Consumer Protections

Before individuals purchase a vehicle, there are already several federal laws at work that govern the quality and safety of products available for their purchase. Most of these are found under Title 15 (Commerce and Trade) of the U.S. Code.

  • The federal Automobile Information Disclosure Act, 15 USC 1231 et seq., requires automobile manufacturers and importers of new cars to affix a sticker on the window of each vehicle, called the “Monroney label.” The label must list the base price of the vehicle, each option installed by the manufacturer and its suggested retail price, the transportation charge, and the car’s fuel economy (in miles per gallon). Only the ultimate user (the buyer) can remove the label.
  • For used vehicles, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has passed its Used Car Rule under 15 USC 41, which applies in all states except Maine and Wisconsin. (These states have adopted their own rules governing used car sales.) Under the Used Car Rule, dealers must prominently post buyer’s guides on used vehicles that advises whether the vehicles comes with a warranty and what type or are sold “as is.” The buyer’s guide must be given to the buyer if the buyer purchases a used vehicle, and it becomes part of the purchase contract, and its terms override any conflicting terms in the contract.
  • The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, 15 USC 1381 et seq., has been broken down and re-codified over the years into many legal progeny. The following laws address such matters as motor vehicle or driver safety; minimum standards for motor vehicle emissions, fuel economy, bumper standards, or crash-worthiness; motor vehicle manufacturer recalls or advisories; manufacturer and dealer disclosures, etc.
  • The Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Saving Act, 15 USC 1901 et seq., (much of which has been broken down into additional acts and laws, and recodified under Title 49, Transportation) contains numerous provisions for minimum quality and safety standards, disclosure, and reporting requirements.
  • The federal Truth in Mileage Act of 1986, commonly referred to as the “Anti-Tampering Odometer Law,” (PL 99-579) (49 CFR 580) criminalizes any act that falsifies actual odometer readings and mandates that each transferor of a motor vehicle furnish the transferee certain information concerning the vehicle’s history.
  • The Clean Air Act, 42 USC 7401 et seq., addresses minimum standards for exhaust emissions on motor vehicles.
  • The Anti-Car Theft Act of 1992, 15 USC 2021 et seq., establishes, among other things, a national motor vehicle title information system to disrupt attempts to obtain legitimate vehicle ownership by auto thieves. It also provides for the inspection of exports for stolen vehicles.

Inside Consumer Protections