AttorneyAuto DefenseDefenseJames S. SifersUsed-Car Dealerships

Why A Safety Inspection Is So Important!

A safety inspection for a vehicle that your dealership is going to offer for sale to the public is not just a good idea, it is required by law.  A proper safety inspection can reveal potential problems with a vehicle and act as an insurance policy which confirms that a vehicle sold by your dealership was in a safe condition prior to that sale.

          Cal. Veh. Code § 24007 requires dealers to ensure that vehicles they sell comply with the law.  Specifically, the following items must be in safe working order:

  • Exterior lights (headlights, tail lights, turn indicator lights, etc.)
  • Brakes
  • Windshield
  • Windshield wipers
  • Mirrors
  • Horn
  • Heater/defroster
  • Muffler and exhaust system
  • Safety belts
  • Airbags
  • Sufficient tire tread (varies based on tire)
  • Odometer
  • Bumpers

(Cal. Veh. Code §§ 24400, 26451, 26700, 26706, 26709, 26710, 26712, 27000, 27150, 27314, 27317, 27465, 28050, 28050.5, 28051, 28051.5, 28052, 28053, and 28071.)

A safety inspection is independent of a smog check, which is also required to be completed, and passed, prior to sale. (Cal. Veh. Code §§ 24700 and 27317.)  A (The) best practice is to ensure that all safety inspections are completed by Bureau of Automotive Repair (“BAR”) licensed facilities.  This ensures that a qualified individual performs, and properly documents, the inspection as well as provides your dealership with recourse should the inspection not be completed as your dealership has requested.

A properly documented safety inspection from a BAR licensed facility will give your dealership the peace of mind that should a customer later complain about issues with a vehicle’s safety inspected components, you will be able to demonstrate to that customer, or potentially a court, that you did what was required of you by law.  By establishing that your dealership complied with California’s pre-sale safety inspections, your dealership will avail itself to a defense that because the dealership complied with the law, nothing more should be required. (See Beaird v. Bryan (1966) 244 Cal.App.2d 836, 840.)

In addition to having a BAR licensed facility perform the required safety inspection on a vehicle prior to your dealership offering it for sale, it is also a good idea to have that facility check the vehicle for prior accident damage.  Given the prevalence of litigation regarding undisclosed accident damage, having the confidence to know that the vehicles your dealerships sells are in fact safe, satisfies the additional requirement that “[a]lthough a used car dealer does not insure the safety of a car he sells, and is under no duty to disassemble the car to examine its parts, he must make a reasonable inspection for defects that would make the car a menace on the highways. (Citations.)” (Benton v. Sloss (1952) 38 Cal.2d 399, 404.)

A safety inspection will also allow your dealership to have the confidence it needs in determining whether to arbitrate a vehicle purchased at auction.  Given the relatively short timeframes in which a vehicle may be arbitrated at the various auctions throughout California, having a proper and thorough inspection done will give your dealership the ammunition needed to challenge any announcement, or lack thereof, should an issue be found in a vehicle purchased at (an) auction.

Make sure your dealership is performing the proper safety inspections on all vehicles it sells and ensure that those inspections are done by the right people.  If you take these steps, your ability to defend claims related to the condition of the vehicles will be much improved.

James S. Sifers, Esq.


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