Can a used car buyer get their money back for a problem with the car that they didn’t notice until after the purchase?

Can a private buyer sue a private seller or get their money back if the car they bought has problems? Most of the time, cars are sold through individuals "as is", so there isn't much legal protection for the buyer.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: May 5, 2022

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If you are a private seller and you sold someone a car that had problems they didn’t notice, you may be wondering “can a used car buyer get their money back or sue me?” Can you sue someone for selling a bad car? If a private seller lied about a car, there may be some ways for a buyer to get their money back, but most of the time they don’t have much legal protection.

Can a used car buyer get their money back from a private seller?

Based on used car law, if your agreement has gone through and you fulfilled the terms of what you told the buyer, they generally may not sue you or get the money back. If you sold an as seen car that means the seller has no obligation to fix problems. In most cases, a used car purchase sold between private individuals is an “as is” transaction with no warranty or guarantee implied by used car law. If they buy a car as is, unless you gave them an express warranty about the issue they are raising, or unless you lied to them in some way or coerced them into buying, under used car law, they are generally not going to have any legal justification for suing you based on the transaction.

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Can you be sued for selling a bad car?

Can you sue someone for selling you a bad car? While most used car sales are “as is” transactions, sellers do have some obligations under used car law. The main obligation that you have as a seller in many states is to disclose whether the car is a salvage vehicle, meaning, was it ever in an accident and declared a total loss? If the car in question was not repainted because of an accident and doesn’t have a salvage title, based on used car law, the buyer can’t require you to take it back based on the fact that it was painted.

Based on used car law, the duty here is on the buyer to inspect the car, ask questions, and make sure the car meets their needs up front, before the transaction takes place. Because they didn’t do that in this case and didn’t confirm whether the car was painted or repainted, it is their loss that they didn’t check and you’re not going to have to give back the money or pay any damages if they do sue you. Based on used car law, they have no legal grounds based on the set of facts presented and their case should be dismissed if they try to bring it. However, laws can vary by state. The Illinois lemon law for a private seller and the Michigan lemon law for a private seller are different.

To get a better understanding of used car law, you should consult with a lawyer in your state. In addition, you shouldn’t try to handle any legal dispute, even a seemingly open and shut one, without finding a lawyer for professional legal advice.  

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