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Office of the
Illinois Attorney General
Kwame Raoul

Illinois Attorney General Logo

Consumer Protection

Auto Buying, Financing, and Repairs

A vehicle purchase is considered the second most expensive purchase for consumers, after a home. The process of selecting and purchasing new or used cars can be difficult to navigate. You need reliable information to make decisions that fit your needs and your budget. Even after the purchase, the car will need maintenance and potential repairs.

The Attorney General enforces laws to police the marketplace and protect car buyers and owners. We also have experts who can help you avoid and address problems that might arise during your purchase. For example, there are laws in place that deal with accurate advertising practices. There are laws that specify the condition of the powertrain components needed to reliably operate a new or used car. Then, once you have selected the car you want to purchase, you also must determine how you will pay for it. Our office can provide tips on how to avoid costly mistakes.

Consumers can protect themselves from making hasty decisions and being pressured by dealers by doing their homework and obtaining as much information as possible about the vehicle in advance.

Advertisements for Cars Have to Follow the Rules

Cars are advertised online, on television, and through numerous apps. This can help in your search, but it can also be a way to draw you into a “deal” that could result in a higher price. Under Illinois law, consumers should be able to purchase a car at the price stated in advertisements. However, the taxes, license and title fees, and a documentary service fee may be excluded from the advertised price. The Attorney General’s office also monitors and enforces other regulations around auto sale advertising. Consumers who encounter problems can contact the office to file a complaint.

Purchasing a New Car

Shopping for a new car can be an overwhelming task. Consumers should do their homework before negotiating the price with the dealer. It is important to understand invoice price, sticker price rebates, and various special offers. This guide can help explain the concepts you need to work through to purchase a new car.

“Lemon Law” for New Car Purchases

When you purchase and drive off in your new car, you don’t expect to be constantly at the repair shop in the short-term. Illinois’ “Lemon Law” is in place to cover instances when a new vehicle has a significant issue during the first year of ownership.

In order to be covered by the Illinois Lemon Law, a vehicle must: have a nonconformity that both substantially impairs the use, market value or safety of the vehicle and is not repairable by the dealer or manufacturer in at least four attempts for the same repair, or be out of service for a total of 30 or more business days during the first 12 months or first 12,000 miles of ownership, whichever occurs first.

Trading in Your Car for Another Vehicle Purchase

Trading in a current vehicle can provide a beneficial path to purchase your next vehicle. However, numerous Illinois auto dealerships have closed and failed to pay off vehicles traded into the dealership by consumers. The result is that innocent consumers become financially responsible for two car loans.

Illinois law, HB 880 requires automobile and motorcycle dealers to pay $500 annually into a Dealer Recovery Trust Fund (“Fund”) to be used to pay off vehicles traded-in to dealerships that close. The Fund could also be used when a vehicle is purchased from a dealership that closes and sells a vehicle with an undisclosed lien.

The Dealer Recovery Trust Fund Board meets at least quarterly each year to address matters.

Purchasing a Used Car with Confidence

Buying a used car can be an affordable path to obtain a vehicle. However, whether you are purchasing from a dealer or a private individual, there can be many unknowns about the car’s history and uncertainties when transferring ownership. Before you purchase a used car, there are some steps you can take before you buy to protect your investment, if you do your homework in advance.

At a minimum, before buying a used car, you should have the car inspected by an independent mechanic. If the dealer will not allow this inspection, consider not purchasing the car. In addition, consider obtaining a vehicle history report from a source such as Carfax or Autocheck. While these precautions may come at a cost, they could save you from larger costs down the road.

As you search, remember that Illinois law now requires that some used vehicles be sold with a 15-day/500-mile powertrain warranty to protect consumers who buy used vehicles. For more information, please review our guide for buying a used car and follow the checklist to help you purchase a used car.

Know Your Rights with Auto Repairs

When vehicles require repairs, there are laws to protect consumers. The Automotive Repair Act and the Collision Repair Act require auto repair shops to make specific disclosures to consumers and prohibits certain unlawful practices. Before the work begins, make sure that you understand what is going to be done and the costs.

Required Disclosures

Before performing any repair work, repair shops must provide the consumer with a written estimate. Among other items, the estimate must include:

  • Charges for Parts, Labor, and Diagnostic Test
  • Description of Parts
  • Disclosure of Whether Parts are New or Used
  • Statement of Whether Repairs are Required or Suggested
  • Date, Odometer Reading, and Length of Time Needed to Repair Vehicle (If More Than One Day)
  • Method for Calculation of Labor Costs
Required Consumers' Rights

As a consumer, you have a right to a written estimate. It can be either an itemized estimate separating parts and labor, which the shop cannot exceed by more than 10%; or a non-itemized estimate stating the total price for repair which the shop cannot exceed at all. As the service progresses, consumers can provide ongoing authorizations for additional work (for example by phone) without a new signed estimate.


A repair shop must provide a copy of the invoice to the consumer. Invoices shall indicate:

  • Itemized Costs of Parts and Labor
  • Odometer Reading
  • Warranties, if Any
  • Total Price
Lien Charges

The Automotive Repair Act prohibits facilities from asserting lien charges for any unauthorized repairs.

Payment Upon Pick-Up

Consumers may remove a vehicle from a facility upon paying for labor actually performed, parts actually installed, parts ordered specifically for consumer's car IF parts cannot be returned, and storage charges if disclosed to the consumer prior to repairs.


Auto repair shops must post customers' rights in a visible location. Remember, you are entitled by law to:

  • Receive written estimate for repairs costing $100 or more unless waived or absent face-to-face contact;
  • Authorize, orally or in writing, repairs which exceed the labor and parts estimated by more than 10% or the non-itemized limited price estimate
  • Authorize repairs, orally or in writing, after leaving a vehicle with a repair facility without face-to-face contact between you and facility personnel

NOTE: If you have authorized repairs in accordance with the above, you must pay for the repair costs prior to driving away from the premises.

Non-Business Hours

If a consumer leaves a vehicle for repair before the shop opens, the facility must:

  • Telephone consumer with a price quotation
  • Obtain consumer's oral consent
  • Prepare a written estimate

Note on the estimate the name of the person authorizing the repairs and the date and time when consent was secured.

Unforeseen Repairs

If the shop finds the total price will exceed the estimated price because of unforeseen circumstances, it must obtain the consumer's oral or written consent to proceed with repairs. When a consumer authorizes the shop to proceed with repairs over the telephone, the shop must note the date, time, name of person authorizing the service, the consumer's telephone number, and any additional costs on the estimate or invoice.