Think you paid too much money for your car or truck? Usually, there is no legal remedy for striking a bad bargain (even if it was the result of high-pressure sales tactics). However, in California there is one exception. Under California Vehicle Code section 11713.1(e), when car dealers publish advertisements for cars and trucks, and those ads include asking prices, then the dealers are prohibited from selling the advertised vehicles for more than their advertised prices, unless the ads specifically list expiration dates that have passed. Further, Section 260.04(b) of the regulations promulgated by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles further mandates that advertised vehicles “must be sold at or below the advertised price irrespective of whether or not the advertised price has been communicated to the purchaser.”
Therefore, if a car dealer sold you a car or truck for more than the price at which the vehicle was advertised, then the dealer likely violated the law, and it does not matter whether or not you saw the advertisement prior to buying the vehicle.
Typically, the easiest way to find old advertisements for your vehicle is to do an internet search. Modern car dealerships publish virtually all of their advertisements on the net. That being said, internet ads can be taken down, and usually are shortly after the vehicle is sold, so if feasible you should do an internet search as soon as you possibly can.
How do you find advertisements for you vehicle on the internet? The easiest way is to type your vehicle identification number (“VIN number”) into a Google, Yahoo, or Bing search. Under California law, ads for specific vehicles must contain the vehicle’s VIN number, or at least an abbreviated version of the number. So a simple Google search for your car’s VIN number will likely return any existing ads still published on the net.
When you run a search of your VIN number, you will occasionally encounter results that appear to describe an ad for your vehicle, but when you click on the link you will be taken to a page stating that the vehicle has been sold or is no longer available. When this happens, you should attempt to access any “cached” versions of that page that the search engine has saved.
To access the cached pages saved by Google (or any of the other popular search engines), look for and click on the green upside-down triangle immediately to the right of the url address. In the picture below, the red arrow is pointing to where you need to click.
Then, when you click the green upside-down triangle, a button will pop up that says “Cached.” See image below, which depicts the “Cached” button.
Clicking on the “Cached” button will reveal any old versions of the page that the search engine has saved. Further, at the top of the cached page you can find information that will specify when the cached page was published on the internet.
When comparing the advertised price of your vehicle to your purchase contract, what matters is not the total price that you paid or are going to pay (since the total price includes things like sales tax, registration fees, optional items, etc., which do not need to be included in advertised prices), but rather the “Cash Price Vehicle” listed in the contract.
To find the “Cash Price Vehicle” disclosure in your automobile purchase contract, you need to find the “Total Cash Price” section, which is the first set of disclosures in the “Itemization of Amount Financed” section of vehicle purchase contracts. The image to the right demonstrates approximately where this section will be in your vehicle’s contract (see the section highlighted in red).
Once you find the “Total Cash Price” section, the number that is important is the amount disclosed as the “Cash Price Vehicle.” The image below depicts a vehicle purchase contract in which the “Cash Price Vehicle” disclosure is highlighted. Under California law, the amount listed as the “Cash Price Vehicle” must be less than or equal to – but not greater than – the advertised price of your vehicle.
If you find an old internet advertisement for your vehicle, and it lists a lower asking price than the “Cash Price Vehicle” disclosure in your car or truck’s purchase contract, then you should save a copy of the ad so that you have some evidence of the advertised price and something to show an attorney who is willing to take your case. Further, since your car has already been sold the advertisement could be taken down any time it is extremely important that you save it immediately. The ad might not be there if you do the same search tomorrow. So preserve it by printing out a copy (on paper or as a .PDF file) or saving it to your computer.
Once you find the ad and have preserved a copy of it, you should contact an experienced auto fraud attorney to discuss your legal rights.
The Vachon Law Firm has experience in litigating claims against car dealers for failing to sell cars at their advertised price. We also offer free consultations. Call us today toll free at 1-855-4-LEMON-LAW (1-855-453-6665) to learn more about your legal rights! You can also contact us via email.