In New Hampshire, we do not have specific “lemon laws” that other states have that protect purchasers of used cars. Often, we get cases in our office where a person buys a used car, pays for it, and then after they drive it home they discover all sorts of problems with it. When they contact the seller, they are told all sales are final, and no reimbursement will be given. This can be very frustrating, especially if you are of limited means and cannot afford a car that will need constant servicing.
In order to prevent these issues, it is important to first remember a few key terms. Almost always a used car dealer will sell a vehicle “as is”. By selling a vehicle “as is”, the seller is stating that the car comes with no warranties. However, one thing many people do not understand is that this waiver of warranties only applies to the implied warranties known as “fitness for a particular purpose” (i.e. the car drives as it should), and “merchantability” (which is something that warranties that the goods are merchantable and of decent quality). By putting the terms “as is” in any contract, this waives those warranties and they no longer apply to the vehicle being bought. However, this does not exclude what is called “express warranties”. Express warranties can be verbal and/or oral. An express warranty is a specific representation of the vehicle’s quality. Examples of an express warranty would be, “this vehicle has 100,000 miles on it”, “this vehicle’s brakes are of good working quality”, “this vehicle’s engine is in pristine condition and needs no work”, and so on. Things that would not be an express warranty are what we call “mere puffery”. Examples of puffery would be “the vehicles ride nicely”, “you’re going to look great in this car”, “you’re going to love this car”, and so on. The thing to remember is that express warranties are specific representations of the vehicle’s quality. Express warranties cannot be waived by selling a car “as is” and without any implied warranties. Knowing the difference is always integral to any used car sale case.
Another component is New Hampshire’s statutory scheme on inspections. RSA 358-F requires a seller to either certify that the vehicle would/did pass inspection, or the seller must certify that the car would not pass inspection. RSA 358-F also requires that a dealer provide a written statement to any buyer that the vehicle has either not been inspected and the written statement serves to put the buyer on notice that they have a right to an inspection if they so choose. The other option for the seller is to provide written notice that the vehicle would not pass inspection, along with an itemized list of the problems of the car that need fixing in order for it to pass inspection. This is surprisingly commonly violated by dealers. And, if that violation is proven, it is deemed a violation of New Hampshire’s consumer protection statute (RSA 358-A), which entitles the buyer to double and triple damages and recovery of attorney’s fees.