The used car market is extremely tight right now. Over the past two years, shortages have significantly reduced the number of new cars on the market, so many people are choosing to buy used instead. This has led to a massive rise in used vehicles being sold “as-is,” often for attractive prices.
However, an as-is car may not be the deal it looks like. Here’s what you need to know about a vehicle sold as-is and how to find one you can trust.
What Does “As-Is” Mean in the Car World?
The term “As-is” is used in many kinds of sales to indicate that the seller will not make any changes to or guarantees about a product. When marketing cars, sellers use the phrase to make it clear that the vehicle is not coming with a warranty. They are selling the vehicle as it is right now, without any promises for its future care or operation.
In most cases, cars are only sold as-is if they’re used. In California, all vehicle manufacturers and dealerships must offer warranties on brand new vehicles for the first few years after they’re sold.
Manufacturer warranties are transferred to the car’s current owner as long as the warranty hasn’t expired. However, it’s often harder to file a manufacturer warranty claim on used vehicles. Furthermore, once those warranties expire, a vehicle sold as-is will have no other protection. Finally, private sellers and used-car dealerships don’t have to offer warranties at all.
Buying your next ride as-is can be an excellent way to get a deal. When a seller knows that they won’t be on the hook for repairs and maintenance in the future, they are often willing to accept a lower price. However, this also puts the buyer at risk.
Buying a Car “As-Is” Has Risks
Warranties are placed on cars for a reason. Even the best manufacturers occasionally produce a lemon of a vehicle. A warranty ensures that you won’t get stuck with dramatic bills if your new ride has hidden problems.
When you buy a car as-is, though, you don’t have that protection. If the vehicle is fine, there’s no problem. However, if it has any issues, you’ll have no help getting it fixed and running again.
Problems are more likely than you’d think, too. Plenty of unscrupulous sellers will sell a vehicle “as-is” for a great price but conceal major, known problems. Any car deal that seems too good to be true probably is. Buying these cars is a great way to wind up with a lemon and no easy way to get your money back.
Avoiding Bad Deals in As-Is Vehicles
Before you even consider buying any used vehicle, there are two crucial steps to take:
- Get CarFax reports: You don’t have to do all your research yourself. Before you buy any car, it’s worthwhile to get a report from a place like CarFax. You’ll get a history of the car’s maintenance, including any accident repairs and ownership changes.
- Run VIN checks: You can also run a VIN check on a car to determine its history. A VIN check will help you spot issues like whether a vehicle was marked as salvage at some point in its history. Salvaged trucks often have hidden problems that the salvager didn’t bother to fix.
These simple tasks will help you avoid wasting time on any vehicle that’s almost guaranteed to have problems.
What to Look for in an “As-Is” Car
If you’ve found the perfect “as-is” car for you, it’s essential to do your due diligence. You should go see any vehicle in person before you buy it, and this is doubly true for as-is vehicles. Before you finalize your purchase, go for a test drive and look for any of the following issues:
- Warning lights: If you start up the engine and warning lights immediately turn on, that’s a bad sign. Any warning lights that come on in an as-is car will be your responsibility to fix. It’s better to walk away than risk costly repairs or a dangerous ride.
- Faulty systems: You should also check to ensure all the vehicle’s systems are working. Run the air conditioning and heating. Turn on the radio. Try the windshield wipers. Make sure none of the basic systems of the car have obvious issues.
- Strange noises: Once the car is running, pay attention to how it sounds. A safe vehicle shouldn’t make any knocking, groaning, or whining noises as it’s running. Again, in an as-is vehicle, you’ll be responsible for having repairs done if those strange sounds turn out to be a significant problem.
- Jerky acceleration: Drive it on both highways and city roads to test the acceleration. A safe vehicle should accelerate smoothly and get up to highway speeds in the time it takes to get up an onramp. It should also be able to handle the frequent stops and starts of city traffic without stalling or making other unfortunate noises.
- Squeaky brakes: Brake noises aren’t the most expensive problem to repair, but they’re still dangerous. If the car has squeaky brakes before you buy it, understand that you’ll need to get them replaced quickly.
- Odometer rollbacks: If you’ve gotten a CarFax report, you should also be able to spot problems with the odometer reading. Some unscrupulous sellers perform odometer rollbacks to make buyers think a vehicle hasn’t been used as much as it actually has been. Make sure the numbers add up before you buy.
Don’t Get Stuck with a Lemon
As-is cars can be tempting because of their low pricing. However, you have to be extremely careful when buying as-is to ensure that you don’t spend even more just to get the vehicle running.
If you’ve already bought an as-is car that has problems, you might not be out of luck. You can reach out to the experienced lemon law attorneys at Johnson & Buxton to discuss your situation. They can help you understand your rights and find out whether you can still reach out to the manufacturer to get problems fixed.