Written by attorney Steven Roger Rensch

My Used Car’s a Lemon! What Do I Do??


Buying a used vehicle can be a nerve-wracking experience. The sales person always give you his best pitch; you take the car for a test drive; it seems to run just fine; you decide to buy the car; you sign the purchase agreement; you shake hands with the sales person; and you drive the car off the lot.

Then your worst nightmare occurs. On the drive home, the car stops with oil gushing from your engine, and you realize for the first time that you have been stuck with a lemon. "What do I do now?," "What are my options?" "What is the dealer required to do if he sold the car 'as is'?"

The State of Arizona gives certain protections to consumers in this situation. Each used vehicle sold by a dealer comes with an implied warranty of merchantability. Arizona has determined that, to meet this implied warranty, cars must be substantially free of any defect that would significantly limit the use of the car for the ordinary purpose of transportation on any public highway. In other words, if it is safe and legal to drive the car on the highway, the implied warranty of merchantability is satisfied.

Sorry to say this, but for things that don’t affect your safety (the radio quits working or the seat has a soda stain on it), you are out of luck.

If your car does have a defect covered under the warranty, you only have a limited amount of time to get it fixed. A buyer has only 15 days or 500 miles, whichever is LESS, to discover the problem. So if the transmission goes out on the 501st mile or the 16th day you have had the car, you will be on the hook for the repairs. (It is also important to note that the implied warranty does not apply to damage caused after the purchase or any acts caused by the buyer of the car.)

Assuming you do discover the defect in time, what are you supposed to do? You are required to give reasonable notice to the used car dealer. Once you give notice, the dealer is allowed a reasonable opportunity to repair the vehicle. You are required to pay half of the repairs, but only up to $25 for each repair. If the dealer is able to fix the problem, you must take your car back, but if the dealer is not able to fix the problem in a reasonable time, you are entitled to return the car in exchange for a refund of the purchase price.

Some car buyers may want to buy a car with a defect. If this is the case, you are allowed to waive the implied warranty, but you are protected here, too. The waiver which you must sign extends only to those defects which the dealer has disclosed to you.

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