What Buyers Need to Know About “As-Is” Car Sales

Dealers selling “as is” cars often emphasize the excellent condition and low price of the vehicle. Buyers see purchasing these vehicles as a money-saving option for those looking for an affordable used car.

But buying a car “as is” can also leave buyers with a car that does not work and no way to repair or replace it. 

Knowing the laws surrounding “as is” car sales is the first step in protecting yourself from purchasing a malfunctioning or damaged vehicle. This includes understanding what constitutes an “as is” car sale, the protections offered to buyers under federal and state laws, and the exceptions to these laws. Many warranty laws cover new and used vehicles, even if the buyer purchases the vehicle “as is.” If the car breaks down during the warranty period, the buyer may be entitled to receive compensation, such as a replacement vehicle or a refund.

Robison Lemon Law Group, LLC, represents clients who purchase vehicles that become inoperable or require repeated repairs for the same issues shortly after the clients receive the car. We help eligible clients receive compensation, such as a replacement vehicle or a refund, under state and federal lemon laws. Our experienced lemon law attorneys advocate for clients and help them understand and assert their legal rights. 

What Is An “As Is” Car Sale?

In an “as is” car sale, the buyer typically purchases a used vehicle in its current condition regardless of its known and unknown damages and defects. Often, when a buyer purchases a used vehicle in an “as is” car sale, the buyer may absolve the seller of any responsibility to repair or replace any damaged or defective parts. In other words, the buyer forfeits their right to complain if there are any issues with the vehicle unless the seller gives the buyer a warranty that covers the car. 

Vehicles sold “as is” are typically sold without any type of warranty. Because of this, many people use the term “as is” alongside the phrase “no warranty.” If the buyer purchases the vehicle without any express or written warranty, the buyer may not have a legal recourse to receive compensation for repairing or replacing their vehicle.

However, just because someone buys a car “as is” does not automatically mean the car does not come with a warranty. In some cases, buyers may purchase a vehicle with visible damage that a warranty does not cover, but the car later experiences a malfunction or defect that an express or implied warranty does cover. This is why it is so important to know about the different types of auto-dealer fraud, such as odometer rollback.

What Are the Protections Under Federal Lemon Law For As Is Cars?

To qualify under the federal lemon law, known as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a car must have a substantial defect that affects the value or safety of the vehicle. In addition, the consumer must unsuccessfully attempt to repair the defect (such as a bad axle) an unreasonable amount of times, usually defined as three or more. Alternatively, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act may consider a car to be a lemon if it is out of commission for an unreasonable length of time (typically, 20 days or more). 

The number of repair attempts is cumulative, so if a car has multiple defects that require multiple trips to the dealership or manufacturers, the car may be a lemon. Once a car qualifies as a lemon, the buyer may be eligible to receive a refund or replacement vehicle.

Buyers of “as is” cars most likely have protection under the federal lemon law if they purchased their used vehicle under warranty or signed a contract that attests to the condition of the “as is” vehicle. Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, sellers cannot deny (disclaim) or modify an implied warranty if they sold the vehicle under an express warranty.

What Are Different Kinds of Car Warranties?

There are two main categories of warranties involving car sales: implied warranties and express warranties. An implied warranty is not necessarily in writing but comes from statements made by the dealer about the vehicle or implied as part of the sale. In contrast, an express warranty is a written promise to the consumer regarding the vehicle’s condition, what the dealer promises to do if a defect arises, and other statements. In many cases, buyers have an implied and express warranty for their vehicle, which may entitle them to receive compensation if the vehicle breaks down within a certain period of time after the buyer buys or drives the car. 

Implied Warranty

An implied warranty is also known as a “warranty of merchantability,” which is a promise from the seller that the product will work as it should. The promise usually does not have to be in writing to be enforceable. The idea behind an implied warranty is that consumers only purchase goods that are in decent condition and fit for their intended purpose. In other words, when you buy a car to go to and from work, you typically expect the car to operate as advertised and be safe to drive. 

The extent of the implied warranties often depends on the surrounding circumstances. For example, let’s say the buyer leads the dealer to believe they are only purchasing the car for scrap metal or parts. During the conversation between the dealer and the buyer, the dealer does not imply the vehicle is good for anything beyond being used for parts. In fact, the car has visible damage and does not even start when the buyer or dealer puts the keys in. 

If the buyer purchases the vehicle, they may not have a claim that the dealer breached a warranty. Both parties were under the impression that the vehicle was not operable and that the buyer was only purchasing the vehicle for scrap metal. The fact that it does not work aligns with the representations made by the dealer and may not constitute a surprise or defect later on. 

In contrast, let’s say the buyer talked about wanting to purchase the car to drive their kids to school and soccer practice and run household errands. If the dealer makes the buyer believe the car is fit for that purpose and there are no obvious signs that the car is inoperable, there may be a breach of an implied warranty if the car breaks down. 

Express Warranty

An express warranty is in writing and contains the specific terms of the warranty. Items the document typically includes are the length of the warranty, the items covered under the warranty, and any exceptions to the warranty. Express warranties often include manufacturer’s warranties, a limited warranty issued by the dealer, or any extended warranty the buyer purchased from the dealer when they bought the vehicle.

For example, let’s say a dealer sells an “as is” car under the manufacturer’s warranty, and the manufacturer issues a recall for the vehicle later on. If the manufacturer can’t repair the defect within three attempts, the buyer may be eligible for a refund or replacement vehicle.

What Are the Protections Under State Lemon Laws?

While the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act provides federal lemon law protections, each state has its own lemon law regarding new vehicles and vehicles sold “as is.” Some states offer lemon law protections for “as is” car sales by defining what constitutes a used car and the criteria a vehicle must meet for protection under the lemon law. Other states only offer lemon law protections for new vehicles.

The Pennsylvania and Maryland lemon laws only extend protections to new or leased vehicles that meet the criteria to be qualified as new. 

In most states that protect used vehicles as well as new vehicles, dealers selling “as is” cars typically must provide a warranty for the vehicle based on the price, age, or mileage.

What Are the Limited Warranty Requirements for “As Is” Vehicles in New Jersey and New York? 

The laws of New York and New Jersey also require dealers to provide limited warranties based on the current mileage of the car when it is sold. If a buyer reports any car complaints within the mileage or period specified, the dealer will be legally responsible for repairing their vehicle under warranty.

Each state has its own criteria for declaring a car a lemon, such as how many repairs the consumer must attempt or how long the car must be out of service. Typically speaking, the consumer must ask the dealer to attempt the repair at least three times, or the car must be out of service for at least 20 days to be declared a lemon in states with protection for used cars. 

The vehicles must meet certain requirements to qualify for protection under the lemon laws in most states. These include how the consumer uses the vehicle, the vehicle’s purchase price, how long the consumer has had the vehicle, and how many they have driven it.

Warranty Requirements Under New Jersey Law

New Jersey dealers must adhere to the following guidelines when providing a warranty for an “as is” or used car:

  • If the car has 24,000 miles or less, the dealer must provide a warranty for 90 days or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first.
  • If the car has between 24,000 and 60,000 miles, the dealer must provide a warranty for 60 days or 2,000 miles, whichever comes first.
  • If the car has between 60,000 and 90,000 miles, the dealer must provide a warranty for 30 days or 1,000 miles, whichever comes first.

To qualify for protection under New Jersey’s lemon law, the buyer must purchase the vehicle for more than $3,000, the car must be less than seven years old, and the car must have less than 100,000 miles on it. New Jersey law includes other requirements as well. 

Warranty Requirements Under New York Law

In New York, the dealer must issue a warranty if the used or “as is” vehicle meets the following criteria:

  • The dealer must provide the consumer with a written warranty if the vehicle has a purchase (or lease) price or value of $1,500 or more.
  • The consumer must purchase the vehicle from a dealer located in the state of New York.
  • The consumer must primarily use the vehicle for personal or household purposes. 
  • The car must have less than 100,000 miles on it at the time of purchase. 

If the car meets those circumstances, the dealer typically must provide you with a warranty as follows:

  • If the vehicle has between 18,000 and 36,000 miles on it, the dealer must provide you with a written warranty covering at least 90 days or 4,000 miles.
  • If the car has between 36,000 and 80,000 miles on it, the dealer must provide you with a warranty covering at least 60 days or 3,000 miles.
  • If the vehicle has between 80,000 and 100,000 miles on it, the dealer must provide you with a warranty covering at least 30 days or 1,000 miles. The vehicle must have less than 100,000 miles on the odometer

If you plan on buying an “as is” car in your state, make sure you research the used car lemon laws to determine if they protect you.

What Are the Exceptions to the Lemon Laws for “As Is” Cars?

Not every “as is” vehicle qualifies under the state and federal lemon laws. For example, if someone returns a car and it is repaired and resold to someone else, the lemon laws may not cover the car anymore.  For this reason, sellers and dealers must disclose the car’s lemon law status during the sale, which offers some protection. Further, the lemon laws don’t cover damage resulting from abuse, neglect, or misuse of the vehicle. Additionally, the consumer must file a lemon law claim within the applicable time frame to be eligible for compensation. 

Contact the Robison Lemon Law Group for Legal Help

The best way to avoid a catastrophic “as is” car purchase is to examine the lemon law protections in your state and to thoroughly research any car you plan on purchasing. If you have more questions about the lemon laws in your state or believe you have a lemon law claim, the Robison Lemon Law Group is here to help.

Our firm focuses exclusively on helping consumers recover under state and federal lemon laws. We understand how confusing and frustrating it can be to purchase a new or used vehicle only to find out too late that it requires significant repairs or is inoperable. We help clients assert their rights and make them feel heard throughout the process. 

To schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced lemon law attorneys, please visit our site or call (844) 386-0831.

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