The Risks Associated with Purchasing an “As-Is” Vehicle in California

Automotive business, car sale or rental concept : Happy customer with car dealer agent making deal and signing on agreement document contract in auto showroom or car dealer office concept

Purchasing an “as-is” vehicle in California can come with a considerable amount of risk. Whether you’re in the market for a car, truck, or SUV, buying a vehicle without a warranty can leave you with little to no legal protection if it ends up being defective. While private sellers and used car dealerships are generally not required to offer vehicle warranties, prospective buyers should be sure to do their diligence before purchasing a car that doesn’t come with one. Notably, buying an “as-is” car without a warranty means you won’t have the safeguards provided by California lemon law.

What is an “As-Is” Vehicle Sale?

An “as-is” vehicle is one that a seller is unwilling to make any guarantees about when it comes to its performance. In these cases, a seller will be unlikely to make any changes to improve the car’s condition before the sale. When these types of vehicles are marketed to consumers, the seller is effectively making it clear that it does not come with a warranty. Importantly, once an as-is vehicle is sold, any repair costs will become the responsibility of the buyer.

What Should You Look for Before Buying an “As-Is” Vehicle?

It’s always best to test drive a vehicle before purchasing it to determine if any defects are apparent. It might also be a good idea to have an experienced mechanic inspect the vehicle for flaws and problems. If you notice any of the following issues while driving the car, you should exercise caution before finalizing the sale:

  • Strange noises
  • Transmission issues
  • Acceleration problems
  • Flaws in any of the vehicle’s systems
  • Odometer rollbacks
  • Warning lights turning on

You can avoid entering into a bad deal by running a Carfax report — this would reveal the maintenance history of the car and whether it was involved in any accidents. You can also run the VIN to see if there are any open recalls and find out whether the vehicle was marked as salvage at any point. Taking the time to complete these steps can save you significant time, expense, and hassle in the long run.

Do You Have Any Legal Recourse for Purchasing a Defective “As-Is” Vehicle?

Although “as-is” vehicles can sometimes be a good deal and come without problems, deceptive car dealerships often try to conceal known issues in order to make a profit. While “as-is” cars typically don’t have the protection of California’s lemon law, you may still be able to pursue a claim for fraud. You may be entitled to commence this cause of action if a car dealership engaged in wrongful conduct during the sale by concealing or misrepresenting a crucial fact about the vehicle’s condition.

For example, if the dealership rolled back the odometer or failed to disclose the vehicle had been in a major accident, you may be eligible to pursue a fraud claim. You may also be able to assert fraud if the dealership concealed the fact that the vehicle was previously used as a rental.

Even if your vehicle didn’t come with a written warranty, it may still be covered by an implied warranty of merchantability — unless you bought it “as-is.” An implied warranty of merchantability arises by operation of law. It is essentially the seller’s promise that the particular good being sold has the basic qualities a person would expect of a good of that type. Critically, a car dealer cannot disclaim an implied warranty of merchantability for vehicles that come with a service contract.

Is it Better to Purchase a Car with Lemon Law Protection?

California’s Lemon Law offers significant protection to consumers. But it doesn’t apply to every vehicle sale — such as in the case of “as-is” car sales and when vehicles are sold without a warranty. Specifically, the state’s lemon law covers defects in vehicles that have been purchased in California and are still under the original manufacturer’s warranty. The vehicle must also have a substantial defect that impairs its safety or value.

Before a vehicle can qualify as a lemon under the law, several attempts must be made to repair the nonconformity. Usually, four repair attempts are sufficient before a vehicle will be deemed a lemon — but only two repair attempts are necessary when the issue is one that would cause a risk of harm to the driver, their passengers, or others on the road. A vehicle may also meet the lemon law criteria if it was in the repair shop for a total of 30 days or more.

California law presumes that a vehicle is a lemon if the defect was discovered within 18 months of the vehicle’s delivery or the first 18,000 miles driven. This can make it easier for a consumer to establish that they bought a lemon, as the court will presume the fact to be true unless the manufacturer can rebut the presumption.

A consumer who prevails in their lemon law case may be entitled to a refund or replacement vehicle from the manufacturer.

Contact an Experienced Southern California Lemon Law Attorney

If you purchased a defective vehicle, it’s vital to understand your legal rights and options. A knowledgeable lemon law attorney can best advise you and assist with obtaining the compensation to which you are entitled. The Ledbetter Law Firm is committed to working toward positive results for clients and strives to secure a favorable outcome in every case.

The Ledbetter Law Firm offers skillful representation to clients throughout Southern California to help ensure they obtain the refund or replacement vehicle they deserve from the manufacturer. With office locations in Torrance and San Diego, California, telephone and video conferencing options are also available. Call (310) 878-0067 to schedule a consultation with a California Lemon Law attorney today.