The Truth Behind Used Cars, Extended Warranties and North Carolina Lemon Law

buyers guide as is no warranty nc lemon law
Image: NCCC
February 24, 2016

There are many misconceptions in the marketplace regarding used cars, extended warranties, and the North Carolina Lemon Law. Sadly, these misconceptions can cause you a lot of grief if ever you have an issue with a vehicle.

FACT: There are NO used vehicle lemon laws in North Carolina

If you have purchased a USED vehicle in the state of North Carolina, you can't petition a manufacturer to classify your vehicle as a 'lemon' under the state's Lemon Law. This right is reserved solely for the original owner of the vehicle.

There is the Magnuson-Moss Federal Warranty Act that may be used in some cases to conform a vehicle to the warranty or to qualify the vehicle for refund or replacement. If you have a problem with a vehicle, you should consult an attorney for legal advice.

FACT: 'As is' truly means 'AS IS.'

A vehicle that is marked 'as is' does not have a warranty of any kind, which means you are responsible for any repairs from the moment you sign the paperwork. You have no legal right to a free replacement if a part fails immediately after you purchase it, or even if the car needs mechanical work before you buy it. The only time you have a warranty is when your warranty rights are clearly documented in your paperwork.

You do, however, have some recourse. If a seller fails to disclose hidden damage or some other serious problem with the car, such as flooding, you may have legal rights. Contact an attorney or the North Carolina Attorney General's Office to file a complaint.

FACT: You do NOT have three days to return a vehicle

Many consumers seem to be under the impression that they have at least three (3) days to return a vehicle if they decide they do not want it or for any other reason. This is a myth. Unless your contract explicitly states that you have the option to return the vehicle, that vehicle is yours the minute you sign the paperwork and you may never return it. Some dealers may offer special policies in which you may return a car. However, most do not. Check to see if you can return the car BEFORE you purchase it. As always, if it isn't in writing, it's no good!

Proper Maintenance:

Proper maintenance is essential to your vehicle's warranty. If you fail to perform your oil changes and the engine fails as a result, the warranty will not cover the repair and you may lose all warranty rights to any component directly interacting with the engine.

Follow your vehicle's recommended maintenance schedule to make your vehicle and warranty claim experiences as problem-free as possible. Make sure they are done at the proper time and mileage intervals and that you keep receipts. If you do your own maintenance work, make sure you keep a separate receipt for items such as filters and fluids and document the mileage and date on the back.

If you have a used vehicle and do not know the maintenance history, assume that maintenance has not been performed and do it. If you can't remember or don't know the last time a maintenance item was performed, it's time to do it.

Third-Party Extended Warranties vs. Manufacturer Extended Warranties:

We researched third-party extended warranties versus manufacturer extended warranties and have concluded that third-party warranties are generally less reliable and much harder to enforce. Consumers generally have a harder time making claims with third-party warranty companies and often lose out. The manufacturer is also less stringent about maintenance records and will generally not give any trouble about making a warranty repair. Third-party companies, however, will often want every piece of documentation you have and will often deny coverage if you don't have it.

Know What Your Extended Warranty Does and Does Not Cover

Make certain that you understand exactly what is and what is not covered by your extended warranty. Maintenance parts, such as filters, are never covered unless they are required to be replaced as part of another repair. Tires are generally not covered. Interior trim, such as seats, moldings, and carpeting are usually not covered. Exterior trim, such as headlights and taillights, body parts and glass are usually not covered.

Do You Need and Extended Warranty?

Since most new cars these days are built to last a lot longer than their predecessors, chances are you will never need an extended warranty. If by some chance you do, the total cost to repair usually comes to be less than the total cost of the warranty after financing. You may, however, find that you wish to have an extended warranty with a first or second model year vehicle as they typically have more problems than the fifth, sixth or seventh model year.

NCCC generally recommends against purchasing extended vehicle warranties in most cases, as the cost of the warranty usually exceeds the cost of most repairs.

Get It In Writing

Whether you choose to buy a manufacturer's extended warranty, a third-party extended warranty, or no warranty at all, never assume anything about your purchase. Make certain that anything promised to you is in writing. If something a sales person told you isn't in writing, you have no proof if you have a problem later.

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