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What Does “As Is - No Warranty” On A Used Car Mean?

Lyndon Bell
by Lyndon Bell
November 1, 2012
3 min. Reading Time

At first glance, it might seem this one should be filed under, “Hey, if you really gotta ask…”

However, if you really do gotta ask, you really do deserve to know. After all, the difference between understanding the implications behind the phrase “As Is - No Warranty” and not understanding them can literally mean thousands of dollars out of your pocket.

Typically, the “As Is - No Warranty “ phrase is found on a window sticker on vehicles offered for sale on used car lots. At its essence, the phrase means exactly what it implies. The vehicle to which the “As Is - No Warranty” sticker is affixed is offered for sale with all risk to be assumed by the buyer. The seller will not be held responsible for any problems or needed repairs after the sale.

Just for grins, let’s say you buy a used car with that sticker in the window, drive it off the lot, and at the first traffic signal the engine dies. You’re sitting there twisting the key frantically—but the engine does not respond—the car is absolutely dead. Positively volcanic with anger, you leave the car where it died, walk back around the corner to the lot and tell the salesperson the car is dead around the corner.

Thing is, at that point, you’re completely at their mercy.

If they’re an empathetic sort of person, they might come back around the corner with jumper cables to see if they can help you get the car started so you can make your way home. However, legally, they can also very well tell you; ”Sorry, there’s nothing we can do—it’s your car now, not ours. Have a nice day.”

In other words, if you buy a used car with the As Is - No Warranty sticker, you have to come out of pocket for all repairs, even if the car breaks down on your way home from the lot. And while some states prohibit the practice, if you live in a state where it isn’t prohibited you’ll need to be aware that when you buy a car with this sticker in the window; what you see is what you get.

But it could just as well be a case of what you don’t see is also what you get.

So, you ask; why on earth would anyone ever purchase a car this way?

As Is - No Warranty?: Why Buy?

That can be answered in one word—price.

If you’re assuming all risk, you’re entitled to a better price. This is why it is paramount to do your research before venturing onto a car lot to even talk about buying a car. If you walk onto a lot and you’re just looking—even if the salesperson promises to come to your house every day for a year, wash and wax and vacuum the car…


How much is it worth on the open market? What are its trouble areas? What is its reputation for reliability? How many were built? How many are still around? All of these factors can affect the price. Do not be swayed by offers to drop the price of the car by thousands of dollars. If the car is overpriced to begin with, the price can be lowered by many, many thousands of dollars and you could still pay too much. Unless you know what it’s worth, you have no frame of reference to make a sound decision in that regard.

Thus, when you see the As Is - No Warranty sticker and the salesperson says don’t worry about that, you’re getting a really good price, if you’ve done your homework, you’re in a position to tell the salesperson what a really good price really is.


As Is - No Warranty?: How To Protect Yourself

There are ways you can still protect yourself, even when purchasing a car with the “As Is-No Warranty” sticker. First and foremost, if you’re really thrilled with the car and want to buy it, before you make it a part of your life get it checked out.

Spend some time in the owner’s forums on the ‘Net dedicated to that particular car and you’ll get a feel for what its problem areas are. You’ll also find any recall information you’ll need to make sure the car you’re looking at has been updated—should any recalls have been issued for it.

Also, it’s your right to subject any used car you’re considering buying to a pre-purchase inspection by an independent, professional mechanic, one well versed in that particular make and model.

Further, if, at any point during the negotiation process, the salesperson says anything along the lines of; ”You really don’t need to be concerned about that As Is-No Warranty sticker, we check every car out and make sure it’s in good shape before we sell it.” Have them put that statement in writing on your sales contract—if you can.

While it isn’t exactly the same as a warranty, should you wind up in court because the car breaks down, having that piece of paper will go a long way toward making a judge find damages in your favor. After all, that’s the salesperson assuring you the car wouldn’t break down. In court, it can be argued the only reason you purchased the car was because of that assurance. It must be in writing though. Any oral statements salespeople make when selling you a car aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

We’ll let you think about that one for a moment.

Oral statements aren’t printed on paper—that’s our point.


Usually, for an additional fee, you can purchase an extended warranty service plan. This will cover the car should any major mechanical malfunctions occur. But make sure you read it carefully to learn what is covered and is not. If you do so within 90 days of buying the car, some states will extend additional rights to you. Check the laws in your area to be sure.


As Is - No Warranty?: Conclusion

Long story short, the sticker means exactly what it says.

Let The Buyer Beware!

You’re completely responsible for whatever happens to the car the moment you sign the sales contract. The seller will provide no relief should the car turn out to be deeply flawed. It is up to you to make sure the car is sound and serviceable before you consummate the purchase. You will pay all costs for all repairs, as the seller assumes no responsibility whatsoever.

Still, if you’re careful you can get a good deal on a nice car—you just have to do your homework first.



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