How Does Lemon Law Protect Consumers with an Implied Car Warranty?

Buying a defective vehicle is a challenge that no consumer should have to go through. People buy vehicles with the expectation they function properly. But everyone makes mistakes – even big-name automakers. Fortunately, warranties and lemon law consumer protections exist to help buyers avoid getting burned.

The lemon law car warranty is the foundation of all claims.

New vehicles are sold with a manufacturer’s warranty. The details of these warranties are straightforward – and are usually good for three years or before 36K miles accrue on the odometer. However, these terms depend on the brand. These warranties require manufacturers to fix any issues the vehicle may be experiencing due to shoddy manufacturing.

But what about when buying a used car that doesn’t seem to have a warranty?

We’ve got some good news for you: you may still be covered under a warranty.

This warranty is called the “implied warranty of merchantability”. In this post, we want to explain what these warranties are – and how you may be protected under California lemon law.

How Does Lemon Law in California Protect Consumers?

California has some of the most consumer-friendly lemon laws in the country.

Lemon law consumer protection covers buyers if their vehicle meets the following criteria:

  • The vehicle exhibits a substantial defect that impairs the safety, functionality, or value.
  •  The manufacturer has been given a reasonable number of repair attempts to fix a warranty-covered issue (usually at least two attempts).
  • The vehicle has been out of service to repair a warranty-covered defect for 30 or more days.
  • The defect was not a result of driver abuse.

While the details of lemon law vary based on the state, most states only offer lemon law consumer protection for new vehicles. California lemon law is one of the few that extends to used vehicles.

Dealerships commonly sell used vehicles with a lemon law car warranty that last 30 days or before 1,000 miles accrue on the odometer. The terms of these dealer warranties are found on the buyer’s guide. This guide must be displayed on the vehicle before it is sold.

If a used vehicle meets the criteria of California lemon law (as listed above) while still under the dealer warranty, it can be processed the same way a new one would.

What is an “Implied Warranty of Merchantability?

An implied warranty of merchantability is an area of lemon law consumer protection that tends to fly under the radar. Implied warranties – as the name suggests – are not explicitly stated.

These warranties indicate that a product conforms to a reasonable buyer’s expectation. The expectation is that the product works for its intended purposes. As stated in California Civil Code (1791 – 1791.3, “implied warranty of merchantability” or “implied warranty that goods are merchantable” means that consumer goods meet the following criteria:

  • Pass without objection in the trade under the contract description.
  • Are fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used.
  • Are adequately maintained, packaged, and labeled.
  • Conform to the promises or affirmations of fact made on the container or label.

Keep in mind, this lemon law consumer protection is not a promise that ALL parts of the vehicle will work impeccably. These warranties generally apply to the essential components – engine, transmission, steering, braking, electrical system, etc.  

But how do you know if a used vehicle has an implied warranty of merchantability?

This can be a little tricky – as implied warranties are not clearly listed anywhere.

For one, implied warranties do not typically exist in private vehicle sales, just dealerships.

A used vehicle sold a dealership will generally have an implied warranty if:

  • There is no dealer warranty listed on the buyer’s guide.
  • There is no “as is” clause listed on the buyer’s guide.

If a vehicle is sold “as is”, it means there is no warranty in place – either a dealer warranty or implied warranty. The buyer takes full responsibility for any issues once they drive off the lot.

How Long Are Implied Warranties Good for?

Unlike most dealer warranties – which are usually good for 30 days – implied warranties are good for at least 60.

As stated in the California Civil Code:

“The duration of the implied warranty of merchantability and where present the implied warranty of fitness shall be coextensive in duration with an express warranty which accompanies the consumer goods, provided the duration of the express warranty is reasonable; but in no event shall such implied warranty have a duration of less than 60 days nor more than one year following the sale of new consumer goods to a retail buyer. Where no duration for an express warranty is stated with respect to consumer goods, or parts thereof, the duration of the implied warranty shall be the maximum period prescribed above.”

As you can probably tell at this point, implied warranties are full of gray areas. This is why many dealerships sell used vehicles with the standard dealer warranty. Dealer warranties have the shortest lemon law consumer protection timeline. Make no mistake, a lemon law attorney in California will clarify the warranty information during the claim process.

What is the Next Move?

If you’ve purchased a defective vehicle from a dealership, the lemon law car warranty laws may be able to help you.

Now, while seeking compensation for a used vehicle is possible in this state, you need a lemon law attorney in California to seek justice. Chances are, you’re in this situation for the first time. Dealerships and manufacturers take advantage of this to avoid giving you a refund.

An attorney will make sure you don’t get burned and earn the maximum compensation for your troubles.

For any questions about implied warranties – or California lemon law in general – don’t hesitate to reach out to Cline APC. Call our office at 888-982-6915, send an email to or fill out a FREE case evaluation.

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