The “As Is” clause: a dealer’s best friend

Car dealers and private sellers alike use terms like “As Is” to attempt to avoid any liability for defects in the car. However, at least three circumstances affect whether a seller can avoid liability in most used car sales for defective conditions.

1. The Used Car Buyer’s Guide. 

Every dealer in Wisconsin is required to post in or on a car offered for sale a Used Car Buyer’s Guide. It is a two-sided form reflecting the dealer’s pre-sale inspection of major components of the car. The car’s prior use, significant conditions or history of which the dealer knows would be important to a buyer, existing defects and repairs to certain components, and certain conditions that make the car illegal to operate. A dealer must make a reasonable inspection of the car to complete the Buyer’s Guide, and its representations can form the basis for misrepresentation under the law, but not warranties. Any condition that the dealer noted incorrectly of which it should have discovered, must also be remedied within 30 days of the consumer providing the dealer notice of the error. So make sure the dealer has a Buyer’s Guide on or in the car, review it, and the dealer must get you to sign it when you buy the car and give you a copy of it. 

2. Affirmative misrepresentations. 

When a seller, like a used car dealer and its sales persons, make affirmative statements about the condition of the car or its components to sell you the car, these statements are not negated even by contract language that says the sale is “As Is.” In Wisconsin, these affirmative representations are still actionable if they were a substantial factor in your decision to purchase the car.

3. Express warranties. 

Express warranties are promises, either verbal or in writing, that the dealer or manufacturer will repair defects in the product during a specified period of time, typcially expressed in terms of miles and months/years. Written warranties are best, because they are easiest prove that they exist and what they promise. Some, though not all, express warranties will also negate an “As Is” clause in a written purchase agreement so that the dealer will have a legal obligation to deliver a car that is fit for its ordinary purpose but for defects that don’t make the car unfit for its ordinary purose and defects disclosed before the sale.

Telephone (414) 431-1920