Auto Warranty Legal Issues

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 What is an Automobile Warranty?

An auto warranty is generally defined as a promise or guarantee that is made by a manufacturer or car dealer that it will replace a vehicle, repair certain car parts that are defective, or that a car is of a particular quality. If a car does not live up to these promises, then a consumer can often demand a replacement, refund, or other reimbursement to make up for breaching an auto warranty. 

However, automobile warranties only last for a specific length of time. Thus, consumers must claim a warranty before it expires. Additionally, the scope of what an auto warranty covers will depend on a number of different factors. These include the make or model of car that was purchased and the year that the car was purchased.

What Kinds of Warranties Might Apply to My Car?

There are many different types of car warranties that might apply to a vehicle. In general, most new automobiles are sold with express and implied warranties. Express warranties are specific promises to repair or recall a car if it does not meet certain conditions that were promised by a manufacturer. 

For instance, if a car manufacturer claims that a car is made out of a certain material, but it is not true, then the consumer may ask them to take the car back based on a breach of their express warranty. 

On the other hand, an implied warranty automatically applies as soon as a person purchases a new vehicle. Most cars come equipped with two implied warranties: an implied warranty of fitness and an implied warranty of merchantability. Unlike an express warranty, implied warranties are not communicated in writing or explicitly promised to a consumer. Instead, they are implied by factors, such as assuming that a new car is in proper working condition. 

A car may also be sold with secret warranties. This will be discussed in greater detail in a different section below.

What are Express Automobile Warranties? What are Implied Automobile Warranties?

As discussed above, express and implied warranties are guarantees that typically come with the purchase of a new vehicle. Specifically, an express warranty is an oral or written promise made by the manufacturer and “expressed” to the consumer that they will repair defective parts of a car or recall a car if it does not meet a certain level of quality. 

For instance, if a manufacturer claims that a car is made out of gold and the consumer discovers that it is not, then they may be able to either have their car repaired or replaced by the manufacturer for free.

In contrast, an implied warranty is automatically applied as soon as a consumer purchases a new vehicle. As mentioned, implied warranties include the implied warranty of merchantability and the implied warranty of fitness. An example of the implied warranty of merchantability would be if a dealer sold a consumer a new car, but the car immediately started leaking gas as soon as the consumer drove off the lot with it.

As for an example of the implied warranty of fitness, this may be breached when a dealer guarantees that a car will function for the intended purposes that the consumer is buying it for and it does not. For instance, if a consumer asked to purchase a vehicle that was good for off-roading and the dealer sold them a car that fell apart the second they hit a rock, then this may constitute a breach of the implied warranty of fitness.

How Can I Enforce My Warranty Rights?

The owner of an automobile must notify the car dealer or seller immediately if the terms of an auto warranty have not been satisfied. If the owner continues to drive a vehicle after they discover the defect or issue in question, then they may give up the right to enforce their auto warranty. 

If the car dealer or seller ignores the owner’s complaint or refuses to enforce an auto warranty, however, then the car owner may potentially be able to file a lawsuit against them for breach of warranty and cancel the sales transaction. 

Another way that a car owner can ensure that they will be able to enforce their warranty rights is by alerting the relevant parties to an issue before their warranty expires. This is why notifying a dealership or manufacturer immediately after discovering a defect is so important.

Finally, one other way that a car owner can enforce their warranty rights is by only having their vehicle repaired by persons or entities that have been pre-approved by the manufacturer, dealership, seller, or so forth. An auto warranty will most likely not extend to parties that have not been granted authorization to perform repairs on the vehicle.

What are Some Common Warranty Legal Violations and Issues?

There are a number of legal challenges and issues that can arise in connection with an auto warranty. Some examples of common automobile warranty legal violations and issues include the following:

  • Breach of warranty (both express and implied);
  • Warranties that contain vague or ambiguous terms;
  • Issues of fraud or misrepresentation; 
  • Violations of consumer protection laws (e.g., “lemon laws”); and/or
  • Auto warranty scams.

What Should I Do If My Auto Warranty Is Not Honored?

An auto warranty may not be honored by a manufacturer or dealer if it is expired, the consumer used the car in an unintended way, or if the warranty does not cover the specific issue that a consumer is requesting to be fixed. 

There are some instances, however, where a manufacturer or car dealer may intentionally not honor an auto warranty, such as if they do not want to provide services for free. In such a situation, a consumer should ask to speak to a manager and calmly explain why they believe that their warranty should be honored. If that does not work, then a consumer can also try to negotiate with them for a reduced cost, by offering to pay for some of the repairs or car parts.

If the manufacturer or dealer still refuses to budge on the issue, then the consumer should contact a local lawyer to find out whether there are any additional options they can pursue to resolve their issue, such as filing a lawsuit or attending mediation. A consumer may also file a complaint with their state Attorney General, a local consumer protection agency, their insurance company, or with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”).

Can an Auto Warranty be Voided?

There are some situations where an auto warranty may be voided if certain conditions are present. Some examples of circumstances that may cause an auto warranty to become voided or invalidated include:

  • When an auto warranty has expired;
  • If an auto warranty policy does not apply to a specific defect, car part, or flaw;
  • When someone other than the original buyer is attempting to claim a particular warranty; 
  • If an automobile was used for a nonconventional purpose (e.g., off-roading);
  • When the owner of an automobile holds salvage title; 
  • If one of the parts of a vehicle was tampered with (e.g., reducing the amount of mileage displayed on a car’s odometer); and/or
  • Various other reasons that may apply based on individual circumstances.

As is evident from the above information, there are many reasons why an auto warranty may be voided. An example of how this might occur is if a car owner attempts to file a claim using an expired warranty. In which case, their auto warranty will already be deemed to be expired and thus voided, meaning they would not be able to recover damages or receive a refund for a purchase.

In addition, a car owner may also be denied a warranty claim for repairs if they have used the car in an unintended way, such as driving it off a cliff or to participate in off-roading activities. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with an Auto Warranty Issue?

It can be difficult to determine whether a car dealer, distributor, manufacturer, or other car-related business has breached an auto warranty without the assistance of a lawyer. Thus, you may want to consider hiring a local consumer lawyer for further legal advice on an issue that involves an auto warranty.

An experienced consumer lawyer will be able to review the terms of your warranty and can use their findings to see if you have a viable claim. If you do, your lawyer can assist you in filing a lawsuit against the appropriate parties and can help you draft any legal documents required for your case. Your lawyer can also recommend other options of legal recourse as well as can explain the potential outcomes that may be associated with each of those options.

In addition, your lawyer will be able to provide representation during any legal proceedings related to your auto warranty case.


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