Know Your Rights When Buying an “As Is” Used Vehicle

As the U.S. economy stumbles toward recovery, used vehicles are an attractive option for many consumers. Unfortunately, the word “used” is a fairly broad term that can apply to a variety of conditions.

To assist used car dealers and protect consumers, the Better Business Bureau’s Code of Advertising offers definitions for various types of “used” products. The code stipulates that any product that has been previously used be described by the seller as such.

The Bureau’s Web site states “The term “rebuilt” should be used only to describe products that have been completely disassembled, reconstructed, repaired and refinished, including replacement of parts.”

Reconditioned products, according to the code, are those that have “received such repairs, adjustments or finishing as were necessary to put the product in satisfactory condition without rebuilding.”

The term “as is” is confusing for many used vehicle buyers. The BBB’s Advertising Code states, “the words “as is” should be indicated in any advertising and on the bill of sale. An advertiser also may describe the condition of the merchandise if so desired.” In most cases, the condition of “as is” used vehicles is not provided by dealers.

There should be no question of whether or not the used vehicle you’re interested in is being sold “as is”. The Federal Trade Commission requires dealers to post a clearly visible Buyers Guide on every used car. The box labeled “As Is – No Warranty” should be checked on the guide.

With few exceptions, buying a used vehicle “as is” means that you legally accept responsibility for any and all repairs needed after you drive it off the dealer’s lot. Although these vehicles can be good deals, they also account for a large percentage of the complaints the BBB receives each year.

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to avoid becoming an unhappy statistic.

Whether buying a used vehicle from a dealer or an individual, it’s always a good idea to have it checked out by a trusted mechanic before laying out your hard-earned money.

Most states have “lemon laws” to protect consumers from unscrupulous merchants, but those laws generally don’t apply to used vehicles.

Some consumers also mistakenly think that they have an implied three-day right to cancel any purchase. There is no such right when it comes to used vehicles.

In some cases, dealers will offer to make certain needed repairs or even cancel the sale if you are dissatisfied with your “as is” vehicle purchase. If your dealer makes such an offer, make sure he or she provides it in writing on the Buyers Guide or on the sales agreement.

Finally, it’s always a good idea to check out the dealer with your local Better Business Bureau.

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