How to Tell If a Car Has a Reported Lemon History

It’s important to conduct due diligence when shopping for a vehicle – especially if you’re buying a used one. Even the car brands you trust the most are guilty of producing defective vehicles from time to time.

Fortunately, the California lemon law protects consumers who purchase or lease new vehicles with ongoing issues and defects. To qualify as a lemon, a vehicle must:

  • Be covered under the manufacturer or dealer warranty when the defect or nonconformity was first reported; and
  • Have one or more defect/nonconformities that substantially impair the vehicle’s use, value, or safety; and
  • Have been subjected to a reasonable number of repair attempts by a manufacturer-certified facility to fix the defect/nonconformity; or
  • Have been out of service for repairs on one or more defects/nonconformities for at least 30 days; and
  • The defect or nonconformity must not have been caused by driver abuse or neglect.

Once a vehicle has been deemed a lemon, the manufacturer may repurchase it from the consumer and resell it as a used vehicle (also known as a lemon buyback). If you think the used car you’re interested in might be a lemon buyback, there are a few things you can do to find out for sure.

Keep reading to learn how to tell a vehicle’s lemon history.

How to Tell if There’s a Lemon History Reported?

Consumers have the right to know a vehicle’s lemon history before purchase under the California Automotive Consumer Notification Act. While a manufacturer can legally resell lemon buybacks, they must notify the consumer that the car was once ruled a lemon.

The dealer or manufacturer must provide a written disclosure statement if the vehicle you’re interested in was previously identified as a lemon. There must also be a yellow decal on the driver’s entryway that indicates the vehicle is a buyback.

The disclosure will need to be signed by the consumer and must include:

  • A clear and conspicuous statement that the vehicle was repurchased by the manufacturer and labeled a lemon law buyback; and
  • A description of the nonconformity or defect(s) that resulted in the vehicle being labeled a lemon; and
  • Details of any repair attempt made to fix the defect(s).

If you have any questions about this disclosure, you should contact an experienced lemon law attorney before proceeding with the purchase.

Should I Avoid a Vehicle with a Lemon History?

In most cases, yes – we recommend you avoid purchasing a vehicle that’s been ruled a lemon in the past. Once a lemon history is reported, the chances of a car having serious, ongoing problems are much higher than average.

However, people still purchase lemon history cars all the time. Often, they do so because manufacturers will sell defective vehicles (while disclosing they are lemon law buybacks) at a significant discount.  

Just because the manufacturer couldn’t repair a defect with a couple of attempts doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. Some consumers will purchase a lemon law buyback at a significant discount and have their trusted mechanic repair it. This can be a way to get a luxury car for pennies on the dollar. 

Of course, with this comes the added danger of driving a defective vehicle. Unless you are confident in your auto mechanic skills or have a trusted mechanic, it’s best to steer clear. Lemon law buybacks are usually a big headache and safety risk. 

Beware of Dealership Fraud

By California law, a dealer must disclose if the car you plan to purchase is a lemon law buyback. If a dealership fails to disclose a vehicle’s lemon history, it may be considered fraud. Yet, many dealerships will do whatever it takes to sell a car – even if that means being deceptive about its history.

If a car dealer doesn’t adequately disclose the lemon history of the car, you may have legal rights that you can assert against them. These rights differ from those under the lemon law, but they may help you get some satisfaction and recover monetary damages.

Before buying a lemon car, it’s a good idea to review the vehicle’s lemon history report for the defect details and why it was deemed a lemon. You should also take the car for a test drive and have a qualified mechanic inspect it to ensure it’s safe to drive.

If you choose to purchase the lemon buyback car, see if the dealer will provide you with a warranty of at least 30 days. A 30-day warranty will protect you if the vehicle turns out to be beyond repair and you need to return it. In some cases, they will sell the buyback “as is” – meaning you take responsibility for all issues once you drive it off the lot.

Need a CA Lemon Law Lawyer?

If you believe you were sold a defective vehicle without being told of its past, Cline APC is here to help. Our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys will evaluate your case and help you understand your legal options.Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation. We’d be happy to answer your questions and point you in the right direction.

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