Illinois Auto Warranties
When you are car shopping, for new or used vehicles, you will always be offered a laundry list of extras, from various dealer-installed items like CD players to the much-misunderstood extended warranty. If you are a smart shopper (which, contrary to some unfortunate stereotypes, is in everyone’s best interest), you will be sure to check out everything before signing on the dotted line. Whether you are assessing the value of that stereo or of that extended warranty, you need to take some time to look into it, even get some professional advice if you need to.
Except for New Hampshire and Alaska, which regulate extended warranties as insurance, most other states consider the warranties to be service contracts and are regulated differently. Illinois has done what some 36 other states have done, and has modeled their state’s legislation on the recently updated Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC) Model Act. The Model Act not only deals with extended warranties on cars, but other consumer purchases, as well. As far as warranties go, Illinois has used the Model Act to develop procedures for administering the programs as well as combating scams.
Some simple requirements have led to great results in Illinois. Three changes in particular have helped. First, prospective buyers must get a copy of the warranty before the purchase is consummated. Second, the warranty firm cannot claim affiliation with an automaker if that is not true. Third, the procedures for canceling a vehicle’s extended warranty have been simplified, clarified and strengthened in favor of the buyer. None of these changes affects the business of any reputable warranty providers, which are happy to see scam artists and thieves run out of the industry.
Because Illinois legislators have modeled their legislation on the SCIC Model Act, the state’s car buyers have a good deal of protection from unreliable firms and unethical practices. Still, the consumer needs to exercise caution and discernment when buying a vehicle, new or used, and considering any extras, whether a trunk liner or an extended warranty. The benefits of the state laws extend even beyond the service contract oversight, of course, since there are other regulations covering the sale of lemons and the adjudication of disputes.
Perhaps the greatest benefit is the increased awareness that the various consumer protection laws bring to areas that have been victimized by scofflaw companies. With increased information and a better understanding of how the warranty firms are supposed to function, consumers can arm themselves quite well before venturing out to buy a vehicle. A little Internet searching and reading will prepare anyone, and quickly, too. It is important that basic good sense prevail in every step of the car buying process.
Remember the basics of buying while you are also learning about the extended warranty regulations. Common sense and careful attention to what is said and what is actually written down can spare you much grief, whether you live in Illinois or elsewhere. When you start narrowing down your list of possible purchases, you need to assess the mechanical strengths and weaknesses of the vehicles, and thus may need to bring a mechanic friend (or hire one) to check them out. You should also read the back issues of various consumer magazines, available on the Web, and check the reviews of the cars you are interested in buying. You must get as much information as possible, too, on the specific life-history of the cars, which is where Carfax and other services can help you.
It should go without saying (but few things do, really) that you cannot simply take a salesperson’s word about the car’s condition or history without corroboration. More importantly, you must remember that nothing the salesperson says carries any weight if it is not spelled out in writing in the sales contract. It is the responsibility of the buyer to ensure that whatever promises are made, regarding warranties or anything else, have to be included in the contract that both parties are signing. This is a basic, common sense practice that will save you a lot of headaches, a lot of time and potentially a lot of money.
Illinois consumers have the state lawmakers on their side, and the SCIC-based warranty regulations are clear, understandable and fair. Still, people have to exercise care and be responsible for their own actions (and purchases). When car shopping, in any state, make sure to check up on other consumer protections, like lemon laws and three-day returns. The three-day return privilege, however, does not apply to used cars in Illinois, so extra care should be taken before taking possession of a vehicle. Be cautious, be aware and you stand a greater chance of being satisfied with you car, its warranty and your own smart buying behavior.