Read the Fine Print
Written by Sharon K. Campbell

If you sign your name to a contract, you are bound by the terms of that contract. So, how often do you actually read what you are signing, BEFORE you sign it? Based on some of the calls I get, not many people. I would not say you will never be able to bring a case against a company if you have signed a bad contract, but I will say you are ALWAYS better off reading it first. If you don’t like the terms, be willing to walk away.

Some examples of clauses in contracts you should know about. How about Carfax? Just run a Carfax and if the report on the car you want comes back clean, you are in the clear. Right? Maybe not so quick. Ever read the disclaimer on a Carfax report?

“This CARFAX Vehicle History Report is based only on information supplied to CARFAX and available as of [date] at [time]. Other information about this vehicle, including problems, may not have been reported to CARFAX. Use this report as one important too, along with a vehicle inspection and test drive, to make a better decision about your next used car.”

Well, they got that right – get a used vehicle inspected before you buy it. Funny how they don’t say that on any of the radio or television spots. Gotta sell those Carfax reports.

It just so happens that the data reported on Carfax reports is neither comprehensive nor current. They don’t have ALL the data on any particular car and the data they have is not reported in a timely manner. So, while it is not a bad idea to check it, don’t rely on it.

Some car dealers around the Dallas, Texas area are even starting to use disclaimers in their car sales documents regarding CarFax. They want you to sign off that you have read the CarFax report and agree and you are okay with the damage it discloses was done to the car. And you won’t come after them no matter what you later find out about the car. They call it a Used Vehicle Carfax Disclosure. Sign here! That document should be a


I shouldn’t have to say it, but DON’T EVER SIGN SUCH A DOCUMENT! I would immediately suspect there is something else wrong with the car. Don’t take the car dealer’s word for it: Be willing to walk away, go find another car.

There are so many documents put in front of you to sign when you are buying a car. This is an important purchase. There are lots of repercussions for you. It is very important that you know what you are signing and know what the total agreement is.

Another fine print term to watch. The standard Motor Vehicle Retail Installment Contract has a phrase, right under the signature line at the bottom, “By signing here you are agreeing that you have been provided a copy of the document you are signing.”

In other words, don’t ever purchase a car and leave without A COPY OF ALL THE DOCUMENTS!

You are entitled by law to a copy of everything. Do not accept a promise to mail the documents later or that you can pick them up later. If everything is legitimate, they will give you a copy.

One more thing. After you choose the car you want to buy, sometimes even before, you will be asked to sign a credit application to see if you qualify for financing. This is very important – DO NOT SIGN IT BLANK! Fill it out yourself or read it over very carefully before you sign it – make sure ALL the information is correct. This document will be submitted to finance companies and banks which are regulated by state and federal law. There can be serious consequences for submitting an application with false information.

Stay tuned for other examples of fine print to look out for.

Sharon K. Campbell, Attorney at Law
3500 Oak Lawn Ave
Suite 110
Dallas, Texas 75219

Phone: 214-351-3260
Fax: 214-443-6055

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