If a used car is sold "as is," the implied warranties don't apply. This means that you must pay for all repairs that aren't covered by an express warranty, even if the car breaks down on the way home from the dealership.
However, just because the seller says the sale is "as is" doesn't always mean it is. State and federal laws don't allow "as is" sales in certain situations, including when any of the following are true:
- An express written warranty exists.
- You buy a service contract from the seller within 90 days after purchasing the car.
- A state law explicitly prohibits or limits "as is" sales.
- The seller doesn't strictly comply with state law requirements for selling the car "as is."
- The seller does not provide conspicuous notice that the sale is "as is."
Enforcing Warranty Rights
Usually, you must notify the manufacturer if you think your car does not live up to the promises in the warranty. If you keep using the car without notifying the manufacturer of the defect, you may lose your right to enforce the warranty. Notify the manufacturer as soon as you discover the defect, and do it again in writing if the manufacturer ignores you the first time you complain. Usually, notifying an authorized dealer constitutes notice to the manufacturer -- but check your Owner's Manual to make sure. All warranties require that you give the manufacturer an opportunity to fix the defect.
Always keep written records of your communications with the manufacturer or dealer, even if it's only a note of the time and day you talked on the phone, who you talked to, and what was said. This will help protect you if you ever have to go to court or arbitration.
Not every problem or defect will qualify as a "breach of warranty." It depends on the terms of the warranty and the severity of the problem.
Also, most warranties have time limits. If you discover the problem after the warranty has expired, you will probably be out of luck. There is an exception to this rule, however: If the car was repaired during the warranty period by someone authorized by the seller, the manufacturer must extend your original warranty by the amount of time the car was in the repair shop.
If the seller refuses to honor your warranty, you may be able to cancel the sale. However, the rules for doing this are complicated. You will probably need to consult with a lawyer. To learn more about enforcing your warrant rights and warrants rights covering used cars, see Nolo's article Lemon Law for Used Cars.
To learn more about purchasing a used or new car, get Nolo's Encyclopedia of Everyday Law, by Shae Irving and the editors of Nolo. This handy guide contains hundreds of answers to the average American's most frequently asked legal questions.
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