from a car dealer purchase. When a person sells a motor vehicle to another person, and the seller is not in the business of selling vehicles, then in most states the only obligation on the seller is to answer the buyer’s questions honestly and not hide anything that they know the buyer would want to know before deciding to buy it. If the seller lies or hides something important, that can be fraud in most states. The seller also has to tell the truth about the mileage on the car too by filling out correctly and honestly an odometer statement for the buyer. And in those states that require mandatory emissions tests in order to get a vehicle licensed to drive on the road, many of those states say that if the emission/pollution equipment was disabled or removed then the buyer may have the right to cancel the sale. If none of that applies to your deal, then you may be stuck in a private party purchase. When you buy from a car dealer, those laws and many more can apply. There, the buyer’s legal rights are mostly determined by the paperwork that is signed and whether or not any lies or concealments occurred in the sale process. First, look to see if anything was written down about any kind of warranty or guarantee or right to cancel the deal. But that’s not the end of it. 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 (although your dealers will never admit it) and you may even have the right to cancel the sale (they won’t admit that either). 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 a Used Car Buyer Guide warranty form looks like at the link below. Once you have already spent your money, it's not too late to have an independent repair shop inspect it and tell you what they think, but the best time is before you put down your hard earned money. Still, there is more than one way to get rid of a bad car or to get even when you’ve been ripped off. If you were lied to about something important, then that may be fraud. But you need to talk to a local Consumer Law attorney who deals with this kind of case (it's called "autofraud" or car sales fraud). Don’t call a lawyer who writes wills. Or one who handles criminal cases (even though you probably think the dealer who you bought from is a criminal) because there are special laws that cover car dealers. Call your local attorney's Bar Association and ask for a referral to a Consumer Law attorney near you or you can go to the link below for a Free Online 50 State National List of Consumer Law Lawyers 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, NACA). 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. Next time, before you buy a used car, read the Avvo Legal Guide on how to avoid buying a lemon used car without getting ripped off, link below. If this answer was helpful, please give it a “VOTE UP” below. Thanks for asking and good luck. Ron Burdge, www.USLemonLawyers.com
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. If you need a Consumer Law attorney, click the link above to find a Consumer Law attorney near you.
There are some states that mandate warranties on used cars, albeit limited ones. I do not think MO is one of those states. Regardless, most states mandate minimum operating standards, think safety standards, and you may find some issues there in your purchase? Additionally, it's possible that the dealer made some mistakes (honest or otherwise) in your purchase contract and if so, you may be able to get some relief there. Best to have a local consumer protection attorney look at your documents for a consultation.
I am a Missouri attorney and I get asked this question often. In Missouri, a dealer may sell a used car “as is.” There are no specific warranties, and the warranties normally implied by Missouri law do not apply. You are responsible for any repairs on an “as is” vehicle. And remember, Missouri's Lemon Law does not apply to used cars. The best route is to nicely approach the dealer and see if you can get some help. Reputable dealers as a gesture of good will might help you out. They are not required to do so but might in hopes of future business.