Tips on Buying A Used Car or Vehicle

The Federal Trade Commission's Used Car Rule requires dealers to post a Buyers Guide in every used car or vehicle they offer for sale.  Buyers Guides do not have to be posted on motorcycles and most recreational vehicles. Anyone who sells less than six cars a year doesn't have to post a Buyers Guide.  The Buyers Guide must tell you whether the vehicle is being sold "as is" or with a warranty; what percentage of the repair costs a dealer will pay under the warranty; that spoken promises are difficult to enforce; to get all promises in writing; to keep the Buyer's Guide for reference after the sale; the major mechanical and electrical systems on the car, including some of the major problems you should look out for; and to ask to have the car inspected by an independent mechanic before you buy.

When you buy a used car from a dealer, get the original Buyers Guide that was posted in the vehicle, or a copy.  The Guide must reflect any negotiated changes in warranty coverage. It also becomes part of your sales contract and overrides any contrary provisions. For example, if the Buyers Guide says the car comes with a warranty and the contract says the car is sold "as is," the dealer must give you the warranty described in the Guide.  When the dealer offers a vehicle "as is," the box next to the "As Is - No Warranty" disclosure on the Buyers Guide must be checked. If the box is checked but the dealer promises to repair the vehicle or cancel the sale if you're not satisfied, make sure the promise is written on the Buyers Guide. Otherwise, you may have a hard time getting the dealer to make good on his word.

If the dealer fails to provide proper disclosures, the sale is not "as is." To find out what disclosures are required for "as is" sales in your state, contact your state Attorney General. State laws hold dealers responsible if cars they sell don't meet reasonable quality standards. These obligations are called implied warranties -- unspoken, unwritten promises from the seller to the buyer. However, dealers in most states can use the words "as is" or "with all faults" in a written notice to buyers to eliminate implied warranties. There is no specified time period for implied warranties.

The most common type of implied warranty is the warranty of merchantability, which means simply that the seller promises that the product offered for sale will do what it is supposed to. That a car will run is an example of a warranty of merchantability. This promise applies to the basic functions of a car. It does not cover everything that could go wrong.  For example, breakdowns and other problems after the sale don't prove the seller breached the warranty of merchantability. A breach occurs only if the buyer can prove that a defect existed at the time of sale. A problem that occurs after the sale may be the result of a defect that existed at the time of sale or not.  As a result, a dealer's liability is judged case-by-case.
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Buying a Used Car: Warranty of Fitness for a Particular Purpose

A warranty of fitness for a particular purpose applies when you buy a vehicle based on the dealer's advice that it is suitable for a particular use. For example, a dealer who suggests you buy a specific vehicle for hauling a trailer in effect is promising that the vehicle will be suitable for that purpose.  If you have a written warranty that doesn't cover your problems, you still may have coverage through implied warranties. That's because when a dealer sells a vehicle with a written warranty or service contract, implied warranties are included automatically. The dealer can't delete this protection. Any limit on an implied warranty's time must be included on the written warranty.

In states that don't allow "as is" sales, an "Implied Warranties Only" disclosure is printed on the Buyers Guide in place of the "As Is" disclosure. The box beside this disclosure will be checked if the dealer decides to sell the car with no written warranty.  In states that do allow "as is" sales, the "Implied Warranties Only" disclosure should appear on the Buyers Guide if the dealer decides to sell a vehicle with implied warranties and no written warranty. Dealers who offer a written warranty must complete the warranty section of the Buyers Guide.  Because terms and conditions vary, it may be useful to compare and negotiate coverage.  Dealers may offer a full or limited warranty on all or some of a vehicle's systems or components.

Most used car warranties are limited and their coverage varies. A full or limited warranty doesn't have to cover the entire vehicle. The dealer may specify that only certain systems are covered. Some parts or systems may be covered by a full warranty; others by a limited warranty. The dealer must check the appropriate box on the Buyers Guide to indicate whether the warranty is full or limited and the dealer must include the following information in the "Warranty" section:  (1) the percentage of the repair cost that the dealer will pay; (2) the specific parts and systems--such as the frame, body, or brake system--that are covered by the warranty; (3) the warranty term for each covered system; and (4) whether there's a deductible and, if so, how much.

You have the right to see a copy of the dealer's warranty before you buy.  Review it carefully to determine what is covered. The warranty gives detailed information, such as how to get repairs for a covered system or part. It also tells who is legally responsible for fulfilling the terms of the warranty. If it's a third party, investigate their reputation and whether they're insured. Find out the name of the insurer, and call to verify the information. Make sure you receive a copy of the dealer's warranty document if you buy a car that is offered with a warranty.

If the manufacturer's warranty still is in effect, the dealer may include it in the "systems covered/duration" section of the Buyers Guide. To make sure you can take advantage of the coverage, ask the dealer for the car's warranty documents. Verify the information (what's covered, expiration date/miles, necessary paperwork) by calling the manufacturer's zone office. Make sure you have the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) when you call.


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