Purchasing a car – either new or used – is a huge financial move. If you plan on driving it, the basic expectations are that the vehicle functions properly and keeps you safe on the road, especially in a populous state like California.

When buying a used car, there is always a certain degree of risk involved, as you probably don’t know everything about the vehicle prior to the sale. In some cases, dealers will try to dupe you and fail to disclose the vehicle’s history, fail to perform a recall, change the odometer, misrepresent the title, etc. The result can significantly compromise the safety of the consumer while driving, as well as other drivers nearby.

Fortunately, in California, the lemon law applies to these unfortunate situations. This law works to crack down on manufacturers, car dealers, or distributors and requires them to sell vehicles without deception.

If something seems off with the used car you have purchased, it’s possible that the vehicle is a lemon and you are entitled to benefits. Here is what you can do.

Understand the Criteria Under California Lemon Law

First and foremost, if you have a hunch that your used car is a lemon, you need to understand the law and whether or not your vehicle applies can be somewhat of a “gray.”

  • Purchased or leased used vehicles which may be covered under California Lemon Law include:
  • Vehicles purchased primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.
  • Vehicles with a gross weight below 10,000 pounds and used primarily for business purposes. There can be no more than five vehicles registered to the company.
  • Vehicles sold with a written warranty.
  • Vehicles that are repurchased by the manufacturer then resold with a warranty covering the defects.

In most states, lemon law only applies to new cars. However, if a used car meets the criteria listed above, the consumer is entitled to similar benefits. To be deemed a lemon, further criteria for the vehicle include:

  • One to two repair attempts by the manufacturer or authorized dealer for a defect that compromises the safety or functionality of the vehicle.
    Two or more repair attempts in which the defect recurs or continues to reoccur, but does not necessarily need to result in serious bodily injury or death.
  • Four or more repair attempts have been made for the same defect.
  • The vehicle has been in the repair shop for any defect or nonconformity for more than 30 days.
  • None of these defects can be a result of consumer abuse of the vehicle.

New vs. Used Protocol

When you purchase a new car, you will almost certainly be provided with a dealer or manufacturer warranty. With a used car, the difference is that dealers can also sell the vehicle “as is.” As a buyer, placing a check in the “as is” box essentially acknowledges that the vehicle is not under a warranty. In this case, you may not be entitled to any benefits if the car turns out to be a lemon.

A used car can still be processed like a new car under California lemon law, as long as it was purchased or leased from a California dealership while still under the original manufacturer warranty, or sold with an express warranty.

Check the Dealer Warranty

If you are buying a used vehicle, you should ALWAYS check the buyer’s guide, which dealerships are required by federal law to display on used vehicles that are for sale. If the guide shows that the vehicle is covered under a dealer warranty, this means you are protected in two major ways if the vehicle turns out to be a lemon.

For one, you may be protected during the warranty period very similarly to how you would be if the car was brand new. If a certain component of the vehicle fails and impairs your safety or the functionality of the car, the dealer may be required by law to fix it within a reasonable number of attempts or offer you a lemon buyback.

Second, a used car sold with a dealer warranty means it may also be covered by an “implied warranty of merchantability.” This is a guarantee that the vehicle meets the necessary requirements to provide safe and reliable transportation and may last the duration of the warranty. It’s important to note that because the implied warranty isn’t restricted to the parts listed in the dealer warranty, the dealership may be responsible for any issues that compromise the vehicle’s safety or functionality.

If the used vehicle you have purchased is complete with a dealer warranty, you can protect your investment by:

  • Documenting ALL problems and repairs, as well as the time your vehicle spends in the repair shop.
  • Being very timely with all your communication. If the dealer is refusing to comply with repairs or is unnecessarily delaying the process, you should contact the manufacturer, or warrantor, before the warranty runs out.
  • Getting in contact with a California lemon law attorney. The auto industry is VERY well equipped with the legal defense. If the dealer or manufacturer is giving you trouble, you need a lemon law lawyer who values consumer justice and is committed to speedy service.

Learn Your Rights

If your used vehicle has met all the criteria and has been ruled a lemon, your rights include:

  • Repair costs covered in full by the dealership.
  • A complete refund of the original price you paid for the vehicle.
  • An exact replacement of the vehicle or one of the same value.
  • All legal fees and costs covered in full by the warrantor.

If you are having issues with a used car you recently purchased, you need to consult a California lemon law firm right away. By failing to file a lemon law claim, or delaying the process, you may be putting yourself and the lives of others at risk.

At Cline APC, we offer free consultations in which we will do everything possible to understand your situation and educate you on the process of getting the justice you deserve from the dealership.

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