Consumer Law

Vehicle Warranties

Are you looking to purchase a new car? You may be interested in what kind of warranty the vehicle has. A warranty is a promise on behalf of the seller to fix certain problems that may arise.

There are two basic kinds of vehicle warranties: express and implied. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides valuable information to consumers about warranties. Make sure to understand your warranty rights before you purchase you next car.

Express Vehicle Warranties

Express warranties are warranties explicitly offered to consumers by sellers. These warranties can be made orally or in writing. They can commonly be found in advertisements and the formal documentation that comes with the cars. Manufacturers will usually also provide certain express warranties on their vehicles.

Implied Vehicle Warranties

Implies warranties are warranties not expressly promised by the seller. They're unspoken promises that the vehicle meets reasonable quality standards. Most states have laws requiring dealers to meet these implied obligations.

A warranty of merchantability, the most common implied warranty, means that the seller promises the vehicle will do what it's supposed to do. The dealer is guaranteeing the vehicle is fit to sell. This warranty doesn't cover every car problem. The vehicle should run, and its basic functions should work.

The vehicle defect must have existed at the time of sale to be under the warranty of merchantability. It's not covered if it occurs after the sale.

Another common implied warranty is the warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. This is an implied promise the vehicle can be used for a particular use. Advice from a dealer that a particular vehicle would be able to haul your boat is an implied warranty of fitness.

Implied warranties don't have a specific duration. They don't guarantee the vehicle will last for a specific period of time. There are many reasons why a car may have problems over time that won't be covered under an implied warranty. Implied warranties usually won't cover vehicle problems caused by misuse, improper maintenance, ordinary wear, failure to follow directions or abuse.

Limiting Vehicle Warranties

Dealers have certain methods of limiting their liability under vehicle warranties. One common method is to sell a car "as is." This means the dealer doesn't promise the vehicle is free of defects. The risk of buying a defective car falls on the consumer.

Some states don't allow dealers to sell "as is" vehicles. They can't avoid their implied warranty obligations in these states. Also, dealers can still be found liable in all states for selling a dangerous vehicle that causes personal injury. Selling a car "as is" doesn't eliminate liability under product liability laws.

Many dealers will use advertisements that state "implied warranties only." This means that there's no written express warranties. Consumers usually have a more difficult time recovering under an implied warranty than an express warranty.

Full or Limited Vehicles Warranties

Vehicle warranties from sellers are usually either full or limited. A full warranty is one that contains certain terms and conditions. A limited warranty is one that doesn't contain all of these terms and conditions. In order for a warranty to be considered full, it must contain the following terms and conditions:

  • No time limits on implied warranties
  • You can get service under the warranty by just informing the dealer
  • You can receive a full refund or a vehicle replacement if the dealer can't repair your car after a reasonable number of attempts
  • Service under the warranty is free
  • Any owner of the vehicle is covered during the warranty period

A full warranty doesn't mean that the entire car is covered. A dealer can choose to have only certain parts or systems in the vehicle covered with a full warranty. A limited warranty can also be offered at the same time on other parts or systems.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • I lost my warranty information for my car. Who do I contact to find this information?
  • My dealer lied to me about my warranty rights. What are my options to get my money back?
  • I have to constantly bring my vehicle to the dealer for repairs. How many repair attempts does the dealer get before he has to give me a full refund?
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