State of Minnesota
More about
Attorney General
Lori Swanson

Minnesota Attorney General's Office

1400 Bremer Tower
445 Minnesota Street
St. Paul, MN 55101

(651) 296-3353
(800) 657-3787

M - F 8 am - 5 pm

TTY:(651) 297-7206
TTY:(800) 366-4812

Used Car Warranty Law

Minnesota Car Laws

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 which 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 which 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; and,
  • diesel engine cars; and
  • salvaged vehicles

The "Buyer's Guide"

A federal rule requires that dealers post a notice called a “Buyer’s Guide” in the side window of all used cars offered for sale.  If a car is covered by the state’s Used Car Warranty Law or another warranty, then the dealer must check the “warranty” box on the Buyer’s Guide.  The dealer must also describe the terms and length of the warranty on the Buyer’s Guide.  However, if a car is not covered by the warranty law and no warranty is offered, then the “as is” box must be checked.

Even if the car you buy is covered under the Used Car Warranty Law, you may waive warranty coverage for a particular part. In order for warranty coverage to be waived, the dealer must disclose on the Buyer’s Guide that the part is not working properly, and you must sign and circle this statement.  

The Dealer's Duty Under the Warranty

If a malfunction, defect or failure in a covered part occurs during the warranty period, then the dealer must repair or replace the part at no charge to the car buyer.  However, to protect your rights under the warranty, you must promptly notify the dealer of the problem within the warranty period, and you must arrange to have the vehicle taken to the dealer for inspection and repair.

If the dealer does not have a repair facility, the dealer will tell you where to take the vehicle for inspection and repair under the warranty.  If it is impossible or unreasonable to return the vehicle to the dealer, you may have the repairs done somewhere else after you get the dealer’s consent.  If a  part is repaired or replaced under the car’s warranty, the warranty for that part is extended from the date of repair for an additional warranty period.

For example, if your car’s transmission is repaired under its used car warranty, then the transmission remains under warranty for an additional 30 days or 1,000 miles (or 60 days or 2,500 miles) from the date of the repair. 

The dealer is not responsible for any malfunctions, defects, or failures which occur after the warranty period expires.  Nor is the dealer responsible to repair parts not covered by the warranty.

Refunds

A dealer may decide to refund the purchase price of your car, rather than repair or replace a warranty part.  If the dealer gives you a refund, you must return the vehicle to the dealer.  The refund must include all the charges you paid, including towing expenses, minus a reasonable deduction for your use of the vehicle.

Remember that the dealer has the choice of correcting the warranty problem or giving you a refund; the law does not give the car buyer the right to demand a refund of the purchase price.

Ordinary Maintenance

A warranty given under the Used Car Warranty Law does not cover ordinary maintenance of your car.  Thus, repair or replacement of maintenance items (such as spark plugs, ignition points, filters, fluids, lubricants and oil, and brake and clutch linings) is your responsibility.  The warranty does not cover normal wear and tear.

Limits on the Warranty

The warranty does not cover any repair problems caused by collisions, abuse, negligence, or lack of adequate maintenance after you buy the car.  Nor is the dealer required to repair any parts still covered by the original factory warranty, or parts that the manufacturer agrees to repair at no charge.

Bringing a Lawsuit

If a used car dealer fails to comply with the warranty law, you may bring a lawsuit against the dealer.  Any lawsuit under the Used Car Warranty Law must be brought within one year after the warranty expires. 

Often, you will be able to bring your case in conciliation court, where the procedures are relatively informal and where you will not be required to hire an attorney.  (For more information about Conciliation Court, ask for the Attorney General’s free brochure.)

Much of the expense of owning a car comes after you buy it.  After three or four years of driving, the muffler may roar, the brakes may grind, the windshield wiper fluid may leak, or the radio may go out.  Slowly but surely, your vehicle will begin to show signs of age.  And Murphy’s Law says the really big repairs will be needed just after the warranty has run out!

Know the Difference Between Service Contracts and the Used Car Warranty Law

If you are offered an “extended warranty” at an additional cost, this is probably  not a warranty but a service contract.  Service contracts provide limited coverage for the car, so you should read the service contract carefully before deciding whether you want to buy this coverage.  Furthermore, the service contract may require you to prove that you have done regular maintenance (oil changes, etc.) on the vehicle.  You should also be aware that a service contract is frequently a profit item for the dealer; like any other add-on, the cost may be negotiated. 

Next Page: Truth in Repairs