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Do we have any legal rights if we bought a used vehicle from a dealer that has needed major repairs since the beginning?

Saint Paul, MN |

We bought a used vehicle "as is" from a dealer three weeks ago. We offered $300 less than the asking price, and the dealer said "yes." When it came time to sign the paperwork, he said, "By the way, I can't give you the 30-day warranty any more, since I'm giving you a deal on the price." That threw us, but we said yes.

As soon as we got it home, we knew there was a motor issue. The dealer agreed to pay half of that repair, which was $1400.00. Now, we know there is a big electrical problem. We have only driven this vehicle for about 5 days out of the past three weeks, and it's already time for another major repair.

Do we have any legal rights if we'd like to return the vehicle? What other advice can you give us? Is there any reason to suspect fraud?

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Attorney answers 3


Absent fraud and a warranty, "As Is" means you bought the car, and the problems, without any guaranty of anything. Look up "caveat emptor". It means "buyer beware". Should have had a trusted mechanic or third party mechanic look at it BEFORE the purchase. You specifically say you agreed to the purchase without the warranty, and I don't see anything in your explanation that points to fraud. In any event, I would still pass this by counsel in your area, as the laws may be different from where I practice. If you were in my state, however, I'd say, to be blunt, you're screwed. Good luck.

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Just because you think you bought your used car “as is” does not mean that it was legally sold to you “as is.” Don't give up too quickly. There is a used car lemon law in Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island, but not in your state. So that means you have to look at your sales paperwork. If there is no warranty or guarantee there, then you look at the oral representations that were made and ask if you are the victim of fraud. There is a long technical definition for fraud in each state but basically it is a lie that costs you money. If your purchase was “as is” then that is what the dealer will argue to avoid doing anything for you. Practically speaking, “as is” isn’t always legally as is, even though every car dealer wants you to think so. In most states, your legal rights in a used car sale are mostly determined by the paperwork that you sign, what you were told by the dealer, and if the dealer hid anything serious about the vehicle from you. But even in an “as is” sale you might get some legal rights anyway, even if you thought you didn’t. And besides that, if the seller hid something from you that they knew and also knew you would want to know about before committing to the purchase, then that can be fraud - regardless of any “as is” sales attempt. Also, in some states an oral representation by the seller may over-ride a written disclaimer of warranties. Also there’s a federal law that requires all car dealers to post on the window of all used cars they are selling a special “Buyer Guide” form (it’s often called a Used Car Window Sticker) that discloses your warranty rights. Many small lot car dealers don’t comply with the law. If they don’t, then you may end up with a warranty after all and you may even have the right to cancel the sale. The back side of the form has to be completely filled out and many car lots, big and small, fail to do that too and that can also trigger your right to cancel the deal. You can see what the Buyer Guide form looks like on this web site page: . Once you have already spent your money, it's not too late to have an independent repair shop inspect it and tell you what they think, but the best time is before you put down your hard earned money. If less than a few thousand dollars is involved, you may want to go to Small Claims Court on your own instead of getting an attorney. To find out what your rights are in your state, you need to talk to a local Consumer Law attorney who deals with this kind of case (it's called "autofraud" or car sales fraud). You can go to this web site page for a Free Online 50 State National List of Consumer Law Lawyers ( and find one near you (lawyers don’t pay to get listed here and most of them are members of the only national association for Consumer Law lawyers, You can also look for one here on Avvo under the Find a Lawyer tab. Or you can call your local attorney's Bar Association and ask for a referral to a Consumer Law attorney near you. But act quickly because for every legal right you have, there is only a limited amount of time to actually file a lawsuit in court or your rights expire (it's called the statute of limitations), so don't waste your time getting to a Consumer Law attorney and finding out what your rights are. If this answer was helpful, please give a “Vote UP” review below. And be sure to mark your Best Answer so Avvo lawyers know we are doing a good job. Thanks for asking and Good Luck. Ron Burdge,,

What does a Used Car Buyer Guide warranty form look like? Click here and see

What is Fraud? Click here to find out

This answer is for general purposes only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The law in your state may differ and your best answer will always come from a local attorney that you meet with privately. If you need a Consumer Law attorney, click the link above to find a Consumer Law attorney near you.


Going one step further, it's entirely possible that the original fix, if you have a writing to evidence it, could qualify as a warranty. Go see a local consumer attorney for a consultation right away.

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