Purchasing a Vehicle? Legal Ramifications of Buying New v. Used | Nordgren Law: Automotive Litigation and Lemon Law

Although Louisiana Law generally warrants that a used vehicle is free from hidden defects, there are some legal roadblocks to overcome if your used vehicle turns out to be a lemon.

I. Did you waive your warranty?

Practically every purchase agreement for a used car contains the following language:

SALE AS IS WITHOUT WARRANTIES. SELLER and BUYER hereby acknowledge, and recognize that the Property being sold and purchased is to be transferred in ‘as is’ condition and further BUYER does hereby waive, relieve and release SELLER from any claims or causes of action for redhibition pursuant to Louisiana Civil Code Article 2520, et seq. and Article 2541, et seq. or for reduction of Sale Price pursuant to Louisiana Civil Code Article 2541, et seq. Additionally, BUYER acknowledges that this sale is made without warranty of fitness for ordinary or particular use pursuant to Louisiana Civil Code 2524.

Although the validity of this waiver is suspect, if your used vehicle turns out to be a lemon the seller will almost certainly attempt to have your lawsuit dismissed based on this language. The seller will argue you don’t have the right to file the lawsuit because the warranty you’re alleging they breached didn’t exist in the first place. To overcome this argument, you would have to spend a great deal of time and money before the court could even consider whether the vehicle was a lemon when you purchased it.

Although this waiver language also exists in purchase agreements for new and certified pre-owned vehicles, it is not enforceable against the auto manufacturer because they are legally deemed to be a bad faith seller.

II. Is it worth the cost?

Unlike the purchaser of a new or certified pre-owned vehicle, the buyer of a used car risks throwing good money after bad if they decide to bring an action against the seller.

If a new or certified pre-owned vehicle turns out to be a lemon, the consumer has the option of pursing the auto manufacturer, who is liable for attorney fees upon the successful resolution of a case. However, this option isn’t as readily available for the purchaser of a used vehicle. Since a seller isn’t legally presumed to be in bad faith, they aren’t liable for attorney fees unless it can be shown they were aware of the vehicle’s problems before selling it, concealed that information from the buyer, and had a reasonable opportunity to fix the issues.

Between overcoming the warranty waiver argument, attempting to show bad faith on the part of the seller, and showing that the used vehicle was a lemon upon purchase, a consumer might very well end up spending more in legal costs and expenses than the used vehicle cost in the first place.

III. Some practical advice.

The best advice for the purchaser of a used vehicle? Be cautious and do your homework. Research the vehicle’s repair history on Carfax, contact the manufacturer’s customer service department to see if any previous owners have filed complaints about the vehicle you’re considering, bring the car to a trusted mechanic for inspection, and visit CarComplaints.com to read what other owners of that vehicle model have thought.

Although this requires a bit of work on the front end, it could save you time, money, and frustration in the future.