Consumer Guide to Private Party Car Sales
Private parties selling or buying a car to another private party should be aware of the following:
The Used Vehicle Warranty Law:
The Used Vehicle Warranty Law applies differently to a vehicle purchased from a private party than it does if purchased from a dealer. Under the law, a dealer is anyone who sells four or more vehicles in a 12 month period. Click here for more information about dealer requirements under this law.
The Used Vehicle Warranty Law requires private party sellers to inform buyers about any and all known defects which impair the safety or substantially impair the use of the vehicle. The law applies to all private party sales regardless of sales price or mileage. If the buyer discover a defect that impairs the vehicle's safety or substantially impairs the use, and can prove that the seller knew about the defect but failed to disclose it, the buyer may cancel the sale within thirty days of purchase. The seller must refund the amount the buyer paid for the vehicle, less 15 cents per mile of use.
The Lemon Aid Law:
This law allows a consumer to void or cancel a motor vehicle contract or sale if the vehicle fails to pass inspection within seven days from the date of sale AND if the estimated costs of repairs of emissions or safety related defects exceed 10% of the purchase price. This law applies to both dealer and private party sales of cars and motorcycles purchased for personal or family use. The vehicle must be returned to the seller within 14 days from the date of sale. Click here for more information.
This law prohibits both dealers and private party sellers from turning back or readjusting the odometer or mileage indicated on any automobile offered for sale. If the buyer can prove that the seller reset the odometer, the buyer can sue the seller for $1500 or three times the amount of the buyer's damages, whichever is greater, along with court costs and attorney fees. Odometer tampering is also a criminal offense.
Title Jumping/Title Skipping:
The law requires any consumer who is selling a vehicle to properly fill out the car’s title. Leaving the title “open,” is illegal. Individuals who purchase a car with an open title avoid paying sales tax, registration fees, and title fees. They never put their name or information on the car’s documents, leaving the seller fully liable for the car under Massachusetts law. The seller is also at risk for penalties and fines since it’s illegal to leave the title open.
The best way is to properly fill out the “Assignment of Title,” which is found on the back of the vehicle’s “Certificate of Title.” This must include:
• The date of sale
• Purchase price
• Buyer’s name, address, and signature
• Seller’s name, address, and signature
• Odometer reading