Record keeping is an essential aspect of any business, but the federal government sets very specific standards for record keeping by auto dealerships. Because the activities of this type of business can affect so many interests, businesses must retain numerous records. Auto dealers can eventually purge many of their records, but they must retain them for certain time periods, depending on the type of record, as set by the federal government.
Department of Transportation
The U.S. Department of Transportation requires auto dealerships to retain odometer mileage statements for five years. They must keep the names and addresses of tire purchasers for three years. Dealers must keep air bag switch installation forms indefinitely.
Because keeping vehicles safe requires maintenance, the government scrutinizes the people who do this work. Dealers must keep safety compliance reviews indefinitely. They must retain accident records and brake inspector qualifications for one year, and inspection and maintenance records for 14 months, or for six months after the vehicle is sold. Dealerships must retain records of employee drug testing for five years if tests are positive and one year if they are negative.
Environmental Protection Agency
Auto dealerships must follow several U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations. They must retain hazardous waste and oil records--including hazardous waste shipment reports, hazardous waste determination lists and waste test results--for three years.
Because underground storage tanks, or USTs, pose a serious environmental threat, auto dealers must keep records pertaining to them on file. They must retain new UST design, construction, installation and notification records, UST repair documents and financial responsibility records indefinitely, and UST leak detection reports for five years.
Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission requires auto dealerships to retain certain records. Equal-opportunity credit applications must be kept for 25 months. Dealers must retain Truth in Lending Act and Truth in Leasing Act disclosure statements for two years.
They must retain indefinitely documents relating to the sale of cars, such as buyers' guides, sales contracts, and warranty and service contracts. They must keep records of the sale of auto parts for six years.
Employment and Sales Records
Auto dealers must keep numerous records relating to employees. They must retain sales compensation records, time cards and daily sales records for three years.
Dealers must retain inventory records: dealer vehicle reassignment forms, consignment contracts and vehicle purchase contracts for three years, and records of the inventory of new vehicles for two years.
John Toivonen is an attorney in Lansing, Mich., and has been a professional writer since 1999. His work has appeared in "The Washington Times." He holds a Juris Doctor from Thomas M. Cooley Law School and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Guilford College.