What You Need to Know About Purchasing a Lemon Law Buyback in CA

A lemon law buyback is a defective vehicle that was repurchased by the manufacturer due to recurring issues. The fact that it was deemed a “lemon” means the manufacturer was unable to repair the defect after a “reasonable” number of attempts – and potentially lost the lemon law dispute.

Once the buyback has been processed, the manufacturer can put that same vehicle up for sale again.

But why on Earth would anyone want to buy a defective vehicle?

Well, lemon buybacks are sold at a significant discount – sometimes thousands of dollars below MSRP. Consumers can potentially buy fancy sports cars that are practically new for pennies on the dollar. Maybe they think they can find a good mechanic who can fix the issue.

However, purchasing a lemon buyback always comes with plenty of risks.

In this post, we want to provide some key insider information for those looking to buy one.

What was the Original Defect?

Obviously, the most important thing to know when purchasing a lemon law buyback in California is why it was deemed a lemon. For a vehicle to be ruled a lemon in California, the manufacturer must have made at least two unsuccessful attempts to fix the defect.

The first order of business is to look up the VIN and find out everything about the vehicle’s history. This should show you exactly what the defect was that resulted in a lemon law refund. More importantly, the manufacturer must disclose the lemon defect or they have violated the lemon law for a second time.

Purchasing a lemon law buyback typically means you will need to put some money into repairs – especially if the warranty is expired. If the vehicle has shown multiple issues or significant engine problems, you’re more than likely looking at a money pit.

Steering Clear of a Defective Buyback

While some dealers may do the righteous deed and repair the defect, you shouldn’t bet on this.

Keep in mind, just because a dealer or manufacturer is selling a lemon law buyback in California doesn’t always mean they fixed the defect. The manufacturer is legally required to disclose whether the vehicle is a lemon buyback, but this is no guarantee the defect has been permanently repaired..

When you do a test drive, try to get a feel for anything that seems out of the ordinary. Listen for any weird sounds coming from the engine or transmission. We also recommend you take the vehicle to your trusted mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection.

Your mechanic should tell you exactly what is wrong with the vehicle, if it’s possible to repair it, and how much it will cost. Even though you might be getting the vehicle at a significant discount, trying to fix a problem that was ruled “unfixable” in a court of law is an uphill battle. Moreover, it puts you, your passengers, and other drivers at risk.

Examine The Warranty

A lemon law buyback in CA is sold as a used vehicle. Fortunately, used cars are protected under CA lemon law. It’s possible that the original warranty is still good on the vehicle. But if not, most used vehicles in California are sold with a dealer warranty. These warranties are typically good for 30 days after the purchase date or before 1000 miles accrue on the odometer. 

What you need to do is check the vehicle’s history to make sure the warranty covers the vehicle’s original defect. Ideally, you want a “bumper-to-bumper” warranty – which means complete coverage.

Keep in mind, some dealerships will try to sell lemon law buybacks “as is”. This means there is no warranty in place and you’re responsible for any issues with it. You should always try to avoid buying a vehicle “as is” – especially if it’s a lemon law buyback.

The Manufacturer’s Obligations

When selling a lemon law buyback in California, the manufacturer has a few obligations that are legal requirements.

  1. Retitle the name of the vehicle in the name of the manufacturer.
  2. Request the Department of Motor Vehicles to inscribe the ownership certificate with the notation “Lemon Law Buyback.”
  3. Affix a lemon law buyback decal to the vehicle in accordance with Section 11713.12 of the Vehicle Code.

In short, there must be no mystery that the vehicle is a lemon law buyback.

The Dealership’s Obligations

 The dealership must provide consumers with:

  1. The vehicle’s VIN, make, model, and year.
  2. A statement that the title of the vehicle is properly marked with a notation that it is a lemon law buyback.
  3. A description of each defect reported by the vehicle’s original buyer or lessee.
  4. The results of all repair attempts made to the vehicle.

This information must be provided in a document.

Common Questions

How do I make sure there aren’t recurring defects?

Most of the time, the original warranty is still valid with lemon law buybacks – the warrantor will not cancel it just because it was deemed a lemon. This means you can take the vehicle in for additional repairs. Following the repair attempts, have the vehicle inspected to see if they were successful. 

Is every buyback defective?

Nope. Even though a vehicle may have been defective in the past, the issue may have been repaired. Perhaps, for example, the vehicle was deemed a lemon because parts were unavailable at the time of the repair.  

The manufacturer, or its dealer, should be capable of fixing most defects – one way or another. They were ruled “unfixable” because the manufacturer’s repair attempts were negligent or too expensive, therefore the manufacturer would rather “throw” parts at the vehicle instead of honoring its warranty obligations.

How can I avoid purchasing a buyback by mistake?

There are several ways to spot a lemon law buyback in CA on a dealership lot. Look for:

  • The decals on the vehicle indicate it is a buyback.
  • Notation in the title.
  • Notation in the registration certificate.

If you’re not sure, you can always ask the dealer or manufacturer selling the vehicle. They are legally required to disclose if it’s a lemon law buyback in California. Additionally, ask them about all the previous repairs made.

Wrapping Up

We don’t like to advise people to purchase a lemon law buyback in CA. However, the discounts can be tough to pass up – we get it.

Keep in mind, purchasing a buyback is playing with fire. If you choose to go this route, you need to be adequately prepared. Feel free to reach out to Cline APC with any questions or concerns in this process. We’re always happy to steer consumers in the right direction.

Give us a call at 888-982-6915 or send an email to info@clineapc.com.

Share this post
Table of Contents