What are my consumer rights regarding buying a car from a private seller, if it turned out that the car had been flooded?

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What are my consumer rights regarding buying a car from a private seller, if it turned out that the car had been flooded?

The seller’s ad stated the car was in great condition and in person said there was nothing wrong with the car and that everything worked just fine. We inspected it and everything seemed fine. He said he only had the car for a couple of weeks because it was his wife’s and she decided she didn’t like the small size. The title didn’t state the car had been flooded. A week later the air conditioner stopped working. I took it to the mechanic who informed me the car had been flooded and that the A/C compressor was broken. Do I have any laws to protect my rights?

Asked on June 6, 2012 under General Practice, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The NJ Lemon Law only applies when you  purchase the vehicle new (e.g. from a dealer or manufacturer), and not from a private seller, so that will not help you.

If you can show or believe you can show that the seller was aware that the car had been flooded or the A/C compressor was broken, you may be able to bring a case premised on fraud--the knowing mistatement or omission of a material, or important fact. If this was fraud, you would have a claim for monetary compensation (e.g. the difference in value between car as is and as it was represented to you), or to rescind the transaction entirely (give car back, get money back).

However, fraud depends on knowledge: if the seller did not know of the conditions, he is not liable for failing to disclose them.


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