It Is What It Is … Top Tips for Buying “As Is” Used Cars

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Knock Knock … 

A customer buys a pre-owned car in New Jersey “As Is,” and drives off the lot happy as a clam that she got a nice car for a great deal. Two weeks later, the “tire pressure” light comes on and the customer finds out she needs a new tire, caused by the dreaded “tire rot.” The customer returns to the dealership and cries foul, demanding that the dealership fix the car – at no cost – OR ELSE! Who is obligated to pay for the new tire?

Who’s There … ?

NOT the dealership … Really!

Can’t We All Get Along …?

Car dealerships want to ensure that customers are happy and safe when they buy a car. Anything less than a happy customer could cost the dealership (and/or sales person) its most valuable commodity of all – a dealer’s (or salesperson’s) reputation. That said, assuming that all of the paper work is completed correctly, when a New Jersey dealership sells a car “As Is” the dealer is under absolutely no obligation to make repairs of any kind.

“As Is” Is in the Eyes of the Beholder’s Pocketbook …

The beauty of an “As Is” car is that it may fit the budget of the person who simply needs transportation to-and-from school or work, or local driving that won’t pile miles onto the car causing excessive wear and tear. Many, many, many people buy affordable cars every day, knowing perfectly well that the vehicle may have visible blemishes or the underbelly of the beast may have flaws. “As Is” cars, after all, tend to have a “mature” nature (as in, they’re OLDER); have danced too many steps with the speedometer (in other words, they have EXCESS MILES), and often sport an orange-y patina on its under belly (also known as RUST). Not to be misconstrued as being bad, an “As Is” car simply Is What it Is … Legally!

What You Need to Know About “As Is” Cars in NJ …

  • In the NJ car biz, the term “As Is” was made up by attorneys. It means that the lawyerly suits sat down and created (and passed) a bunch of laws that require dealers and manufacturers to disclose that the car has no warranty, and everyone’s on board with that.
  • “As Is” has guidelines, as in certain qualifications that make it an “As Is” vehicle. Remember, lawyers made “As Is” what it is. The term does NOT come from a shady salesperson trying to take advantage of anyone, and the sales person cannot change the rules. The guidelines are written to inform and educate all parties.
  • Dealers may sell a vehicle “As Is” if it meets the following Either/Or qualifications:
    • The vehicle is seven (7) model years or older, OR …
    • The vehicle has more than 100,000 miles.
    • CAVEAT: If the vehicle has 60K+ miles but less than 100K, it can be sold “As Is” IF a price negotiation takes place at the time of sale. For example, take an $11,200 car with 74K miles. The customer may choose to negotiate to knock down the price, at which time the dealership may forego any warranty obligation, which takes us back to … “As Is.”
  • When a vehicle meets these requirements and is being sold “As Is,” it means:
    • Vehicles do NOT come with a warranty, expressed or implied; unless agreed upon between the dealership and customer … in writing.
    • Dealerships are NOT required or obligated to fix a thing if the vehicle meets the requirements for “As Is” status. In NJ, that means the vehicle doesn’t even have to pass inspection.
  • Dealerships want customers to be happy and safe. Dealerships can also get into a ton of trouble with the feds if they don’t make it really, really clear that “As Is” really, really means “As Is.” So, it’s really, really not in the best interest of the dealership to pull the wool over the customer’s eyes … Really!

What to do if You Buy a Pre-Owned Vehicle “As Is”…

  • Test Drive the Car BEFORE You Drive the Car Off the Lot – Believe it or not, some people will assume that an “As Is” car is in perfect shape and won’t take the time to test drive the car. Remember, it’s NOT new. By NJ law, it MUST be older than seven model years. It’s up to the customer, therefore, to determine whether the shocks are up to snuff to absorb the unforgiving consequences of NJ roads – think potholes – or any other rattle or shake that may drive them crazy.
  • Ask for an Independent Mechanic to Review the Car – Yes, it’s ok to ask for a second opinion. It won’t hurt the feelings of the salesperson.
  • Get the Facts … a CarFax – That’s the vehicle history report given by the folks in fox costumes. It also provides the 411 on any known and/or outstanding manufacturer’s recalls. Dealers and sales consultants will usually offer to run this report. They’re not trying to hide anything.

What NOT to do When Buying a Used Vehicle “As Is” …

  • Start YELPing or using Social Media to claim injustice if you find that the car isn’t what you had expected. Some people might call that “Buyer’s Remorse.” If you’ve signed the “As Is” papers, you have indicated that you are aware of the car’s condition and released the dealership of its legal obligation to fix anything – at the dealership’s cost – after driving it off the lot. Remember, social media works two ways, and businesses are showing more backbone against whiney customers who threaten to post bad reviews in order to squeeze something more out of the biz. Take the restaurant customer who complained on-line about eating the saltiest fish EV-ER. The restaurant owner shot back a picture of the menu description of the customer’s selection – a house specialty that featured a “BRINED Fish.” Kinda made the customer look stupid.

Bennies of Buying “As Is” from a dealership …

  • Because they’re required by the feds to stick to the letter of the law, most, good dealerships (and there are so many) will have the proper documentation of the prior owners, and will try to do their very best to make sure the customer is happy.
  • If you ask nicely and politely, a dealership may be inclined to work with you to fix minor issues that are annoying to you, as part of the negotiation process.

Jen Miller is the Head of Brand Transformation and Consumer Experience at Maplecrest Ford Lincoln of Union. She is the Head of the Herd of Mustang Sally’s Now: Driving Women’s Leadership, a program she created at Maplecrest that uses the car buying and service experiences as a metaphor to help empower women and build confidence in all areas of life. For more information about Mustang Sally’s Now and its series of workshops, clinics and on-line resources, contact Jen Miller or Marissa DeFeo at 908-964-7700 or visit MustangSallysNow.com

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