When you purchase a new car or a previously owned vehicle, you typically have to sign a contract. But do you know what’s hidden in the contract?

Because of the length of the contract and time constraints, most people don’t take the time to read the contract details before signing it. Similarly, this is what we do when we make online purchases. Sometimes, we have to check the “I Agree” box before we can get to the next screen. Unfortunately, buried in the small print of the contract is sometimes an arbitration agreement. If you sign a contract at a Virginia automobile dealership that contains an arbitration agreement, you are essentially waiving your rights to a jury trial. This means that if you later have a dispute about the car you purchased, you will not be able to take the dealership to court. Instead, you would have to settle the matter in front of an arbitrator that the dealership has picked out.

The Consumer Law Group encourages you to read any contract before signing it, and to let the dealership know you will not sign an arbitration agreement. If they won’t sell the car to you without agreeing to arbitration, we suggest you move on to a dealer who will. It is very important that you don’t give up your right to a jury trial. If you have questions about dealership contracts, you can reach our Richmond office at 804-282-7900 or contact us online at

John Cole Gayle, Jr.
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Consumer Law Pioneer and Co-Author of Virginia's Lemon Law