How To File a Complaint Against a Used Car Dealership

California Lemon Law Attorney

If you’ve purchased a used car only to discover weeks, months, or even years later that it is chronically defective, you may be wondering if you have legal recourse. In some cases, the answer could be “yes.” Whether you file a lemon law claim or lodge a complaint against a fraudulent, unsavory dealership, our attorneys can answer your questions and provide legal guidance.

If you’re also dealing with issues related to a collision, reaching out to a truck accident lawyer might be beneficial. But for concerns about a defective car, truck, or SUV, the lemon law can be one of the best ways to get the manufacturer to repurchase or replace. And if you believe you were misled or the dealership engaged in fraudulent practices, you can also file a complaint with the appropriate authorities, such as the California Attorney General’s Office, Department of Motor Vehicles, or Federal Trade Commission, among others.

Whatever your situation, the skilled and experienced lemon law attorneys at Neale & Fhima can explain your legal options. We have a winning track record when it comes to lemon law cases. To find out more about how we can help, call us for a free consultation at 888-407-2955.

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


Why Choose Us

There are a lot of attorneys in California to choose from, but we think our legal team stands head and shoulders above the rest. Attorney Aaron Fhima is a tough negotiator and has a keen legal mind when it comes to winning cases. Our law firm has represented thousands of clients in lemon law and automotive fraud cases, and we have an outstanding record of success. Our satisfied clients will testify to our top-notch legal services. Our attorneys have more than 40 years of combined experience representing clients throughout Southern California. We understand the quirks in the state statutes, as well as the many court opinions interpreting the laws. We put this knowledge to work for you.

Does the Lemon Law Give You Protection?

In addition to filing a complaint against a used car dealership, state laws may offer you additional protection. We often get asked the question, “Does California Lemon Law apply to used cars?” The answer is yes, in certain circumstances. If you’ve dealt with a used car dealership that has treated you badly or sold you a lemon, you could have a legal remedy under this statute. Generally, to establish a claim under the California lemon law (also known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act) in a used car transactions, you must have one of three qualifying vehicle warranties. These include:

  1. Transferred New Car Warranty – All new cars come with a manufacturer’s warranty. When the title (ownership) of this vehicle changes hands during the warranty period, any remaining coverage transfers, too.
  2. Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Warranty — These warranties cover used vehicles that have been inspected, restored, and resold by the manufacturer. These warranties are usually less extensive than original factory warranties, but sometimes buyers can upgrade CPO warranties for a fee. Only authorized dealers can sell CPO vehicles. So if you didn’t buy the vehicle there, you won’t have a CPO warranty.
  3. Lemon Law Buyback Warranty — Vehicles that are re-acquired by manufacturers after a successful lemon law case can sometimes be repaired and resold by the manufacturer. If so, offering a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty covering the prior defect is one of the law’s requirements.

Typical types of defects that can give rise to a lemon law claim include:

  • Ignition, exhaust, and fuel system problems
  • Mechanical and electrical defects
  • Braking problems
  • Malfunctioning airbags
  • Steering problems
  • Wheel and tire defects.

Before filing a lemon law claim, though, you must make a reasonable number of attempts to get the defect fixed. So save all your work orders, receipts, and spare parts from your repair appointments so you can prove you tried to find a solution. Then call a skilled and experienced lemon law attorney at Neale & Fhima who can file a claim on your behalf.

Neale & Fhima are skilled and trustworthy advocates for all our clients. We are tough negotiators who stay focused on achieving the best possible outcome in your case.

Next Steps: How Do I Report a Car Dealer in California?

Next, let’s look specifically at the question “how do I report a car dealer in California?” The California Attorney General’s Office provides an online Complaint Form that you can fill out to report a business or company (such as a car dealership) that you believe is engaged in unethical practices. If you prefer, you can also print the form, fill it out, and mail it in with supporting documents to:

Public Inquiry Unit
Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

The phone number is (916) 210-6276 or toll free in California at (800) 952-5225.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles Also Offers Guidance
If you’ve been misled or believe that a used car dealership has committed fraud, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) encourages you to take action. The DMV Investigations Division provides an online filing portal where you can lodge an official complaint. Typical violations reported here include:

  • Odometer Fraud (Odometer Rollback)– It is illegal for vehicle dealers, sellers, or brokers to alter odometer mileage readings to make a vehicle appear to have lower mileage.
  • DMV Document Fraud– It is illegal for persons and businesses to alter, forge, falsify, or counterfeit DMV-issued documents (for example, vehicle titles, registration cards, etc.) that passed or attempted to pass as genuine. Fraud also includes false vehicle-related advertising.
  • DMV Licensed Businesses Violations– It is illegal for licensed businesses, such as vehicle dealers, brokers and their salespeople, and driving and traffic schools to violate DMV regulations. Examples include vehicle contract violations, overcharging DMV fees, and failing vehicle registration transfer requirements.
  • Unlicensed Businesses– It is illegal for businesses to provide vehicle-related services without a DMV-issued business license. This includes unlicensed vehicle dealers, brokers, or salespeople.

If you’ve experienced one of the above dishonest practices when interacting with a dealership, you could have a legal claim against them.

California also has a Bureau of Automotive Repair, and you can file a complaint with this agency if you believe a dealership has failed to provide trustworthy and adequate repair services on your vehicle when you took it in to be worked on by a mechanic.

The following agencies may also be able to assist with your complaints:

  • Department of Consumer Affairs ( For recreational vehicle chassis, chassis cab and drive train complaints.
  • California Courts (Small Claims Court) ( For legal advice, to recover money, property, reimbursement for damages or suffering, or resolve disputes over money owed to or by another party.
  • Better Business Bureau ( You may find it worthwhile to contact your local Better Business Bureau to register your complaint.
  • New Motor Vehicle Board ( For vehicle contractual purchase or lease disputes, vehicle warranty and repair disputes, issues with used vehicles sold by a new or used dealer (Lemon Law), and issues with used vehicles with original warranties.

Car and Driver magazine has published a helpful article about reporting fraudulent dealerships to the proper authorities. provides insightful information, too, about lodging car complaints involving deceptive car ads or dealers. You can also report fraud and illegal practices to the Federal Trade Commission.

However, the California DMV makes clear that its role is not to provide legal representation or offer financial compensation for wrongs that may have been done to you by a shady used car dealership. For that, you will need to hire an attorney and seek a legal remedy in civil court.

Statute of Limitations on Lemon Law Claims

In addition to learning how to report a used car dealership, you should probably also familiarize yourself with the statute of limitations on lemon law claims in California.

The statute of limitations for filing a lemon law claim in California is four (4) years from the date a consumer knew or should have known that the vehicle was a lemon. This does not mean that if you have had your vehicle for more than 4 years, you cannot bring a lemon law claim. Our attorneys at Neale & Fhima have successfully “lemoned” vehicles that are over 10 years old. If you have purchased or leased a lemon, you’ll want to start the buyback process as soon as possible. After the statute of limitations has passed, a judge may dismiss your case. Don’t hesitate to contact our team if you have questions about the statute of limitations. Collect copies of your repair bills, work orders, and payment receipts and call an experienced lemon law attorney today.

Contact a Skilled Attorney at Neale & Fhima Today

If a used car dealership has sold you a lemon or engaged in fraud, you may have a legal claim against them. The used car lemon law attorneys at Neale & Fhima have successfully represented clients in many of these cases. You could be entitled to a replacement vehicle or the dealer could be required to repurchase your defective vehicle. To find out more about your legal rights, call us for a free consultation 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 ]