Purchasing Online: What You Need to Know First
The information on this page is designed to inform you of the differences between purchasing new modified vehicles online as compared to in-person. NMEDA advises you to purchase your accessible equipment face-to-face from an establishment near you to guarantee a good product fit, service and safety.
Can you buy an accessible vehicle online?
Yes. The question, however, is how to buy a vehicle appropriate for your needs, compliant with industry regulations and standards, and one with which you will be satisfied in regards to future service and warranty.
Is there really a difference between online and in-person buying?
Bottom line: the difference between online and in-person purchasing comes down to two things:
- Client/Vehicle Assessment – Will the person in the chair be able to enter, exit, and fit comfortably in the vehicle?
- There is no one-size-fits-all answer; this must be done in-person. Many dealers will gladly bring a vehicle to your home or workplace for an assessment.
- Buying direct from a manufacturer without an in-person assessment is incredibly risky. If you must go this route it is critical that you get a written guarantee that the vehicle can be returned for a full refund (within a set time period) with no questions asked.
- Service After the Sale – Who will maintain the conversion? Despite what online customers are often told, the vast majority of mobility dealers will NOT work on a conversion unless they have a mechanic on staff who is trained and certified by the conversion manufacturer. Savvy buyers will ask the online seller what specific mobility dealer will be working on their vehicle, then will call that dealer to verify they actually do service that conversion manufacturer.
What do state laws say about the online purchasing process?
Some states have specific laws concerning selling a vehicle across state lines. These laws are designed to protect the consumer, so check with legal counsel regarding the laws in your state.
Will I ever personally meet a representative from an Internet seller and do they provide references?
Probably not. Most Internet sales companies do not usually have regional sales representatives. You’ll be assigned an “in house” sales rep who will assist you but with the lack of personal interaction, they may not be able to fully assess your needs.
How would I obtain a license tag for a van I purchased online?
You will be able to go to your local tag office and purchase a permanent license tag. There may be a period of time when you cannot use your vehicle as temporary tags are usually not valid except within the state they are issued. Check with your local department of motor vehicles to verify. When you purchase from a dealership, the dealer will typically handle all the title, licensing and registration for you.
How would I obtain a title for a van I purchase out of state?
An out of state seller probably can’t obtain a title for you in your name. The seller may simply provide the title to you at the time of delivery. You would then be required to take the title to your local title agency and transfer it (for a fee) to your name. You should be very cautious about the titling process. Titles are complex and errors can occur. Correcting a title error is a time consuming and often complex task. Knowing the origin of your vehicle and title is extremely important. Again, when you purchase from a dealership, the dealer will typically handle all the title transfer requirements for you.
If my van’s mechanical systems fail while I own it, who is responsible?
This is a question of warranty and depends on the OEM warranty and the warranty provided by the vehicle modifier. A more significant issue is failure of a vehicle system resulting in bodily injury or property damage. In this case, the vehicle modifier should have what is called “product liability insurance.” This insurance covers any damages to property or injury that might occur as the result of defects, which are the responsibility of the modifier. Without this coverage, the vehicle owner has no one to turn to for responsibility. Make sure to request a certificate of product liability insurance. Vehicle sellers also have what is called “garage keepers insurance” to cover the work they perform. NMEDA dealers carry both types of coverage.
If my van is involved in an accident or stolen after I have purchased it and before I receive it (while it is still in the care of the online mobility dealer), who is responsible for the damage or loss?
The answer depends on who has what insurance. So make sure that your insurance starts upon your purchase even if you have not yet received the vehicle. It is a good idea to request a proof of insurance from the Internet seller. Most reputable vehicle dealers have what is called Garage Keepers Liability Insurance. If they are liable for the loss or damage, this insurance should cover the cost. Sometimes there is a question as to whose insurance is primarily responsible – the Internet seller’s, the trucking company’s or yours.
What if I have substantial problems with a vehicle I purchase online?
Most states have “lemon law” statutes that address defective vehicles. However, YOUR state’s lemon law may not apply if the van was not purchased in that state. Additionally, most lemon laws apply to “new” vehicle purchases only. Because of the conversion process, nearly all wheelchair van sales, regardless of model year and/or mileage, are considered used vehicle sales, not new. Confer with legal counsel about this question. Aside from lawsuits, in many situations where there is a conflict, personal contact and established relationships help resolve the problem. In the case of online purchasing, you may never personally meet an individual from the Internet seller.
How will I know that the vehicle I purchase online will be properly converted and fit the needs of my disability?
Very important question. You really will not know until the vehicle is delivered to you. Every vehicle is different and mistakes can occur. Also, without the Internet seller meeting you personally and you having the ability to “test” the vehicle, there is no way to fully ensure that you or your loved one will properly fit in the vehicle and be able to use it as you desire. It is critical to ensure (in writing) that you have the right to refuse delivery of the vehicle and receive a full refund if, upon delivery, you do not like the way the van fits your needs; it fails to meet your reasonable expectations; or it does not match the description provided by the Internet seller.