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Lemon Law for Used Cars in Minnesota

Adapted from the Minnesota Attorney General's website:

Minnesota has one of the strongest Used Car Warranty Laws in the country. Under the Minnesota Used Car Warranty Law, used car dealers must provide basic warranty coverage for most used cars and small trucks sold to Minnesota buyers. The Used Car Warranty Law does not apply if you buy a used car from a relative, friend, from a private party or "as is."

"As Is" or Warranty

Whether your car will come with a warranty generally depends on whether you buy a car covered under the Used Car Warranty Law. A car that is sold without a warranty is sold "as is." That means the seller has no obligation to fix any problem that may arise. Check the Buyer's Guide window sticker to determine if you will receive a warranty. That sticker will tell you if you have a warranty, or if you are buying "as is."

The Basic Used Car Warranties

The Used Car Warranty Law covers used cars purchased primarily for personal, family or household purposes. The terms and length of the warranty will depend upon the mileage on the car at the time you buy it. For cars with fewer than 36,000 miles, the warranty applies for 60 days or 2,500 miles, whichever comes first. The parts covered under the warranty for cars in this mileage range are:

  • Engine: all lubricated parts, intake manifolds, engine block, cylinder head, rotary engine housings, and ring gear.
  • Transmission: automatic transmission case, internal parts, and torque converter; or, manual transmission case and internal parts.
  • Drive axle: axle housings and internal parts, axle shafts, drive shafts, output shafts, and universal joints. (Secondary drive axles are covered on automobiles and passenger vans, but are not covered on other vehicles mounted on a truck chassis, such as utility and off-road vehicles.)
  • Brakes: master cylinder, vacuum assist booster, wheel cylinders, hydraulic lines and fittings, and disc brake calipers.
  • Steering: steering gear housing and all internal parts, power steering pump, valve body, piston, and rack.
  • Water pump.
  • Externally-mounted mechanical fuel pump.
  • Radiator.
  • Alternator, generator, and starter.

For cars with between 36,000 and 75,000 miles, the warranty applies for 30 days or 1,000 miles, whichever comes first. For cars in this mileage range, the warranty covers the parts listed above, except for the following parts that are NOT covered:

  • Rack.
  • Radiator.
  • Alternator, generator, starter.

Parts are not covered under the used car warranty law if they are not specifically listed above.

Who Provides a Used Car Warranty?

The Used Car Warranty Law applies only if you buy your car from a used car dealer. The law does not apply if you buy a used car from a relative, friend, or neighbor. Nor does the law apply if you buy your car from:

  • Your employer.
  • A bank or financial institution.
  • A company that previously leased the car to you or a family member.
  • The state, or any county or city in Minnesota.
  • An auctioneer who sells the car in connection with the sale of other property or land.

"Unlicensed" Dealers

One problem the Used Car Warranty Law addresses is the problem of "unlicensed dealers." State law says that any person who is in the business of selling used cars and who sells more than five used cars in a year is a "dealer," and must obtain a dealer's license. An unlicensed dealer is a person who sells more than five used cars in a year but fails to get a dealer's license. Typically, an unlicensed dealer sells cars one at a time from the unlicensed dealer's home or business. If you buy a qualifying car from an unlicensed dealer, then your car is covered by the Used Car Warranty Law. You should realize that in such cases you are legally entitled to warranty coverage even if the unlicensed dealer fails to give you any written warranty documents.

Exclusions

Remember that the used car you buy might not be covered by the Used Car Warranty Law. The following cars are excluded from the law, and although a dealer may still choose to offer a warranty, these cars are usually sold "as is":

  • Cars with 75,000 miles or more
  • Cars sold for less than $3,000
  • Custom-built cars, or cars modified for show or racing
  • Cars that are eight years of age or older
  • Cars purchased primarily for business or agricultural use
  • Vehicles with gross vehicle weight above 9,000 pounds
  • Vehicles manufactured in limited quantities
  • Vehicles not manufactured in accordance with federal emission standards
  • Diesel engine cars
  • Salvaged vehicles

Even if your used car isn't covered, there are several other types of laws that can be used to help you in the event you discover that you've bought a used car lemon. First, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has what's called the Used Car Rule that requires dealers to provide consumers with a Buyer's Guide with warranty and other types of information. If the dealer has in any way failed to abide by the FTC Used Car Rule, you may have the basis for a legal claim.

Second, each state has what are called Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices (UDAP) laws. If the dealer has, for example, made verbal promises or didn't tell you about issues relating to your used car, you may have a cause of action. Third, Minnesota's version of the Uniform Commercial Code may provide you with relief. Finally, the Truth in Lending Act and the Federal Odometer Act might also be valuable in obtaining lemon justice.

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