Consumer Law at Your Fingertips

Motor Vehicles

Motor Vehicle Warranties

A warranty is a seller’s promise that a product will perform as intended. The warranty tells what items the seller will pay to fix after the sale, and for how long. A motor vehicle may have a “manufacturer warranty” that obligates the manufacturer to pay the cost of certain repairs. Or it may have a “dealer warranty” that obligates the dealer to pay.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) licenses motor vehicle manufacturers and dealers (see Wisconsin Statutes chapter 218). Dealers must disclose and give copies of any warranties that apply (see Wisconsin Administrative Code chapter Trans 139). All new cars, and some used cars, come with warranties. If a used car carries no warranty, the dealer must disclose that the car is sold “as is” with no warranty.

A manufacturer must notify dealers and eligible consumers whenever a manufacturer creates a warranty adjustment program (see Wisconsin Statutes section 218.0172). Under a warranty adjustment program, sometimes called a “secret” warranty, the manufacturer pays to correct latent problems that may not be covered under the normal warranty (or that may not surface during the normal warranty period).