Motor Vehicle Warranties
Motor Vehicle Condition
A motor vehicle 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). For more information, see Consumer Law topic Motor Vehicles.
Motor Vehicle “Lemon Law”
Wisconsin’s motor vehicle “lemon law” (Wisconsin Statutes section 218.0171) affects new motor vehicle warranties. If a new motor vehicle turns out to be a “lemon,” the manufacturer must replace the vehicle or refund the purchase price. A new vehicle is a “lemon” if all the following apply:
- The vehicle is no more than a year old, and still under warranty.
- The vehicle has a serious defect that the dealer cannot fix in four tries, or has one or more defects that prevent the consumer from using it for 30 days or more. A defect is one that seriously affects the use, value or safety of the vehicle, and is covered by the warranty. An irritating rattle may not be serious enough to make a car a “lemon.” But stalling probably is.
A consumer may take court action to enforce his or her rights under the “lemon law.” But if a manufacturer has an informal dispute settlement procedure certified by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the consumer must use that procedure before going to court. For more information, see Consumer Law topic, Motor Vehicles.
Motor Vehicle Repair
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) regulates unfair and deceptive business practices. DATCP has adopted a rule to protect consumers in motor vehicle repair transactions (see Wisconsin Administrative Code chapter ATCP 132). Among other things, this rule prohibits repair shops from misrepresenting the terms of any warranty or service agreement. For more information, see Consumer Law topic, Motor Vehicles.
Motor Vehicle Rustproofing Warranties
Motor vehicle rustproofing warranties must comply with Wisconsin Statutes section 100.205. This law requires certain warranty terms. It also prohibits unfair warranty terms and practices. Warrantors must obtain insurance to ensure warranty performance. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) administers this law. For more information, see Consumer Law topic, Motor Vehicles.
Motor Vehicle Title
Under Wisconsin Statutes section 342.15(1), a person selling a motor vehicle must give the buyer a title certificate that includes a warranty of title. The buyer must file the title certificate with the Department of Transportation to have the vehicle re-registered in the buyer’s name.