What Does As-Is Mean When Buying a Used Car?

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Buying a used car "as is" can be risky.
Buying a used car "as is" can be risky. (Image: old car image by Tijara Images from Fotolia.com)

Even a used car represents a major purchase, and discovering unexpected problems with the vehicle after you drive it home can be devastating. As with most purchases, the seller must deliver a product that satisfies all advertised claims. When a seller advertises a car "as is," he is making no promises and claims about the condition of the vehicle.

Advertised Claims

When a seller makes a claim that the product does not meet, the buyer has legal recourse. If a car on a dealer lot has a sign on the windshield that states "new brakes, new tires, recently serviced." If a post-purchase inspection by a qualified mechanic reveals the brakes are old, with only a little life left, the buyer can take legal action and perhaps win the case.

Implied Warranty

What if a particular car on the lot has merely a price tag with no further claims on it, and the salesperson admits that he or she knows nothing about the vehicle. Does this car have to meet any minimum standards? If it falls apart as soon as you take it home, can you take legal action and hope to win? The answer to this question depends on the state. In some jurisdictions, the car must meet certain standards unless otherwise stated. These may include requiring no major repairs to pass safety inspections or every feature, such as air conditioning, cruise control, seat heaters and so on being fully functional unless stated in the purchase documents.

As Is

When a dealer wishes to absolve itself of all possible responsibility, the vehicle will usually be offered on an "as is" basis. This means that no implied claims or warranties of any kind are made and once you purchase the vehicle, you cannot take legal action against the seller for any defects or problems. Even if the car falls apart within hours of the purchase, you will not have any recourse. An "as is" sale does not necessarily mean that the vehicle has serious defects. Large dealers often buy numerous vehicles in auctions and must resell them before they have time to fully inspect them.

Precautions

Unless you are capable of thoroughly inspecting a vehicle, hire a certified mechanic to check the car before you buy it. Inspect the title to see if the vehicle is classified as "rebuilt" or "salvage" and obtain a vehicle history report by using the Vehicle Identification Number. Also keep in mind that there is a difference between buying a car that comes with no claims and buying one that is explicitly sold "as is." If you are merely buying a car about which no claims of any kind are made, either by the salesperson or via promotional material, your purchase contract should not state "as is." If certain claims have been made about the vehicle, on the seller's website or on a notice placed inside the windshield, for instance, obtain a copy of these claims. You can print out the webpage with the claims, take a picture of the notice or request a written statement from the seller, for instance.

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