Vehicle Warranty Laws

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There is nothing quite like driving off the lot in a shiny, brand-new car. But what happens when that shiny new car turns into an ongoing problem? Each state has specific laws governing car warranties and how they can be used and enforced by a consumer.

While these laws can differ widely between states, they apply whenever a new car is sold, and can also apply to used car sales in some situations.

Lemon Laws

Many states have enacted so-called "lemon laws" that apply to some automobile sales. These laws protect new car buyers from recurring or repeated problems experienced during the first year or so of a car's lifetime. While these laws can differ widely from state to state, they typically require a vehicle's seller or manufacturer to replace, repair, or reimburse an owner for any car that fails to meet the standards imposed by the lemon law.

For example, the state of Ohio requires sellers or manufacturers to repair or replace any car that does not conform to any applicable express warranty within the first year of the car's lifetime, or 18,000 miles, whichever comes first. Any car that can that experiences such recurring problems be either repaired, replaced or have the purchase price refunded to the buyer at the manufacturer's or seller's expense.

Express and Implied Warranties

All states have adopted the provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code, commonly referred to as the UCC. This set of laws governs commercial transactions and imposes requirements on any car dealer offering new cars with express and implied warranties. An express warranty is any communicated promise or assurance made by the car seller or manufacturer to the buyer as part of the sales process. Implied warranties are any unspoken promises or presumptions about a car's suitability for a specific purpose or its functionality.

For example, the state of Maine requires all products to be sold with an implied warranty of merchantability. This requires all products to be fit for their ordinary purpose, meaning a car must be able to be driven. Further, Maine does not allow dealers to revoke any implied warranties of merchantability, even by selling used cars with "as is" language. ( See reference 2, page 2.)

Used Cars

Unlike new cars or those sold for a specific purpose and with specific warranties, used cars are often sold to consumers with very limited or no warranty protections at all. Used cars are typically sold "as is," and many states do not require used-car sales to comply with lemon law sor other warranty statutes.

For example, according to the Missouri attorney general's office, Missouri's lemon law does not apply to any used car sale in the state. However, if a car dealer or seller provides explicit warranties whether written or otherwise expressly made, these provisions are enforceable under the law even if the car is used.