Buying a Vehicle

Buying from a Licensed Dealer

Florida’s motor vehicle laws protect consumers, when buying from a licensed Florida dealer. For a complete list of licensed motor vehicle dealers in the state of Florida, click here.

 

New Vehicle Warranty

New cars carry a manufacturer’s warranty, which will vary in months and/or miles. Some dealers offer extended warranties sold by the manufacturer or an insurance company. The Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS) regulates warranties that insurance companies offer. Buyers should read all warranties to find out what it covers, for how long, who will honor the warranty and what is required to keep it valid. Click here for more information from DFS regarding service warranties.

Used vehicles are not required to have a warranty. Federal law requires all dealers to post a Buyers Guide in the window of each vehicle they offer for sale. The Buyers Guide notifies the buyer whether the vehicle is being sold with a warranty or AS-IS with no warranty of any kind. Buyers purchasing an AS-IS vehicle should be aware that all repairs are their responsibility. Buyers should read warranties carefully, especially the fine print, and be sure to obtain copies of all signed documents. Remember, there is no warranty or agreement unless it is in writing and signed by all parties. Get any promises made in writing.

 

Florida’s New Car Lemon Law

Florida’s Lemon Law applies only to new or demonstrator motor vehicles or recreational vehicles sold or long-term leased in the state. There is no Lemon Law for used cars in Florida. When consumers buy or lease a new or demonstrator motor vehicle, they must receive the Consumer Guide to the Florida Lemon Law from the dealer or lessor. To obtain a guide, or to speak with someone about the Lemon Law, consumers in Florida may call the Lemon Law Hotline at (800) 321-5366. Consumers outside of Florida should call (850) 488-2221. Click here for more information on the Lemon Law.

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Trade-Ins

Get the assessed value of the vehicle being traded in writing on the contract. The value will not change unless more miles are put on the car than agreed to in the contract, parts are removed, or the vehicle is damaged before trading it in.

Consumers can bring a vehicle with an existing lien into a dealership and sell their vehicle. The dealer will have 10 days to satisfy the existing lien prior to selling it to another customer.

 

Sealing the Deal

You Sign, You Buy – Understanding the Contract

Buyers should read and understand the purchase contract before signing. Many consumers mistakenly believe they have three days to cancel the purchase contract. There is no cooling off period under Florida law.

The contract should include the following information about the purchase:

  • Whether the vehicle is being purchased with a warranty or AS-IS;
  • Date the vehicle will be delivered;
  • Other conditions of sale, including promises in writing on the contract; and
  • Itemized list of costs including tax, title and registration fees.

Signing the Contract
Under no circumstances should a buyer sign any blank forms. Obtain copies of all signed paperwork involved in the sale at the time the paperwork is prepared. If trading a vehicle, the buyer should maintain control of the title until the transaction is complete.

Once a deposit is made, if the customer changes his/her mind and decides not to purchase the vehicle, the decision may result in a lost deposit. If placing a deposit on a vehicle, be sure that the receipt and/or contract specify that it is refundable. Buyers should be certain that they understand all the terms of the contract.

Contracts are often written pending credit approval. In this case, the buyer may deposit a credit application fee and leave with the vehicle while the dealer begins processing the application. If the lending institution denies the credit application, the dealer may process the application with another lending institution but at a higher interest rate. Buyers should get all agreed upon terms in writing. If consumers have questions about whether a dealership has a license to finance vehicles, check with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR).

Buyers should receive copies of the following documents from the dealer at the time of signing:

  • Motor vehicle purchase contract;
  • Odometer statement from the dealer;
  • Window disclosure labels or Buyer’s Guide;
  • Warranty or service agreement, if applicable;
  • Finance contract, if applicable;
  • Insurance contract;
  • Copy of certification of pollution control devices or systems; and
  • All other signed documents.

 

Tax, Tag and Title

A licensed dealer is required to apply for a tag and title within 30 days, during which the buyer will be issued a temporary paper tag. It is a violation of Florida Statutes for a dealer to issue a second temporary tag. Consumers should report it immediately by faxing or mailing form HSMV 84901 to a regional Division of Motorist Services’ office.

Florida law requires that all vehicles registered in the state be insured. Without proof of insurance, the dealer cannot complete the transfer of title and registration to the buyer.

Dealers can charge only the actual amount of fees paid for tax, tag and title transfer. Generally, the tax, tag and title fees are not included in the contract; however, some dealers will charge a processing or handling fee. If they do, they must disclose it separately.

A licensed dealer may require the consumer to sign a cash on delivery (COD) form; meaning the dealer will pay up front for the registration of the vehicle and the consumer will reimburse the dealer upon delivery of the registration and, if no lien, title. If the consumer fails to pay for the title and registration, the dealer can place a stop on the vehicle registration until payment is received and the stop is cleared.

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Consumer Tips for Buying from a Licensed Dealer

  • Do your research. There are several online sources available to determine the value of your trade-in as well as the value of the vehicle you intend to purchase. If purchasing a pre-owned vehicle, visit the DHSMV Motor Vehicle Information Check to verify the odometer reading and title.
  • Carefully read window labels listing vehicle price and condition. Read the title, odometer statement and any warranties.
  • Check the vehicle for outstanding recalls, visit safercar.gov.
  • Test drive the vehicle.
  • If purchasing a used vehicle, ask about the vehicle’s title history, condition, mileage and use. Consider using a service that can provide details on the history of the vehicle you intend to purchase.
  • Get all promises in writing on the contract.
  • Read all documents thoroughly before signing to ensure information is correct.
  • Do not sign a contract until you are ready to buy. Once you sign it, there is little, if anything, that can be done to cancel it.
  • Never sign a blank document. It is a wise practice to enter “N/A” for “not applicable,” where appropriate.
  • Keep copies of all signed documents.

 

Additional Resources

Florida Attorney General Lemon Law

Recall Search

Motor Vehicle Check

DHSMV Complaint Form

National Automobile Dealers Association Web site

Odometer Fraud Brochure

Buying from a Licensed Dealer Brochure

Buying a Vehicle Brochure

 

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