What Are My Rights After Buying a Faulty Car?

No one wants to face the fallout of defective vehicle purchases. After all, buying a car is a major investment, and when something goes wrong, it can be costly. If you find yourself in this predicament, you need to know your consumer rights when buying a car from a dealer.

In the old days, consumers who bought faulty products were simply out of luck. Fortunately, things have changed, and there are now laws in place to protect consumers from defective vehicle purchases.

In the United States, the Magnuson-Moss Consumer Warranty Act – or lemon law – was enacted in 1975 to protect consumers who purchase defective products. Lemon law exists across the country, but the finer details of the law vary based on the state the vehicle is sold/registered in. Most people have never dealt with a defective vehicle purchase before, and understanding lemon law rights isn’t always crystal clear.

So, you may be wondering, “what are my rights after buying a faulty car?” In this post, we want to explain the legal concepts and point you in the right direction. Let’s get started. 

Examine the Warranty

Warranties are the basis for your lemon law rights after purchasing a defective vehicle.

Any vehicle defect must be reported to the manufacturer while the warranty is still in effect. Most manufacturer warranties are good for three years or before 36,000 miles accrue on the odometer. But these limitations can vary based on the brand.

If you’ve read about California lemon law, you may have seen information claiming the defect must be reported within 18 months of the purchase date – or before 18,000 miles on the odometer.

These figures represent the lemon law presumption.

Reporting a defect within these limitations will strengthen your case, but you may file a claim as long as the warranty is still in effect. However, defects are only covered under lemon law if they were due to an error in the manufacturing process. The claim would not be valid if the defect resulted from driver abuse or neglect.

New & Used Defective Vehicles

In most states, lemon law rights only extend to defective vehicles purchased as new. Consumers can seek a lemon claim as long as the defect was reported within the terms of the original manufacturer’s warranty.

That being said, some states, like California, offer lemon law protections to used vehicles. But it’s not apples-to-apples, unfortunately.

Consumer rights when buying a car from a dealer in California only apply if the used vehicle is sold with a dealer or implied warranty of merchantability. Dealer warranties are usually good for 30 days after purchase or before 1,000 miles accrue on the odometer.

If no dealer warranty is specified, the vehicle has an implied warranty of merchantability. As the name states, this warranty implies the vehicle will work for its intended purpose. Under California Civil Code, implied warranties are good for no less than 60 days after the purchase date.

In some dealer sales and most private sales, used vehicles are sold “as is.” This means there is no warranty in place, and the buyer is responsible for all issues with the defective vehicle. At a dealership, this clause must be clearly stated in the buyer’s guide.

Seeking justice for a faulty used vehicle can be tricky. Plain and simple, you need a specialized lemon lawyer in California to manage your claim and earn full compensation.

Begin the Repair Process

Your consumer rights when buying a car from a dealer come into play after they have been given a “reasonable number of repair attempts.” In the state of California, this generally means at least two unsuccessful attempts. However, if the defect is severe enough, just one unsuccessful repair attempt could result in a lemon claim.

As soon as you notice something is off with your vehicle, do not waste any time in starting the repair process. Every day you delay repairs is another chance to get in an accident or do something that might be deemed “driver abuse.” Get in touch with the manufacturer ASAP – they will instruct you to the nearest certified repair facility.

IMPORTANT: Do not, under any circumstance, take your defective vehicle to your trusted family mechanic for repairs. The repairs MUST be carried out by a manufacturer-certified facility while under warranty. Otherwise, this could void your claim.

The next step is to gather documentation for the repairs. If the time comes when you need to exercise your lemon law rights, the repair invoices are essential pieces of information to build your case.

These invoices need to include:

  • The make, model, and year of the vehicle.
  • Description of the problem.
  • Date + time the vehicle was brought in.
  • Date + time the vehicle was picked up.
  • Reading of the mileage.
  • Name and ID number of the employee you worked with.

Most importantly, the repair invoice needs to be closed. This indicates the repair attempt was completed. If you file the claim and the invoice wasn’t officially closed, the manufacturer can make another repair attempt – which will hold up the buyback process.

Seek a Professional Lemon Lawyer in California

Answering the question, “what are my rights after buying a faulty car?” may seem confusing on the surface. But when push comes to shove, they are pretty straightforward – building your case is where the details can get murky.

Manufacturers shouldn’t get away with selling you a defective vehicle. With lemon law on your side, they won’t. If they are unable to repair your faulty car, your next step is to partner with a lemon law lawyer in California right away.

Manufacturers will tell you all sorts of lies to discourage you from seeking professional legal assistance. This is simply because they know a good attorney will make sure they provide a full buyback to the consumer. Always remember, automakers have no interest in taking responsibility for ripping off customers – and will go to great lengths to avoid it.

As California lemon law attorneys, we are happy to answer any questions you might have about your lemon law rights in California. Give us a call at 877-979-5328, send an email to info@clineapc.com, or fill out a FREE case evaluation.

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