Protecting Yourself from Future Lemons

Dealing with a frustrating experience at a car dealership can feel overwhelming, but you’re not powerless. By knowing the proper steps to file a complaint against a car dealership, you can ensure your voice is heard and potentially prevent others from experiencing the same disappointment. In this blog post, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of filing a complaint, providing you with the tools and knowledge necessary to seek resolution.

From identifying common reasons for filing a complaint to approaching the dealership and taking legal action, we have your back. Let’s dive in and explore the complaint process, empowering you to make informed decisions and successfully navigate this challenging situation.

Identifying Reasons for Filing a Complaint

Reasons For Filing a Complaint

Before you take any action, pinpoint the specific reason why you’re dissatisfied with the car dealership. Common causes for filing a complaint include false advertising, contract issues, and warranty problems. Understanding the nature of your complaint will help you identify the appropriate course of action and increase the likelihood of achieving a favorable resolution.

Try reaching out to the dealership directly in an attempt to resolve the issue before progressing to filing a complaint. However, if the dealership fails to address your concerns or is unresponsive, it may be necessary to escalate the matter to state agencies or even pursue legal action.

False Advertising

False advertising occurs when a car dealership disseminates objectively untrue or misleading information in an advertisement or sales contract. If you believe you are a victim of false advertising, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should be contacted.

The FTC is responsible for protecting consumers from deceptive practices and can investigate allegations of false advertising by dealerships.

Contract Issues

Contractual discrepancies are another common reason for filing a complaint against a car dealership. In such cases, it is advised to address your concerns to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or the relevant state agency, especially if there have been previous complaints.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is:

  • A federal agency
  • Dedicated to protecting consumers from unfair or deceptive practices
  • Enforcing legal action against companies that violate consumer affairs laws.

Warranty Problems

Warranty disputes can also lead to consumer complaints against car dealerships. If you are experiencing warranty issues, it is recommended to submit your complaint to the local Attorney General, who is responsible for consumer protection.

If you need to file a complaint with the Attorney General, don’t forget to follow up to ensure your concerns are being addressed.

Preparing Your Complaint

Preparing Your Complaint

After identifying the cause of your complaint, begin preparing your case. This involves gathering documentation, recording conversations, and organizing your thoughts. By thoroughly preparing your complaint, you will have a stronger foundation for seeking resolution and ensuring your concerns are taken seriously.

The more organized and detailed your complaint, the better. A well-prepared complaint not only increases the chances of a positive outcome, but also demonstrates your commitment to resolving the issue at hand. Let’s explore the key elements involved in preparing a solid complaint.

Gather Documentation

Gather and organize all pertinent paperwork to build a strong case. Contracts, warranties, and receipts are just a few examples of the types of documents you should gather. If you are missing any necessary documents, contact the dealership to request copies.

When organizing your documentation, consider creating digital copies for easy access and safekeeping. Additionally, retain all pertinent conversations and emails related to your complaint. Having a comprehensive collection of documentation will make it easier to reference specific details and strengthen your case.

Record Conversations

You can support your complaint with valuable evidence by recording conversations with dealership staff. Before recording any conversations, be sure to request permission from the other party.

Documenting conversations with dealership personnel, supervisors, or customer service representatives can help corroborate your claims and provide a clear account of the issues at hand.

Organize Your Thoughts

Concisely summarizing your complaint is a significant step in the preparation process. Begin by identifying the issue or problem you wish to address and providing pertinent details. Compile a list of key points to address in your complaint, as this will help maintain focus and ensure all important aspects of the issue are covered.

When composing your complaint online, follow these guidelines:

  1. Use precise and succinct language to articulate the issue.
  2. Avoid emotionally charged language or personal attacks, and focus on the facts.
  3. Clearly state the desired outcome or resolution you wish to achieve.

By organizing your thoughts and presenting a well-structured complaint, you increase the likelihood of reaching a satisfactory resolution, especially when there are too many complaints to address.

Approaching the Dealership

Approaching the Dealership

You should first approach the dealership directly to discuss your concerns and seek resolution before involving state agencies or taking legal action. Open communication with the dealership can often lead to a satisfactory resolution without the need for further escalation.

In some cases, the dealership may be unaware of the issue, or there may have been a simple misunderstanding. By maintaining a professional and respectful dialogue with the dealership, you can work towards resolving the problem and potentially avoid the need for further action.

Contact the Dealership

Begin resolution seeking by first discussing your concerns with the dealership. Contact the dealership via telephone or email, providing your name, contact information, and details of your complaint. If you do not receive a response, follow up to ensure your complaint has been received.

When addressing your concerns with the dealership, be explicit about your requests and the reasons behind them. If the dealership is not willing to address your complaint, consider requesting to speak to a manager or supervisor. In some cases, escalating the issue within the dealership can lead to a resolution.

Escalate the Complaint

If the dealership fails to respond to your complaint or refuses to address your concerns, it may be necessary to escalate the matter to management or the dealer group.

By bringing your complaint to the attention of higher-level personnel, you increase the likelihood that your concerns will be taken seriously and addressed appropriately.

Use Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Utilizing customer satisfaction surveys can be an effective way to demonstrate the seriousness of your issue and encourage the dealership to address your concerns. Manufacturers use surveys to determine the number of cars allocated to dealers. They also use it to calculate bonus amounts.

By expressing your dissatisfaction through surveys, you can leverage your influence as a customer and potentially motivate the dealership to take action.

Reporting to State Agencies

Reporting to State Agencies

If the dealership is unresponsive or fails to resolve your complaint, it may be necessary to report the issue to state agencies, such as the State Attorney General and state-specific regulatory agencies. These agencies are responsible for enforcing laws and regulations related to vehicle dealers and can investigate allegations of fraud, deceptive practices, or other unlawful activities.

By reporting your complaint to the appropriate state agencies, you can hold the dealership accountable for their actions and potentially protect other consumers from experiencing the same frustration.

Contacting the State Attorney General

The State Attorney General has a significant role in enforcing laws and regulations related to car dealers and motor vehicles, including many dealers. To report fraud or illegal activities by a car dealer, contact your State Attorney General and provide a detailed explanation of the issue, along with any evidence that supports your claim.

It is essential to follow up with the State Attorney General to ensure your complaint is being addressed.

State-Specific Regulatory Agencies

In addition to the State Attorney General, you can consult state-specific regulatory agencies for additional support and guidance. These agencies are responsible for enforcing laws and regulations related to consumer protection, insurance, and other areas.

To contact state-specific regulatory agencies, visit the website and select your state or territory to locate your state’s consumer protection office.

Filing a Claim Against the Dealership’s Surety Bond

Filing a Claim Against the Dealership’s Surety Bond

If the dealership fails to resolve your complaint, another option is to file a claim against their surety bond. To do so, contact the company that issued the dealer’s bond, which can be obtained through the DMV.

Filing a claim against the dealership’s surety bond may provide you with compensation for your losses and hold the dealership accountable for their actions.

Leaving Negative Reviews

In some cases, leaving negative reviews on platforms like:

  • Google Reviews
  • Yelp
  • DealerRater
  • Edmunds
  • CarGurus
  • Facebook
  • Better Business Bureau

Can be an effective way to warn other consumers about your experience with the dealership. By sharing your story and giving the business a bad reputation, you can possibly get your issue resolved or help other consumers make informed decisions when choosing a car dealership and potentially prevent them from experiencing the same disappointment.

When leaving a negative review, it is important to:

  • Be honest and specific about your experience
  • Focus on the facts and avoid emotionally charged language or personal attacks
  • Provide constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement

This can help the dealership recognize areas where they can take action to better serve their customers.

Taking Legal Action

Taking Legal Action

If all other options have been exhausted and the issue remains unresolved, it may be necessary to consider taking legal action against the car dealership. Pursuing a legal case can be a complex and time-consuming process, but it may ultimately lead to a satisfactory resolution and hold the dealership accountable for their actions.

Before engaging in legal action, it is important to gather all relevant evidence and documentation to support your case. Additionally, seeking a free consultation with a lawyer can help evaluate the strength of your case and discuss potential outcomes.

Gather Evidence

To build a strong legal case, gather all pertinent documentation and evidence. Photographs or videos of the vehicle, records of repair attempts, and communications with the dealership may be included in this. All these provide valuable information to help analyse the issue and troubleshoot any problems. Your attorney can assist you in obtaining any necessary expert testimony or third-party inspections. These measures will help to strengthen and support your case.

In addition to the evidence you have already collected, it is important to gather witness statements, which can be acquired through interviewing witnesses, taking written statements, or having witnesses testify in court. By thoroughly preparing your case and presenting a well-structured argument, you increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Free Consultation at Lemon Law Associates of California

Should you consider legal action, arrange for a free consultation with a lawyer to assess your case’s strength and discuss possible outcomes. Contacting a law firm, such as Lemon Law Associates of California, can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the legal process, helping you make informed decisions and potentially achieve a satisfactory resolution.


Navigating the process of filing a complaint against a car dealership can be challenging, but with the right knowledge and approach, you can effectively address your concerns and seek resolution. From identifying the reasons for your complaint and preparing your case to approaching the dealership and reporting to state agencies, taking these steps can help ensure your voice is heard and protect other consumers from experiencing the same frustration.

Remember, persistence and open communication are key to achieving a satisfactory resolution. By following the steps outlined in this blog post, you have the tools and knowledge necessary to navigate this complex situation and successfully resolve your complaints against car dealerships.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to file a complaint against a used car dealership in California?

If you are not satisfied with a used car dealership in California, you can file complaints against a car dealer by completing and mailing the Record of Complaint Form (INV 172A) to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The form can be found on the DMV website or by calling their customer service line.

What should I do if the dealership is unresponsive to my complaint?

If the dealership is not responsive to your complaint, escalate the complaint to management or the dealer group, and consider reporting the issue to state agencies.

Can I file a claim against the dealership’s surety bond?

Yes, you can file a claim against the dealership’s surety bond if they fail to resolve your complaint. You will need to contact the surety company and follow their instructions for filing a claim. Depending on the surety bond, you may be able to recover your costs if the dealership fails to resolve your issue. Make sure to check with the surety company first before taking any legal action.

How do I report a car dealership in California?

To report a car dealer, or vehicle dealer, in California, you should call the California Department of Motor Vehicles at (916) 255-4400 and select option 6. You may also file an online complaint form on the DMV website or contact your local DMV office for assistance. Be sure to provide as much information as possible about the dealership, including their name, address, and the details of your complaint.

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