California Lemon Law Covers Used Cars
What comes to mind when you think of owning a lemon car? Most people think of instant buyer’s remorse. There you are, driving home from the car lot when strange noises start coming from under the hood. You realize you have been “had” by the salesperson. Your brand new car is actually a clunker…
In reality, most lemon law claims take more time to arise than during the drive home from the new car lot. Defects may take months or years to become noticeable to an owner. The manufacturer then gets a reasonable opportunity to fix the problem. This takes time that a used car lemon law attorney in California understands.
For a vehicle to qualify under the California Lemon Law, all that is needed is a recurring problem. The problem can be with different parts of the car or with the same part repeatedly. The problem does not need to be “major” or only impact “reliability.” Rather, the problem can be persistent, annoying and ongoing.
What About Cars That Have Had More Than One Owner?
Fortunately, California lemon law applies to used cars as well as new cars. Not all used vehicles will qualify, though, and it can take an experienced used car lemon law lawyer in California to determine when and where the law applies. If you’re the owner of a used lemon car, review the facts provided here. If you still have questions, feel free to contact Neale & Fhima Law Firm at (949) 661-1007 for a free case evaluation.
Three Used Car Warranties That Satisfy Lemon Law Requirements
Consumers who buy vehicles “as is” do just that – they take the vehicle without warranty or lemon law rights. The same goes for those who buy vehicles covered only by a dealer’s extended service agreement (legal remedies exist for breach of such agreements, but lemon law typically does not apply). Only defects covered by a factory warranty qualify under the lemon law.
There are three types of factory warranties for used cars:
1. Transferred New Car Warranty
New cars all come with a warranty from the manufacturer. When title changes hands during the warranty period, any remaining coverage transfers as well. But be advised that some manufacturers place limits on transferability. For example, according to Kia’s warranty terms, original owners receive an extended period of powertrain coverage unavailable to subsequent owners.
2. Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Warranty
CPO warranties cover used cars that have been inspected, refurbished, and resold by the manufacturer. Warranty terms are usually less comprehensive than the original factory warranty, although buyers of CPO vehicles may be able to upgrade to similar coverage. Only authorized dealers can sell CPO vehicles, and the benefits of certification (including the warranty) are reflected in the purchase price.
3. Lemon Law Buyback Warranty
Successful lemon law claims can result in a vehicle buyback. To minimize losses in this situation, manufacturers eventually do what they should have done in the first place – repair the vehicle properly. Then, to resell it in California, the manufacturer must comply with certain requirements. Offering a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty covering the prior defect is one such requirement.
Why Do I Need a Used Car Lemon Law Attorney in California?
As you can see, lemon law gets pretty complicated pretty fast. Add to that a used, rather than new, car and the laws and exclusions can be really hard to sort out. By hiring a used car lemon law attorney in California, you gain quick access to lots of legal experience that can make the whole process much easier. Lawyers who have frequently dealt with lemon law can simplify the jargon and create a quick checklist to determine whether the law protects your situation. Contact Neale & Fhima Law Firm at (949) 661-1007 for a free evaluation of your case.
Beware of California’s “At Retail” Provision
The balance of a factory warranty usually transfers with the vehicle at the time of sale. Therefore, anyone who buys a used car with an unexpired warranty might assume they are covered by the lemon law. Unfortunately, that may not be so.
Our state’s Lemon Law applies only to vehicles purchased at retail. Vehicles purchased in a private party sale are specifically excluded. Warranty transferability and lemon law protections do not always ensure that you have a valid claim.
If you entered into a private party sale of a used vehicle still under warranty, contact our office for advice. You may still have a remedy if the seller is willing to cooperate by executing an assignment of his or her lemon law rights.
Additional Lemon Law Used Car Exclusions
An unexpired warranty obtained through a retail transaction is a prerequisite to qualify for lemon law protections, but it does not guarantee that a lemon law claim will succeed. Manufacturers may try to refute the claim by saying that the defect resulted from factors beyond their control, such as aftermarket modifications or collision damage. They may also argue that the prior owner failed to perform scheduled maintenance required by the warranty, thereby voiding the warranty in its entirety.
Recognizing the Signs of a Defective Used Car
Factory warranties remain in effect only for a given number of months or miles. This means lemon law cases are always time sensitive.
The deadline for filing the claim itself is usually not an issue. California has a four-year statute of limitations that does not begin to run until the basis for the claim is discovered. Timely submission of the vehicle for repair is more likely to be a problem, since it must occur within the warranty period, which may be close to expiration by the time a used car owner takes possession.
With that in mind, owners of covered vehicles should be on the lookout for common defects, such as:
- Engine overheating
- Faulty ignition or fuel delivery system
- Transmission problems
- Steering, suspension, or alignment issues
- Fluid leaks (engine oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, coolant)
- Noisy or leaking exhaust
- Brake problems
- Malfunctioning latches, locks, or windows
- Seatbelts not working properly
- Inaccurate/broken speedometer or gauges
- Water seeping into interior or trunk
- Electrical problems.
California’s lemon law covers any defect that “substantially impairs the use, value, or safety” of the vehicle. If you are unsure whether a specific defect meets this standard, ask us.
Getting Help with Your Used Lemon is as Easy as 1-2-3
California has enacted one of the strongest lemon laws in the country to protect consumers like you. Used-car owners who are experiencing a problem covered by warranty should take the following steps:
1 – Bring the vehicle in for repair at an authorized dealership.
2 – Obtain a copy of the work order (ask for a copy on the first visit, even if the dealer cannot attempt the repairs that day).
3 – Contact a lemon law attorney if repairs are not completed quickly and to your satisfaction.
You can reach the Neale & Fhima team at (949) 661-1007. We accept lemon law cases arising anywhere in Northern or Southern California.
Why Were California Lemon Laws Created?
The long and the short of it is that far too many consumers were getting stuck with defective products, yet they had no legal remedy. That’s why in 1970 the California legislature enacted the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act requiring all manufacturers to repurchase or replace faulty products after a reasonable number of repair attempts.
The California Lemon Law protects consumers who think they are buying a new or used vehicle in good working order only to discover that their vehicle is defective. If it cannot be repaired after a “reasonable” number of attempts, you get to choose whether you want the manufacturer to replace or to repurchase the sub-standard vehicle. For additional information, see the Department of Consumer Affairs publication entitled Lemon-aid for Consumers.
Even when California Lemon Law for used cars does not apply in your situation, other state and federal laws may protect you. These include laws that prohibit deceptive practices and require vehicles to meet minimum safety standards.
What Kinds of Vehicles Are Covered By California Lemon Law?
The lemon law covers the following new and used vehicles sold or leased in California that come with the manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty:
- Cars, vans, SUVs and pick-ups
- Many vehicles purchased or leased primarily for business use
- The drivetrain, chassis and chassis cab of a motorhome
- Vehicles purchased or leased for family, household, recreational or personal use
- Dealer-owned demonstrators and vehicles.
The California Lemon Law applies throughout the duration of the manufacturer’s original warranty time period. Your vehicle owner’s manual will provide more detailed information about the manufacturer’s warranty.
Special Circumstances for Members of the U.S. Armed Forces
Members of the U.S. Armed Forces – Marines, Air Force, Army, Navy and Coast Guard — who are stationed in or are residents of California are protected by the state’s lemon law even if their vehicles were purchased or registered outside of California.
This special circumstance is covered by California Lemon Law because military personnel are often transferred frequently to different geographic locations. The California legislature wanted to make sure that serving military members are protected from defective vehicles while living in California.
What Are the Requirements for Dealers Who Buy Back Lemons?
Lemon vehicles that are bought back by dealers and then resold must be identified as a “lemon law buyback” and have a “lemon” sticker on their door. If lemon buyback cars, trucks and SUVs are not properly disclosed and sold “as is,” the buyer may still have rights under the lemon law in California for used cars. For additional information, see Lemon Law Buyback Vehicles.
Dealers who purposely set out to mislead buyers by failing to identify buybacks as “lemons” are breaking the law and risk legal action. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) licenses and regulates new and used vehicle dealers. If you or a family member wants to report a dispute you have with a car dealer, contact the DMV, Division of Investigations, or file a complaint online. DMV Record of Complaint Form.
Manufacturers buy back thousands of defective vehicles each year because they are difficult or very costly to repair. Those lemons are then resold by the manufacturers to informed purchasers. In some cases, these vehicles are once again on the roads and in mechanics’ shops.
A Used Car Lemon Law Attorney Can Help If a Lemon Was Not Disclosed
If you purchased a known lemon from a dealer who did not label it as a “lemon law buyback,” you may have a legal remedy under California law. Whether bought on the lot or at auction, lemon law buyback vehicles are required to be clearly identified as such. If no “lemon” sticker is on the door, a consumer is allowed to assume that the vehicle is not a lemon buyback. If you have been misled in this way, contact Neale & Fhima Law Firm at (949) 661-1007 for a free evaluation of your case.
What If a Vehicle Dealership Has Gone Out of Business?
Has the dealership where you purchased your vehicle gone out of business and failed to honor the terms of your warranty or contract? The California Consumer Motor Vehicle Recovery Corporation (CMVRC) has a Consumer Recovery Fund to help buyers when a licensed dealer goes out of business or files for bankruptcy. You may be entitled to reimbursement for any economic losses caused by the dealer’s bankruptcy or closure if the CMVRC approves your claim. For more information visit the CMVRC or call them at 800-961-6175.
Federal Protections for Consumers
Not only does California have a lemon law, but the U.S. government also has an overarching federal law designed to protect consumers from buying defective products. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act was enacted in 1975 to protect consumers from deceptive warranty practices. This law requires that warranties be written in a way that is easily understood and enforceable. It also gives the Federal Trade Commission a legal tool for going after evasive manufacturers.
We’ve all seen segments on TV news where vehicle recalls are announced, telling consumers that airbags or brake pads or another car part needs to be replaced at the manufacturer’s expense. This is a current federal remedy for cars that contain flaws or defects in workmanship during the automotive factory build process. Typically, when a consumer responds to a recall and takes their vehicle in for the repair, the problem is fixed and there are no further difficulties.
Lemons are something different. Lemons are vehicles that need repeated repairs and the mechanical problems are never fully fixed. They are cars with chronic defects that don’t go away despite repeated attempts at repair.
Used Car Lemon Law Lawyer in California Understands Your Frustration
If you have been stuck with a lemon and are frustrated about your situation, know that you are not alone. Thousands of consumers have been in your shoes. There is a solution. Used car lemon law attorneys at Neale & Fhima Law Firm have years of experience successfully representing clients just like you. We know how to pursue legal remedies and get you back on the road with a vehicle that runs like it’s supposed to. Contact Neale & Fhima at (949) 661-1007 for a free evaluation of your case.