Liability on used car sale


I just sold my 2000 Toyota Echo, which I have owned since new. I used a fairly simple bill of sale template that says the buyer is accepting the vehicle “as is”. The buyers looked at and test-drove the car on Friday and wrote me a check. They came by today (Monday) and signed the bill of sale. Before they left, they noticed a little damage to one of the rear body panels. They didn’t notice it when they looked at the car (though the damage has been there for over a year). The deal is done, but I have a bad feeling that the buyers are going to come back at me at some point demanding one repair or another. My question is: am I liable for anything that goes wrong on this car? I gave them as much of the service history as I could find (which I don’t think is required, just a courtesy).


In my home state of New Hampshire you have no liability whatsoever. Used car sales are “as is” unless otherwise stated in writing. I suspect most states have laws saying the same thing. You Department of Motor Vehicles can tell you specifically.


In Oklahoma once you have over the money and get the keys the car is yours, warts and all, and there are only a very, very few situations in which the buyer of a car would prevail. Very few and only if it’s proven in a court of law.


Typo. Have - hand.


In addition to what was already stated, private sales are not put in the same legal category as sales made by a dealer. As long as you are not a car dealer, the sale is final once it you have handed over the car and accepted the payment.


You are not liable for anything that happens to the car after you sell it. It’s the buyers responsibility to inspect the car before handing over any money. They can call you and ask for anything they want, but you don’t owe them anything.


This must be your first sale.

You have no liability and no responsibility to do anything further with this car.


Let’s not forgot those of us who live in emissions areas of states where its not legal to sell a car “as is”. As is in emissions areas doesnt mean the car fails the emissions tests but if the car is sold to someone who lives in this area and the car doesnt pass; the car cant be registered; hence state law which states cars cant be sold to people who must register cars in emissions areas if the car doesnt pass. This sale is void though you have to go to court to enforce it.

This applies by the way to anywhere in our state where we buy a car since we can only register the car in the area where we live.

Your best bet is to check the law before you sell it and dont do something underhand like was done to us. We were sold a car with prior failed emissions; the owner knew about it and didnt bother to take responsibility and the court after 2 years agreed with him though we proved our case. We lost in excess of $150,000 and counting since the car was used for work when we did nothing wrong.


I live in such an emissions state and cars can readily be sold as-is. The experienced buyer simply glances at the windshield for a current inspection sticker.

I don’t understand how anyone with his fair share of brain cells could have “lost in excess of $150,000” after purchasing a beater of a car in the estimated $2000-$5000 range… and I really do NOT want to know. Really.


Well; you dont live in CO cuz we no longer have those stickers on our cars. The only way you can tell is by being handed a slip from the station or the seller of the car or by going to the main state DMV office and asking them with a VIN number.

Our emissinos area is very large and not everyone can take the time to drive in person to the state DMV office to find this out so unless the sale is written up conditional upon passing the emissions test; the sale is void if the car has a prior failed test and is sold to you AS IS without a later passed test.


The key point here is that the seller must ensure that the vehicle has a new emissions certificate (or at least 1 year left on the 4 year exemption for new vehicles). But, when the seller is outside the metro-Denver area, there are no emissions tests required any longer. It seems that the buyer is then responsible for the test since the previous owner has no legal requirement to have an emissions test, and cannot be responsible for the final location of the vehicle.


I agree. My son moved up to Greely, CO. about 6 months ago and that’s exactly the way he explained the CO emissions law to me.

Lost a 150 grand on a used beater car, huh? Now that’s depreciation. ;-(


The emissions is required for the front range which also includes El Paso county though some of it just needs a basic test while the enhanced test is for the 7 county metro area.

Second the CRS is very clear that the seller is the one responsbile for the emissions in CO; not the buyer!!! The problem with the CRS is while the law states the car cant be sold; it fails to state what happens to the seller if he / she knowingly sells a car with prior fails emissions “AS IS”. That is where the problems lie and in Douglas conty; the seller got away with it; while the buyer got royally screwed!!!

Those of you who still dont believe us; we suggest you contact the CO DMV at 1881 Pierce as we have spent alot of time there on one car due to this dead beat since 2002.


The seller according to CO law is the one required to ensure the car passes the test if he sells the car to a buyer who lives in the emissions area of CO; no matter where the seller lives.

If the seller doesnt live by a test centre; then he can make the sale conditional upon the test or he can choose not to sell the car to the person who lives in the emissions area.

The law is very clear. The problem with it is it has no teeth since there are no consequences to the seller yet there are plenty to the buyer. We mean paying for emissions repairs when the law is very clear the seller is responsible to fix the car if the car doesnt pass the emissions. The car in our case failed twice by the same seller in a 3 week period and it was about 3 weeks before we brought the car. We didnt know the car failed the test before we bought it so we made alot of repairs since the car was used for our delivery work and then when the car failed the emissions; we made emissions repairs; when the car still failed we had to go to the state health dept emissisons test centre where the car failed again. We can go on and on.

Only after we had the car 6 months using temp tags; did we make a trip to the CO DMV and find this out. YOu see there is another problem with CO law as it allows you to buy a car and title it and then wait to take the car to pass the emissions. Again; alot of problems with the CRS and the emissions.


The only liability you might have is if you tried to hide a defect from the buyer. That does not appear to be the case here. Don’t worry about it unless they call with complaints. Then get back to us with specific details. We can’t make your decisions for you, but we can help you think the situation through.


Sheesh. In a casual private party sale such as yours and with the addition of the “As is”, you have no liability. Plus I would add that if they come back on something, don’t give an inch or it could open up a can of worms on other items. If you lived in CO with sounds like screwy emissions laws and some of the people, who knows but sounds like the judge agreed that it was a screwy law and sided with the seller.


So rather than rail on about this, did you make sure the vehicle would pass emissions during your pre-purchase inspection? You DID inspect the car first I hope?

Are you saying you knowingly bought a used car with an expired emissions sticker and knew full well that an inspections program was in place.?
Did you even ask about the emissions sticker when you looked at the car, and before purchasing it?

How long after you bought the car before you went for inspection, and exactly what is failing it?


Amazingly, without knowing the OPs home state, people continue to offer their OPINIONS on the laws that govern private party sales based on their own state’s laws or their perception of them.

Massachusetts is another state that has laws protecting buyers of private party sales of automobiles. The seller is liable for any safety or emissions related defects.


Our screwy laws as you call them are because according to the EPA we have bad air. The emission requirements are supposed to stop adding additional problems and to clean up the air.

Those of us who live here see the smog when we drive up and down I 25. If you think our laws are bad; CA is far worse due to their smog!!!

We won our case by the way but the judge didnt award any punitive damages; emissions repairs or any other repairs though it took 2 years in court and we proved our case. We got screwed by a judge who beleived someone who lived all his 70 odd years in CO where we have emissions reports every news cast in the summer time didnt remember he couldnt sell a car to someone who lived in the emissions area with prior failed tests. Screwy Judge is more like it.


First we always inspect the cars. Second there is no way to tell from looking at a car if the car passes or fails the emissions since the stickers have been gone at least 5 years. Third our emissions laws are well known and we have brought and sold cars for mnay years since we make deliveries and put on alot of miles on cars. We never suspected the car wouldnt pass as we have never knowingly brought a car that we couldnt get registered. (Why would we when we have no ability to fix the car ? )The seller knew we did deliveries and he knew the car would be registered in the neighbouring county which like his has emissions requirements. Fourth everything was wrong with the car but the seller lied so he could get full price when the car wasnt worth it since it didnt pass the emissions test. The ironic part is the seller lived 2 miles from a county that has no requirements but didnt sell it to someonewho lives there. Fifth; we made reapirs as we went along as we have been out of work so long and since CO law allows us to get temp tags and wait to get the emissions done we used temp tags for 4 months and then the emissions problems came.

Yes you are all going to say we were dumb not to get the emissions done first but we have done this before and there have been no problems and with the laws too well known we didnt expect to be sold a car that failed prior to us buying it. You see our emissions laws have gotten tighter over the years and not all cars are passing but sellers have other options and that includes donation to charity; selling it outside the emissions area or selling it for parts and he didnt do any of that!!!