Car Repairing and Purchasing

A knowledgeable consumer is less likely to be taken advantage of; before purchasing a vehicle or having one repaired, it is important to research the company.

As a consumer, you have the right to be treated fairly and receive the best service. However, not all companies provide such service and prey on unknowing customers.

Here are some steps the can be followed before car repairs and purchasing:

Checklist for vehicle repairs

  • Research the business through the Better Business Bureau.
  • Check the company’s license through the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • Verify if the license is active through the Department of Corporations.
  • Know the full name and the correct contact information for the company.
  • Get a written estimate, which includes the estimated amount and the service they are providing.
  • Always read the contracts, if there are any questions or if any clarification is needed, be sure to ask.
  • Ask about deposits and whether it is refundable. Get the answer in writing.
  • Always get receipts for any transactions. Receipts should include all of the company’s information. That includes the company’s name, the date, the amount, and what service the company is providing.
  • Pay with a check or money order. Cash and credit cards are acceptable as long as you have the proper documentation (written estimate and receipt of payment).
  • Make sure to receive all copies of contracts, receipts, and payments.
  • Get everything in writing — verbal agreements are not binding.

Checklist for purchased vehicles (new and used)

  • Research the business through the Better Business Bureau.
  • Ensure the company is in proper compliance with Florida law through the Department of Motor Vehicles. Florida’s Motor Vehicle Law protects licensed Florida dealers. Private sellers are not protected under these laws.
  • Verify if the license is active through the Department of Corporations.
  • Always read the contracts, if there are any questions or if any clarification is needed, be sure to ask.
  • Check all warranties or if the car is being sold “as is”. “As is” implies that the vehicle is being sold exactly how the vehicle is. For example if the vehicle breaks down a week after it was purchased, the dealership will not fix the problem.
  • Check the return policy and make sure to review and understand the terms of that policy.
  • Ask about deposits; if it is refundable or non-refundable. Get the answer in writing.
  • Always get receipts for any transaction with the company. Receipts should include all of the company’s information. That includes the company’s name, the date, the amount, and what service the company is providing.
  • Pay with a check or money order. Cash and credit cards are acceptable as long as you have the proper documentation (written estimate and receipt of payment).
  • Make sure to check the vehicle before purchasing.
  • Take the vehicle to another mechanic to check the engine or bring someone along who knows how to check the engine.
  • Always test drive the vehicle.
  • Check to make sure everything works on the vehicle i.e. lights, horn, AC/heat, tires, etc.
  • Run the vehicle’s Carfax report to check for accident history (http://www.carfax.com).
  • If purchasing the vehicle from a small company or private seller, make sure the title is in the seller’s name.
  • In the State of Florida, the Lemon Law applies to new vehicles only; get more information through the Attorney General’s Office.
  • Get everything in writing — verbal agreements are not binding.

If you feel pressured into purchasing or using a certain company, chances are it’s a scam, and it could be in your best interest to walk away.

Florida does not have a “cooling off” period. Should the company refuse to supply any of the above items from the checklist, then it would be in you best interest to go elsewhere.

However, should problems arise, there are certain agencies that may be able to assist. The Department of Motor Vehicles will assist consumers if the business is operating without a proper license, while watchdog websites like ripoffreport.com will provide information from past scam alerts other consumers has supplied.

Call for Action is a nonprofit network for consumers to assist them through mediation. Lastly, contact Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Economic Crimes Unit to see if the business’s actions constituted criminal intent.

Agency Information

Better Business Bureau
4417 Beach Boulevard
Jacksonville, FL 32207
(904) 721-2288
http://www.bbb.org/

Department of Motor Vehicles
7120-15 Hogan Road
Jacksonville, FL 32216
(904) 630-1916
http://www.flhsmv.gov/index.html

Department of State
Division of Corporations
P.O. Box 6327
Tallahassee, FL 32314
(850) 245-6050
http://www.sunbiz.org/

Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
Neil Kirkman Building
2900 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399
(850) 617-2000
http://hsmv.state.fl.us/html/forms.html

Attorney General’s Office
Office of Attorney General
State of Florida
The Capitol PL-01
Tallahassee, FL 32399
(850) 414-3990
http://myfloridalegal.com/

Call for Action
Florida Office (Fort Myers)
824 Palm Beach Boulevard
Fort Myers, FL 33916
Tuesdays-Thursday
11 a.m.-1 p.m.
(239) 334-4357
http://www.callforaction.org/

Call for Action
Main Office Rockville, MD
11820 Parklawn Drive
Suite 340
Rockville, MD 20852
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
(240) 747-0225
http://www.callforaction.org/