As-is vehicle sales

"As is" isn't a license to rip you off on a used car

We get a lot of calls from people who have been fraudulently sold cars with serious defects. Generally, when a car is sold it comes with an "implied warranty" that the car will be fit to drive.

But when a consumer lets the dealer know that the car is no good and they want their money back, the dealer will often insist that the car was sold "as is," and so it's "not my problem." But the dealers don't understand the law--there are many reasons a buyer will have remedies even when the car is sold as is. I'll break down a few of them here.

  • The car was sold with a warranty or a service contract. Under federal law, a dealer can't disclaim "implied warranties" in a sale if it sold the car with a warranty or a service contract. So that means that if a car comes with any type of warranty, including Minnesota's legally-required warranty for used cars under 75,000 miles, implied warranties may apply.

  • The dealer acted in bad faith. Under Minnesota law, a dealer can't disclaim implied warranties if it acted in bad faith. This might apply if the dealer knew about the problem with the car and lied about it. Or it tried to cover up the problem, before or after the sale.

  • A dealer can't get off the hook for specific statements it made about the car. "Express warranties" can never be disclaimed. This means that if the dealer said "the car has never been in an accident," or "this car is in great condition," or "the check engine light is only on because the car needs a new oxygen sensor" when it actually needs a new engine, it can't squirm out of those untrue statements by hiding behind "as is."

Because the dealer says "as is" is their free pass to lie, cheat and steal, people often think they don't have a claim for auto fraud when they actually might. If you think you were ripped off by a dealer, get in touch.

Car buyers may be able to enforce a dealer's verbal promises

Express warranties are present in nearly all car sales. Under Minnesota law, an express warranty is any statement of fact or promise about the vehicle that the buyer makes to the seller. It doesn't matter if the buyer doesn't intend to create a warranty--if statement or promise is part of the basis of the bargain, it creates an express warranty. Although many express warranties are in writing, verbal representations can be express warranties too. Express warranties can't be waived by selling the vehicle "as-is." Probably the most common type of express warranty in a used car sale is the dealer's statements about the vehicle's condition or characteristics. To be an express warranty, the statement has to be specific (ie. "this vehicle doesn't need any major repairs') and has to be more simply sales puffery (ie. "this is a great car").

Another type of express warranty is when the seller promises to make repairs after the sale. It is common in many used car transactions for the seller to tell the buyer that she can bring the vehicle back if she has any problems. This is probably enough to create an enforceable express warranty.

If the seller breaches an express warranty, the buyer is entitled to sue for damages. This could included the diminished value of a vehicle that wasn't as good as promised or perhaps the cost of repairs that the seller promised to make.