Just the thought of having to shop for a used car might bring on a slew of emotions, evident in how the body reacts. The heart beats faster. The throat might get dry. There may be butterflies in the stomach or is that nausea or indigestion? The nape of the neck or the brow on your face may start to bead with sweat. Although buying a used car may feel a lot like a first date that you’re excited about, there are also some risks that could sour the venture. Perhaps that’s why the consumer protection was aptly named the Arizona lemon law. Though there isn’t much there that can be turned into lemonade. Here’s why.
When It’s Used, You Are Buying Someone Else’s Problem That Never Got Fixed
More consumers than not purchase a used vehicle. There are benefits: price and value. Used cars have already taken the heavy hit on depreciation that the new vehicle buyer paid for. And if you’re lucky, the used car or truck has been well-maintained. Unfortunately, luck won’t pay for an overlooked maintenance issue or faulty production. But there are ways to help minimize your risk, before you ever set foot on a used car lot. But in case you did and you believe you’re stuck with a lemon, here’s where you’re sitting (from a legal perspective).
What Is a Lemon in the World of Cars and Trucks?
If you’ve had the unfortunate circumstance of having a vehicle that breaks down often, and bought under the guise of it being reliable, often times a new car, this would fall under the notion of lemon. According to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 and the common law Uniform Commercial Code, there is recourse for acquiring a lemon.
In Arizona, new vehicle buyers have the lemon law to fall back on, as long as the claim is filed within 2 years or 24,000 miles of the new car/truck life, whichever comes first. And if Murphy’s law has anything to do with it, you wouldn’t know you had a lemon until mile 24,001. In addition, the manufacturer would be obligated to repair or replace the vehicle or give the buyer their money back. But the burden of proof would fall on the purchaser because there is an implied warranty on the vehicle. Just like it sounds, the implied warranty is chockfull of ambiguity which creates potential workarounds for the dealer and manufacturer to not hurry up and take care of it. In addition, there is an implied intention on the buyer-side in how to care for the vehicle, how to drive the vehicle and how to know when something’s wrong with the vehicle.
For used cars, the lemon law applies in a much more stringent manner. Just like in the purchase of real estate, “BUYER BEWARE” can’t be stately strongly enough. The Arizona lemon law provides a scant amount of buyer protection, only covering the period just after purchase, for major breaks or defects that become evident within the first 15 days of purchase or 500 miles – whichever comes first.
The Lemon That Got Away
Many used car lots in Arizona promote an “AS-IS” sale. Much as it saddens us to have to spell it out, AS-IS means just that: AS-IS. The buyer purchases the vehicle in the condition it is with no expressed or implied warranty other than the short-term of whatever the dealer is providing. Period.
Even if you drive the car off the lot, turn the corner, stop at a convenience store, then over to your friends to show off your new ride and then when you want to head out to celebrate at your favorite local hotspot, but the car decides it would rather stay parked than move an inch. Does it need gas in the tank? A new head gasket? A new engine? It doesn’t matter what ‘it’ is, you – the buyer –own the problem.
Then again, there is social media. No service-oriented company in their right mind would let you go and be left to your own devices to blow off steam about a shady financial transaction. The dealer is much better off doing what they can to minimize the damage to the vehicle and their reputation.
While this is an extreme example, though not entirely out of the question, it does bring to the surface what you can do to simplify the used car buying process and help avoid getting a taste of the lemon law for yourself.
Research the Vehicle before Buying
With the internet and all the ways to access it at the tap of your fingertips, there’s no excuse for little or misinformation from a buyer perspective.
Avoid the lemon by following these steps:
- Do your research: Check out the vehicle from consumer reports and search for product defects and recalls.
- Know the seller: Unless you purchase from a private party, do your due diligence on the dealership. Discover reviews through yelp, google, and their social media channels. If they don’t have any, find another place to buy.
- Find available warranties: No matter the type of warranty, if any, being offered by the dealer, search for warranty options from other sources.
- All but ignore verbal promises: If the seller swears on his mother that the car is in perfect condition and has been given all the necessary repairs, but won’t put it in writing… the repairs never happened and the car probably has issues. GET IT IN WRITING OR IT DOESN’T EXIST.
- Hire a third-party auto mechanic: Spend the money for a thorough inspection of the vehicle before you drive it off the lot. Pennywise always trumps pound foolish.
- Know the value: Do price comparison shopping for the vehicle, year, make, model and similar mileage. Also adjust the price based on an AS-IS sale as pricing is what will make the risk worth it. If there are more repair/condition issues after you’ve don’t #5, adjust the price again.
- Ask for accurate and verified vehicle history: Make sure the dealer puts it in writing that it is accurate and verified.
Still Need to Put the Squeeze on a Used Car Dealer?
If you’re reading this article and doing the woulda-shoulda-coulda under your breath, it might be time to take your lemon to the next level and see where you stand. Find information on lemon laws specific to individual states within the US here.
We hope you’ve caught this story in time before your next used car or truck purchase. That way, you won’t need to waste your time listening to someone blowing smoke up your asked questions.