Can a Dealership Sell a Lemon?

Can a Dealer Sell a Lemon?

Have you ever thought about what you would do if a car dealer sold you a lemon or bad vehicle? It is not uncommon for a car dealership to sell a lemon vehicle by failing to disclose accidents or damages that were done to the vehicle.

If you’re wondering “can a dealership sell you a lemon?”, the answer is complex:

  • A dealership can sell a “lemon law buyback vehicle” as long as the vehicle has been repaired by the manufacturer and clearly displays a “Lemon Law Buyback” sticker on the door. (A lemon law buyback vehicle is one that was defective, has been repurchased by the manufacturer from a dissatisfied customer, and then was fixed.) These vehicles should be accompanied by a Lemon Law Buyback Warranty when a new owner buys them, which covers the vehicle for 12,000 miles.
  • Sometimes dealerships unknowingly sell a defective vehicle, but in these cases, you may have legal recourse under California Lemon Law.
  • A dealership cannot knowingly sell a defective vehicle while falsely stating that the vehicle is new/in good condition. That’s a crime.

A car in California is usually considered a lemon if a manufacturer’s dealer is unable to repair the car within a reasonable number of attempts and the defect is one that substantially impairs the vehicle’s …

  • use,
  • value, or
  • saftey.

California has one of the most consumer-friendly lemon laws in the nation that ensures vehicle owners’ protection. Under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, if you purchase a defective vehicle that meets the legal definition of a lemon, you are entitled to a refund, or the vehicle can be replaced at the manufacturer’s expense.

If you feel like you’ve purchased a lemon, then you may have legal recourse in California. Neale & Fhima Law Firm has aggressively represented thousands of clients in lemon law claims, and we have a 99% success rate. Our lemon law attorneys are tough on manufacturers and dealerships who sell defective vehicles to consumers. We are highly successful in resolving these claims. To find out whether we can help you, call us for a free initial consultation at 888-407-2955.

Neale & Fhima has a 99% success rate in lemon law cases.

Can a dealership sell an unsafe vehicle?

A dealership cannot knowingly sell an unsafe vehicle. It may be hard to prove that a dealership knew they were selling an unsafe vehicle, but it is not legal for them to do so. Sometimes, a dealership may unknowingly sell a defective or unsafe vehicle, but if they do, they are subject to California’s Lemon Law, and the manufacturer may be forced to buy back or replace the vehicle.

A dealership can sell a lemon law buyback vehicle (a formerly defective vehicle), but the car or truck must be clearly labeled with a “Lemon Law Buyback” sticker that is prominently displayed. If you’ve had issues related to this or even a truck accident, it’s crucial to consult with a truck accident lawyer. Of course, the defect must have been repaired and corrected. Of course, the defect must have been repaired and corrected. The vehicle cannot be unsafe. So, in answer to the question, “Can a dealership sell an unsafe vehicle?”, the answer is a resounding “no.”

What can you do if a car dealership sells you a bad car?


At Neale & Fhima, we fight the big auto manufacturers to enforce the lemon law rights of people living throughout the state. California’s lemon law applies to both new and used cars, though you must have a certain type of vehicle warranty to be protected. These include:

  1. New Car Warranty
  2. Transferred New Car Warranty
  3. Certified Pre-Owned Warranty
  4. Lemon Law Buyback Warranty.

If a car is a lemon and the dealership took it back from a previous owner, this fact must be disclosed to you if you decide to buy the vehicle. Unfortunately, not every dealership is honest about the history of such vehicles. If you suspect that your vehicle has undisclosed problems, a good way to check is to get the car’s CARFAX report. This report will indicate whether the dealership sold you a vehicle that was a lemon, was in accidents or had other damages, such as from a flood.

Consider this example: Say that you bought a used car and you almost got into a T-bone car accident because the brakes did not work right. You take the car back to the dealership to have it repaired. The dealership says that the issue is fixed, but you still have trouble stopping the car as quickly as it should. You get the CARFAX report, and you discover that the car was in several accidents before because of brakes, and the frame may have been damaged. Vehicles such as the one in this example are usually considered lemons. If you find yourself in such a situation, consulting with an experienced car accident attorney can be crucial, especially if the dealership did not disclose the vehicle history. You may be able to sue the dealership for selling you a used lemon.

There are a wide variety of defects that can impact a vehicle’s use, value or safety, but there is no requirement that the defect actually endangers your safety. So, if the car has a defect with its automatic seats, the fact that this impairs your ability to see the road may be enough to establish a claim.see the road may be enough to establish a claim. It’s advisable to consult with accident claim lawyers to understand your rights in such situations.
Common defects that affect safety include:

  • Poor acceleration
  • Radio and navigation problems
  • Door locks don’t work
  • Engine issues
  • Electrical issues
  • Noise complaints
  • Braking problems (not just squeaking)
  • Fuel gauges and speedometer don’t work
  • Battery dies regularly, or drains irregularly
  • Steering issues
  • Transmission issues.

These are by no means the only defects that could give rise to a lemon law claim. These are only examples. Any defect that impacts the use, value or safety of a car, truck, SUV, or other vehicle type may qualify for a lemon law claim.

Can you sue a dealership for selling you a bad car?


Yes, you can sue a dealership or a manufacturer if they sold or leased you a new or used lemon if you meet the criteria under the California Lemon Law. The first step is to determine that your warranty is still in effect; remember, service contracts and “extended warranties” do not count. Then, check your paperwork to determine whether you have made at least two to three repair attempts depending on the type of defect your vehicle is suffering from. If so, talk to an attorney today to help you file the claim.

Yes. The statute of limitations under California’s Lemon Law is four years, but don’t wait that long. If you have purchased or leased a lemon, start collecting copies of your repair bills and call a Neale & Fhima lemon law attorney immediately.

More Facts About Lemon Law Claims

Here are some facts that every car owner in California should know:

  • The lemon law applies to vehicles that are purchased, leased, new or used.
  • A successful lemon law claim entitles vehicle owners/lessees to their choice of remedy: a replacement vehicle; a refund (buyback); or, in some cases, a cash settlement.
  • To qualify for lemon law protections, a new vehicle’s problem must be covered by a factory warranty at the time of the first repair attempt. In the case of used cars, the vehicle must have a transferred new car warranty, lemon law buyback warranty, or a certified pre-owned warranty to qualify for lemon law protection.
  • The lemon law also covers campers, trailers, boats, ATVs, and other recreational vehicles. (These vehicles fall within the law’s general provisions that apply to consumer goods). If you’ve experienced an issue with a boat, it might be beneficial to consult a boat injury lawyer. The lemon law does not apply to off-road vehicles.

Which Lemon Law Remedy? The Choice is Yours.

A successful lemon law claim puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes time to select the form of compensation. Here are the two primary remedies:

Option A: Repurchase
The manufacturer will take possession of the vehicle and issue you a refund of the purchase price (reduced by the value of your use of the vehicle prior to the first repair attempt). If you financed the vehicle, the manufacturer will refund the payments and down payment, and pay off the loan. You will also receive a refund of registration fees, taxes, etc.

Option B: Replacement
The manufacturer will take possession of the vehicle and provide you with a new one. It must be an identical or substantially similar vehicle. The manufacturer will pay the registration and taxes on the new vehicle, but you will not receive a refund of fees or finance charges paid on the original vehicle. This option requires the consent of both parties.

In some circumstances, we may be able to negotiate an additional option called a “cash and keep.” This would allow you to retain possession of the vehicle and receive a cash payment to compensate for the defect.

Have an Unreliable Vehicle? Talk to A Lemon Law Attorney Now.

When you buy a new car, you expect it to be free of defects. It should be totally reliable. But this is not always the case. Some new vehicles have serious reliability problems that affect their use, value or safety, or all three. Even if you buy a used car with a warranty from a dealership, you can be unhappily surprised to find it is defective. If you have been taking your recently purchased car or truck in for regular repairs, you may have a valid lemon law claim. Talk to the lemon law attorneys at Neale & Fhima today to find out about your legal rights. The first phone call is free, so call us today at 888-407-2955.

Attorney Aaron Fhima

Aaron Fhima, California attorneyAaron Fhima is a trial attorney who has secured numerous settlements and verdicts against large corporations and some of the largest auto manufacturers in the world. Representing consumers and injury victims throughout the state of California, Aaron’s practice areas include personal injury, and lemon law litigation. Aaron has a long record of success taking on large defense firms; and he doesn’t hesitate to take cases to trial when necessary to enforce his clients’ rights. [ Attorney Bio ]