If you bought your used car from a licensed Wisconsin dealership, you are
protected by Wisconsins Motor Vehicle Trade
Practice Laws. You dont have the same protection if
you buy from a private party.
A dealership must tell you what it can reasonably discover about the vehicle
Dealerships perform a used vehicle inspection and complete a window disclosure label
before offering a vehicle for sale. They test drive the
vehicle, and check the exterior of the vehicle, the
underside, and under the hood for problems. They also
review any paperwork they have for the vehicle, including
the vehicle title. The dealership then completes a window
label called the Wisconsin Buyers Guide. The
Buyers Guide tells you if the vehicle has any existing
problems or important history you should know about.
Dealerships are required to list any problems they should reasonably have known about based on their
inspection, test drive and paperwork check. They do not
have to take vehicles apart or run diagnostic tests to
find hidden problems. They also do not have to tell you
about future problems your vehicle may develop because of
its current age or condition.
Vehicle condition should match the label
You are entitled to receive a vehicle that is in the condition the Wisconsin
Buyers Guide window sticker describes. If the dealer
fails to list on the Buyers Guide an existing problem
they should have detected during the test drive or
inspection, you may have remedies under the law.
See your Wisconsin Buyers Guide for vehicle information
The Wisconsin Buyers Guide provides the following useful information about a used vehicle offered for sale:
How the vehicle was used.
For example, the label will show if the vehicle was privately
driven, leased, used as a business vehicle,
rented or used as a police vehicle. A
vehicles history may tell you something
about how it was driven and cared for.
Title brands that
will be on your title.
Title brands are
permanent notations that will appear on any
future title issued for a particular vehicle.
Brands show, for example, whether a vehicle was
rebuilt salvage, flood damaged, or bought back by
the manufacturer under a lemon law.
Year, make and
model of the vehicle.
It also lists, the
vehicle identification number (VIN), engine size
and transmission type.
Whether the vehicle
is being sold with remaining manufacturer
warranty, a dealer warranty or "as is."
A vehicle sold "as is" has no
manufacturer or dealer warranty. The dealer has
no obligation to pay for repairing problems that
develop after the sale. However, even when
selling a vehicle "as is," the dealer
must inspect the vehicle and disclose existing
problems. The "Wisconsin Buyers Guide" must
accurately reflect the condition the vehicle is
in at the time of sale.
The condition of
general and safety equipment items.
It is legal for a
dealership to sell you a vehicle with safety or
general condition problems. They can even sell
you a vehicle that is not legal to operate on
Wisconsin roadways. However, they must disclose
these problems on the "Wisconsin Buyers Guide."
Dealers are not required to note
that a vehicle had been in an accident
The "Wisconsin Buyers Guide" does not require the dealership to mark whether the
vehicle has ever been in an accident. In some cases,
there would be no way a dealership could detect repaired
damage based on the inspection and test drive. However, a
dealership is required to tell you about any existing accident damage, or any repaired damage to the
vehicle frame, strut tower, floor pan, or structural
portion of the unibody. Again, the dealership is only
obligated to disclose items it could reasonably detect
during the test drive, vehicle inspection, and inspection
of vehicle records at the dealership.
If you ask dealerships
whether or not the car has been in an accident, they are
not required to do additional research to find out and
tell you. However, they should tell you if there are
signs that the vehicle was in a bad accident or one that
affects how it works now.
Motor Vehicle Purchase Contract is
Dealers will have you sign
a Motor Vehicle Purchase Contract when you buy a car. The
law requires a dealership to have you sign the contract anytime
it takes a deposit from you. The purchase contract is binding when you and the dealership have signed
it. You cannot cancel the contract without paying a
penalty. There is no 3-day right to cancel a contract
signed at a dealership. (See Purchase
It is important to read and
understand the entire contract before you sign it.
Dont sign until you are sure you want to buy the
Get promises in writing
Any promises the dealership makes to you regarding your vehicle or
purchase should be written on the Motor Vehicle Purchase
Contract. If you are buying a vehicle with the
understanding that something will be fixed for you before
or after you pick up the car, get it in writing. Spoken
promises are very hard to prove or enforce. (For more
tips on being a wise car-buyer, see Vehicle buyer's guide - "Wise Buys")
Dealer & Agent Section can help
If you have a problem with
a used car you bought from a Wisconsin dealership, Wisconsin Department
of Transportation's (WisDOT) Dealer & Agent Section may be able to help. However,
Wisconsin law says that before it can investigate your
case, you must tell the dealership about the problem and
give it an opportunity to resolve the situation. Keep a
record of any contact with the dealership, including whom
you talk to and when. Get an invoice for any repairs, or
write down the date, time, and repair persons name.
Be reasonable and friendly with the dealer. Make clear
exactly what you would like the dealership to do to
resolve your problem. If you dont resolve your
dispute with the dealer, contact WisDOT's Dealer & Agent Section at (608) 266-1425 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to file a complaint against a dealership
Complete and mail in WisDOTs MV2338Dealer Complaint form. Attach readable copies or
originals of documentation related to your vehicle
purchase. WisDOT will use the information you provide to
resolve your complaint and enforce the laws. It may share
the information with the dealer you name in your
complaint. Under Wisconsins Open Records Law, your
complaint will be available for public review upon request.
Dealer & Agent Section regulates industry
WisDOT's Dealer & Agent Section licenses, regulates and educates the motor vehicle
industry, and resolves disputes about dealership sales
and warranty repairs. The Dealer & Agent Section also
investigates complaints about odometer tampering
involving dealerships and private sellers.