Car Warranties

There are two types of warranties when you purchase a new or used car.  There are express warranties and implied warranties. The express ones apply to specific items or the performance of the car. They can be written or verbal but they have to be “expressly” communicated to the buyer. Most express warranties are in writing and probably come in a special package. But all express warranties don’t have to be mentioned in a special package.

Express warranties could be created by just a simple description of the car like it’s a 1995 Ford Explorer. The dealer or  manufacturer is warranting that it is the make and model the contract says it is. If in fact  that car is a different model or different model year, then the express warranty has been breached.

A verbal representation by the dealer or the dealer’s salesman can be an express warranty. You should not automatically assume it is an actual warranty because a representation by a salesman could be what is called “puffing”.  For example, “this is a great car, it runs really smooth”. That’s not really any specific representation. So, the statement is not a warranty. If the salesman makes a more specific statement, it can be difficult to prove that the verbal statement was actually made. Also, the written warranty will often state that the warranty is the only warranty and any verbal representations are not part of the contract or part of the warranty.

Almost every new car and most used cars, come with some type of written warranty so you should be sure to take the time and effort to read and understand exactly what is being covered and not covered under the warranty. Take note of who has the duty to make warranty repairs. Is it the dealer’s duty or the manufacturer’s duty? That’s found in the warranty.

You should note the difference between a warranty and an extended service contract. Sometimes the difference in these can be confusing.  A warranty and a service contract might require someone to repair problems with the car, but they are just not the same thing. A warranty is really a promise about specific items and the performance of the car. It becomes part of the sale. An extended service contract is a separate contract that is sold for an additional amount of money.

Implied warranties do apply to a sale.  They are not expressed verbally or in writing but are implied by law. There are three types: the warranty of title, the warranty of merchantability and the warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. The warranty of title says that the dealer or manufacturer has good title and they can legally transfer that title to the buyer.  Also, it warrants that there are no liens on the car that the buyer hasn’t been told about. With the implied warranty of merchantability, the dealer or manufacturer warrants that the car is fit for the ordinary purposes for which cars are used. In other words, it is fit for driving. For example, a broken automatic door lock may not be considered as a breach of that warranty of merchantability because the car is still in good driving condition.

Lastly, the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. In that situation the dealer or manufacturer by implication warrants or promises that the car is fit for a special purpose. For this warranty to come into play the seller must know what specialized purpose the buyer has for the car.  The buyer is going to rely on the dealer’s skill or judgment in recommending that the car is fit for that particular purpose.

Most dealers and even some manufacturers have clauses in their contracts that try to limit warranties or even prevent them from being given at all.  This is what we call a disclaimer. The law does allow the use of disclaimers, but they have to do it properly.  For example, express warranties cannot be disclaimed at all.  Implied warranties of fitness for particular purpose can be disclaimed, as long as the contract provides clearly and conspicuously that all implied warranties of fitness for a particular purpose are disclaimed.

So be sure to read all the warranties and disclaimers in a contract before you sign it.  Of course, be especially careful when buying a used car because the warranties are most likely limited or completely disclaimed in the sale of a used car. Federal law requires dealers to give basic warranty information on the window sticker of a used car as well as a new one.  If the window sticker says the car is being sold “as is”, the dealer is giving no warranty at all. That means that the dealer does not even warrant that you could drive the car off the lot. So be very careful when you are buying a car that has a sticker that says it’s being purchased “as is” because you’re really going to have little, if any, recourse against the seller.