In general, consumer warranties may be defined as guarantees made by the seller of certain products, which assure certain quality or safety levels for the product. If the product does not meet these standards, the consumer can often receive a replacement, refund, or other compensation for the product.
Most new products are covered by warranties; in the context of the automobile industry, an automobile warranty is a promise made by an automobile dealer, manufacturer, or distributor to repair or replace defects in your car within a given period of time.
The scope of automobile warranties may vary in terms of what they cover. They may vary according to the type of car, the year and make/model, individual car brands, and other factors.
- What Kinds of Warranties Might Apply to My Car?
- What are Express Automobile Warranties?
- What are Implied Automobile Warranties?
- How Can I Enforce My Warranty Rights?
- What are Some Common Warranty Legal Violations and Issues?
- Can an Auto Warranty be Voided?
- Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with an Auto Warranty Issue?
There can be several different types of warranties. Most cars and automobiles come with both express and implied warranties. Express warranties are specific agreements created through written or spoken communication from the dealer of the manufacturer. They can also be created by promises or factual statements made in automobile advertisements. Implied warranties basically exist automatically when you buy a car.
In the context of automobiles, an express warranty is a promise to repair certain parts of your car, or a statement of fact regarding the quality of your car. For example, if an advertisement states that a car is made out of steel, there is an express warranty about the quality and nature of the car’s materials. If the car actually turns out to be made out of aluminum, this would be a defect according to the warranty; unless it is fixed, you could sue for breach of warranty.
All new cars come with a manufacturer’s express warranty, which usually covers repairs to your car for a certain number of miles or for a certain period of time.
As mentioned, implied warranties basically exist automatically when you purchase a car. There are two main types of implied warranties: merchantability and fitness warranties:
- Implied Warranty of Merchantability: The implied warranty of merchantability guarantees that the car is safe to drive as purchased, and is in the appropriate condition for the price paid. For instance, if a car leaks gas when it is purchased, it may be in breach of an implied warranty of merchantability, as it was probably not fit to be sold in the first place.
- Implied Warranty of Fitness: The implied warranty of fitness guarantees that the car will function for the purpose it was intended when you bought it. In order for the implied warranty of fitness to apply, there needs to be communication regarding how you intend to use the car.
- For instance, if you tell the seller that you plan to use the car for racing, the implied warranty of fitness guarantees that you would be able to use the car for racing. In most states, the implied warranty of fitness lasts forever; however, some states do limit it to the duration of any express warranties your car has. Some car dealers may mark purchases with terms like “sold as is”, to avoid any obligations after the purchase; however, this is not always allowed in all states.
If the car seller has not met or fulfilled the terms of the warranty, you will need to notify them as soon as possible. If you continue to drive the car after you discover the defect or issue, you may forfeit your right to enforce your warranty. However, if the seller ignores your complaint or refuses to enforce the warranty, then you may be able to sue for breach of warranty and cancel the sale of the car.
As with any type of agreement between parties, various violations and legal issues can arise with regard to auto warranties. For instance, the following legal issues can be present in a warranty situation:
- Fraud: Both the automobile seller and purchaser are prohibited from engaging in any type of fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation in order to gain an advantage in connection with an automobile warranty, whether express or implied.
- Breach of Warranty: A party can be held liable if they violate the terms of a warranty. In many instances, the breach happens as a result of the conduct or actions of the auto dealer or manufacturer. If the purchaser does something to negatively affect a warranty, the warranty may be voided (discussed more below);
- Confusing Language/Legalese: Auto manufacturers and sellers may not use language that is overly confusing or uses to many complex legal words for the purpose of making the agreement harder to understand.
- Make sure you do your research and do not be intimidated by complicated word choices.
In some cases an automobile warranty may be voided due to certain circumstances being present. A warrant may become voided or invalidated if:
- The warranty has expired;
- The warranty policy does not cover a particular fault, defect, or part;
- The product failure was caused by abuse, or misuse of the car outside of its originally intended purpose;
- A different party besides the original purchaser is trying to make a warranty claim; and
- Various other reasons, depending on the circumstances.
So, for instance, if the car owner is trying to file a warranty claim, but the warranty has already expired, the warranty may already be voided and they probably will not be able to recover any damages or losses or receive a refund for their purchase.
Similarly, if the car was only intended for use on pavements and not off-road, and the purchaser drives the car off-road, they may have voided the warranty and might not be able to claim any repairs or other benefits from the warranty provisions.
Determining whether a dealer or manufacturer has breached a warranty can be complicated. A products liability lawyer can help you determine if you have a legal case, and can defend your rights accordingly. You may need to hire an attorney for help with the claim and for legal representation during the process.