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New bill would require used car dealers to pay for repairs on ‘lemons’

Legislation creates an unwaivable warranty for recent used car purchases that malfunction or breakdown

Olympia, Wash.—Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has announced that he is partnering with Rep. David Hackney, D-Tukwila, on legislation to create an unwaivable warranty for used car purchases. Current Washington law affords consumers few consumer protections for used cars that break down — or “lemons” — shortly after purchase compared to new car purchases.

When used cars break down or malfunction shortly after purchase, Washingtonians will have the right to a full refund, or the dealer must cover most of the costs of mechanical repairs.

The Used Motor Vehicles Express Warranties Act, HB 1184, will cover vehicles on a sliding scale depending on the number of miles that are on the odometer at purchase. For example, vehicles with 40,000 miles or less will have 90 days or 3,750 miles of coverage depending which number the car buyer hits first. Between 40,000 to 79,999 miles the coverage is limited to 60 days or 2,500 miles. Between 80,000 to 124,999 miles the coverage is limited to 30 days or 1,250 miles. Vehicles with over 125,000 miles would have no warranty protections.

Consumers will have their out-of-pocket expenses capped at $200 for repair costs if their vehicle breaks down shortly after purchase.

Between January 2021 and July 2022, 557 Washingtonians filed complaints to the Attorney General’s Office against used car dealers — an average of approximately one complaint per day.

The bill applies to cars that are less than 20 years old and have less than 125,000 miles. The new law requires auto dealers to provide the same limited warranty. Dealers cannot ask buyers to waive this warranty.

If an auto dealer cannot fix the car after three attempts, it will refund the cost of the purchase minus a small mileage fee. Further, if a used car is out of service for a total of 45 days then the auto dealer also must refund the cost of the purchase.

Any auto dealers who violate the new law face penalties under the state Consumer Protection Act of up to $7,500 per violation. By passing this legislation, Washington would join Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York among states with similar legal protections for used car purchases.

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