Buying a used car is always a trickier prospect than buying a new car.
New vehicles come with more built-in protections (express warranties) and don’t have the uncertainty of being used by a previous owner, who might have done any number of things to the vehicle.
But, while it’s always riskier to buy a used vehicle, it’s not quite as risky in Massachusetts as in other states, because Massachusetts has some of the best used car laws in the country.
Massachusetts Used Car Warranty Laws
Massachusetts’ law requires all used vehicles sold by certified dealers that cost more than $700 and have less than 125,000 miles on their odometers to come with warranties.
By law, these warranties must cover operational defects for a set period of time according to this schedule:
- <40,000 miles: 90 days/3,750 miles
- 40,000-79,999 miles: 60 days/2,500 miles
- 80,000-124,999: 30 days/1,250 miles
These warranties require dealers to make necessary repairs to keep vehicles safe and operational for the set period of time and are the basis for the used car lemon law in the state.
What about cars with more 125,000 miles?
Cars with more than 125,000 miles on the odometer at time of purchase may be sold “as is” in Massachusetts.
For cars sold “as is,” the dealer has no responsibility if they malfunction.
Massachusetts Used Car Return Laws
Massachusetts is one of the few states with “right to return” laws for used cars.
They have three of them, in fact.
1 – The Used Car Lemon Law, which applies to all cars with under 125,000 miles and basically states that if a dealer cannot repair a major defect with the vehicle in accordance with the required warranty, they must refund your purchase.
2 – The Failed Inspection Lemon Law, which applies to all vehicles, both new and used, sold in the state, and allows you to return the car for a refund within seven (7) days if your car doesn’t pass inspection and the cost of repairs would exceed 10% of the buying price.
3 – The Private Party Return Law, which states that if you buy a vehicle with a major issue (one that substantially impairs operation or safety) from a private seller, you may return the car for a refund within 30 days if you can prove the seller was aware of the defect and failed to disclose it.
When refunding a sale in any of these instances, the seller is required to refund the full purchase price of the vehicle, minus a reasonable allowance for use.
If you have met the criteria for a refund, but the seller refuses to void the contract and refund your money, your next steps are dependent on whether you bought the car from a licensed dealer or private party seller.
If you bought from a licensed dealer, and are using the used car lemon laws as your basis for return, you can either file a lawsuit through the court or apply for arbitration through the state.
State arbitration can expedite the process of getting your money back and save you money.
Unfortunately, arbitration is not available for private-party sales.
If a private seller refuses to cancel a sale and you have proof they didn’t disclose a major defect with a vehicle they sold you, you’ll have to file a lawsuit through the court.
Used Car Warranty & Car Return General FAQ
To further your understanding of used car warranties and return rules here are some answers to frequently asked questions.
Do used cars come with warranties?
Many do, but not all.
And in most states, used cars have no requirement to be warrantied.
Used cars may be sold either with a warranty attached or “as is.”
Those with warranties may also have very limited warranties, with either a short time/mileage window or only a few parts of the car that are covered.
All this said, dealerships often offer warranties as incentives to buy their pre-owned vehicles.
And, if they don’t, you can certainly negotiate one into your purchase contract.
Does an express manufacturer’s car warranty transfer to a new owner?
Generally speaking, yes, an express manufacturer’s warranty transfers to a car’s new owner as long as the warranty is still in effect (though, the rules or coverage period of the warranty may change).
But this isn’t always the case.
If a vehicle’s warranty does not transfer, this should be clearly spelled out in the vehicle’s paperwork, and the seller is also required to tell you.
Do extended vehicle service plans count as warranties?
Yes, in most cases, service contracts are considered a form of warranty under the law.
However, they’re unlikely to do you much good if real issues arise.
Service contracts typically don’t provide much more than general maintenance, so if your car breaks down it is unlikely the dealer will have a duty to repair it.
However, if they refuse to do your oil change, rotate your tires, or anything else actually included in your service plan, you can certainly seek justice under warranty laws.
Is there a federal law that deals with used car warranties?
Yes. In a way.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act applies to all warranties, regardless of whether those warranties are attached to new or used products.
The law is not specific to vehicles, but can be used to enforce any warranty on a used vehicle.
What’s in the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (as it applies to vehicles)?
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act includes several key points that pertain to vehicle warranties.
These points are:
- No product is required to have a warranty (and many used cars don’t).
- The terms of a warranty must be fully disclosed in simple, understandable language.
- Any ambiguity in the language of a warranty is held against the warrantor (in this case, the manufacturer or dealer).
- Warrantors cannot require only branded parts be used with their products for a warranty to remain valid (Ford can’t require only Ford parts be used on your vehicle).
- Service contracts must follow these same rules.
Basically, if you feel like you’ve been duped by a warranty, you may have a case under the Magnuson-Moss Act.
And if your used vehicle does come with a warranty, the dealer/manufacturer must repair any defect for free and to satisfactory condition, or you can seek justice under your local (or the federal) warranty law.
What about the Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling-Off rule?
The FTC’s 3-day cooling-off rule or “right to cancel” does not apply to vehicles.
For more on the FTC’s rule and how (and why) it doesn’t apply to vehicle sales, see Does The FTC’s 3-Day Right To Cancel Apply To Car Purchases?