California Lemon Law And How It Applies To Used Car

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  • Post last modified:June 20, 2022
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When it comes to buybacks and the Lemon Law, one common misconception is that owners of more expensive cars might be entitled to greater rights. Many owners of small cars think that it’s not worth the effort to file a claim for persistent and ongoing car problems. Too many people believe that “you get what your pay for” applies to their car problems and small cars. They don’t realize that California law favors them regardless of how large or expensive their vehicle is.

You can expect reliable transportation and safety when buying or leasing a motor vehicle. Many consumers discover that their vehicle, truck, or SUV has significant defects or faults which the dealer cannot repair. Many people can obtain a refund, replacement vehicle, or settlement through state and federal lemon laws. This page answers some frequently asked questions from consumers who purchased or leased a car that turned out to be a lemon.

California Lemon Law for used Vehicle

You’ll be glad to know that the california lemon law covers used, “preowned,” and refurbished vehicles as long as they still have an active warranty from their manufacturer or dealer. Many readers often tell us how the manufacturer or dealer has convinced them that lemon laws only cover new and late-model vehicles. In reality, lemon laws in many states cover used car leasing or purchases. Federal lemon laws protect used car buyers, lessees, and sellers, even in states where lemon law only covers new vehicles.

The Lemon Laws for used cars aren’t as precise as those for new vehicles. This brief overview of California Lemon Law for Used Cars will help you determine if your vehicle is covered and how to proceed if it is.

What Are Lemon Laws?

The lemon laws define what constitutes a lemon. They require vehicle manufacturers to offer a replacement vehicle or a partial or full refund to consumers who sell or lease lemons. Lemon laws in each state define what constitutes a lemon based on the number of unsuccessful repair attempts and the time frame for repairs. Consumers don’t have to litigate issues about what constitutes a lemon.

Lemon laws were not available to consumers before the enactment. Because of limited bargaining power, dealers and manufacturers did not respond quickly to any breach of warranty claims. Consumers were forced to cover their repairs or accept unfavorable terms for trade-in.

What is the California Lemon Law?

California lemon law
California lemon law

The California Lemon Law generally covers both new and used vehicles with serious defects/malfunctions for a specified period or mileage. You will likely be eligible for a replacement vehicle or a complete refund if the manufacturer or authorized dealer does not fix your vehicle.

For consumers who lease or buy used cars in California. The California Lemon Law provides protection, As long as the used vehicle you purchased came with:

  • A portion of the manufacturer’s warranty is still in force
  • The written warranty from the dealer or
  • A certified pre-owned vehicle warranty (CPO) is provided. This means that an additional warranty covered the vehicle under a CPO program.

If your vehicle has experienced repeated problems during its warranty period, you may be eligible for compensation. The California Lemon Law provides compensation in cash damages or a full refund of your purchase price.

Qualifying under Lemon Law

From 2013 on, the laws of California were amended to require that even “buy here, pay here” used car dealers must offer at least a 30-day or 1,000-mile warranty that covers the essential components of the car. Most dealers who aren’t “buy here, buy here” will offer a better warranty, especially if the vehicle has been Certified Pre-Owned. If you buy a used vehicle, you are entitled to compensation under the Lemon Law.

  • The car was purchased from a retailer and not an individual. The law does not cover private used car sales.
  • The car comes with an active warranty, regardless of whether it is the original manufacturer’s warranty and/or an extended warranty from the retailer.
  • Pre-owned vehicles have significant defects.
  • This pre-owned vehicle spent a lot of time being repaired in the shop.
  • Despite numerous attempts to fix the problem, the car is still not fixed.

The Used Car I Bought Has a Problem; what Are My Lemon Law Rights?

A used car can offer many benefits: It is cheaper, it has lower insurance rates, and you save on depreciation. What if your used car stops working after only a few weeks? Used cars are more likely to have problems.

Most used car owners feel helpless after discovering a problem with their vehicle within a few days. It can be a relief for used car owners to know their rights. Each state has its lemon laws to protect used car owners. California’s used car lemon law requires that car dealers fix any used car problems within the first few days. If you purchase a lemon-colored used car, you can get a replacement or a refund provided it meets the requirements listed above.

The Used Car Guidelines of the Law are less specific

Tips to Buy a Used Car
Tips to Buy a Used Car

Some specific Lemon Law guidelines apply to new vehicle purchases when it comes to used vehicle purchases. Lemon Law cases involving used vehicles can be more complex and harder to resolve for consumers. For example, suppose the manufacturer cannot fix a problem with a vehicle sold. In that case, the manufacturer must either provide a replacement vehicle or a full refund less a portion attributed to the consumer’s prior use of the vehicle. The Law gives the formula to calculate this charge for new vehicle purchases. However, the Law does not provide a formula for calculating used vehicle purchase charges. Therefore, it is up to the parties to negotiate a fair amount.

Frequently Asked Questions about Auto Lemon Law Claims

Many readers have returned to their dealer multiple times without getting satisfaction. Consumers who don’t know their rights under the federal and state lemon laws are at a distinct disadvantage.

How to Qualify for California Lemon Law used Car

The Used Vehicle Lemon Law states that the manufacturer or dealers must repair the vehicle, regardless of whether it is a used Car, Truck, or RV. Within an affordable number of repair efforts, replace or buy back the Vehicle.

1. Keep records, Also Document all breakdowns and repair

lemon laws require your vehicle manufacturer or dealer to repair your vehicle, and if they cannot do so after a reasonable number of attempts. If four or more repair attempts have been made on a particular part of the car or truck and it has not been taken care of. (very same issue continues to reoccur). Then the reasonableness standard is satisfied. The dealer or manufacturer should immediately refund or replace your car.

It is important to keep detailed records of what problems were encountered, how many times they were serviced, and the results of each service. It is also a good idea to create a list of all defects the car has experienced. This is to ensure the dealer is informed about the problems.

2. Read and understand how lemon law works

First, you need to understand that the lemon law protects you in most scenarios If your vehicle is under an active warranty. Also, a reasonable number of repairs must be attempted. Read full Califonia Lemon law.

3. Get all your Car Warranty and Necessary Documents

To be eligible for protection under the califonia lemon law, Used cars or vehicles must have an active warranty. However, this warranty does not necessarily have to be the original manufacturer’s warranty. Lemon law makes it mandatory to present a written guarantee handed over to you from the car dealer. Lemon cars that were redeemed by the manufacturer as buybacks and marketed with new reveal written guarantees covering the defect may also be covered under the CA Lemon Rules. If you cannot provide the necessary document, your chance of getting due compensation is very limited. This is known as a failure to disclose.

4. Send a First and Second Letter to the Dealer or Manufacturer

With an attachment of the documents listed above, send a second letter if the first is not returned to the manufacturer. This is to document your claim under California’s lemon law for used cars. Send certified mail (return receipt necessary) to the address printed in your car’s document or manual. Keep a copy of this letter for your records. When preparing this letter, you will need to be cautious as every word is likely to have implications.

5. If you are not refunded, contact a highly experienced attorney

Although Lemon law disputes should be resolved by consumers calling the dealership and writing letters. But in case the car dealer or manufacturer fails to return your calls and emails, then it’s time to involve a Lemon lawyer and provide them the record book, a copy of the letters you mailed, car warranty, and other requested documents.

Different types of used vehicles covered

CA Lemon Law protects used car owners who bought vehicles for personal, family, or household purposes. The Law covers commercially-owned vehicles, provided that they have a gross weight of fewer than 10,000 pounds and the business has five or fewer vehicles under its name. Vehicles can include cars, trucks, and RV trailers, as well as SUVs, SUVs, and watercraft.

Used vehicles must still have an active warranty to be eligible for law protection. However, this warranty does not necessarily have to be the original manufacturer’s warranty. An express written warranty from a used car dealer will be sufficient to protect a vehicle purchased. Lemon vehicles that have been repurchased as buybacks by the manufacturer and resold with new express written warranties covering the defect may also be covered under the guidelines of the CA Lemon Laws.

How many repair attempts must be made?

The Lemon Law governing used cars states that the manufacturer must repair the vehicle within a reasonable amount of attempts, replace it, or buy it back. What is the “reasonable” repair time for California’s Lemon Law?

The answer could surprise you, as it depends on your car’s defect. Here’s a list of possible defects. Serious issues have an impact on safety. The manufacturer can only make one or two attempts at fixing the car before it meets the “reasonableness standard.” If the defect is in the engine, steering system, brakes, transmission, or other critical function of the vehicle, this would be applicable. The Lemon Law demands that they compensate the owner if they cannot get the vehicle back in safe and working order after several attempts.

Two or more attempts to repair the vehicle are acceptable if there is a risk of serious bodily injury or death.

If the same problem recurs after multiple attempts to fix it, even if they are not life-threatening, then the reasonableness standard is met, and compensation is required.

If the car has been in a shop for repairs for more than 30 days and still has not been repaired for a single defect, the standard is met.

What should I do if I believe I have bought a lemon?

Keep your records. Make sure you have all the necessary repairs written down when you take your car to the mechanic for repairs. Keep good records of what defects were repaired, the number of attempts, and the results. You can also list all the defects the car has encountered and send it to the manufacturer to inform them.

To document your claim under California’s used car lemon law, send a second letter to the manufacturer. Send certified mail (return receipt required) to the address printed on your car’s owner manual. Keep a copy for your records. Because every word in this letter is likely to have implications, you must be careful with its preparation.

Avoid Arbitration Under Most Circumstances

Manufacturers may try to convince you to arbitrate. Please don’t do it. The term “rent-a judge” is perhaps the best way to describe arbitration. Arbitration is a private, as opposed to public, procedure. It is a private procedure with speed and efficiency, which is why busy manufacturers prefer it.

You will need evidence and witness testimony. The arbitrator will ultimately decide the evidence, procedure, and evidence rules. They will decide if your car is a lemon under California’s lemon law and the amount of any compensation that you are entitled to.

Consumers should avoid arbitration for three main reasons: Arbitration is known for being pro-business and not pro-consumer. Arbitrators don’t even have to follow the law. The third point is that although you have the right to appeal against an adverse decision to the court, the manufacturer has the right to use your loss in the arbitration to argue that it should be thrown out in court.

Contact A Highly Experienced Attorney

Many attorneys work on a contingency basis, so contacting them will not cost anything unless you are awarded compensation. A lawyer can help you maximize your chances of success. Most car dealers, manufacturers, agents, and other representatives will not allow you to sue them. Lemon Law claims you need to. It is important to have someone on your side who understands the law and can defend you to get the results you deserve.

Can I get a car dealer in my area to replace my vehicle without a lawyer?

Although the answer should be “yes,” Lemon law disputes should be resolved by consumers calling the dealership and writing letters. But most often yields no result because once consumers mention lemon laws, vehicle replacements, or refunds, their calls are not picked up, and messages are not returned.

Car dealers often use the tactic of pretending to investigate and solve your problem. Although the dealer may seem sincere about helping you, their real goal is to win your battle of attrition. You will eventually give up because of mental and physical exhaustion. The dealer’s goal is to either make you scrap the vehicle or have it sold as-is. The dealer will be able to see that you are an experienced lemon law attorney who has a track record in consumer protection cases.

Consumers who negotiate without the assistance of a lemon law attorney may sign an agreement without reading the fine print and understanding the refund provisions. Unwary consumers might fall for a misinterpretation of the terms and contract language.

Can I get a full refund if my new vehicle is not what I expected?

Although this question will depend on your circumstances, many consumers receive compensation or a complete refund.


Consultation with an Attorney is Essential: Because the Lemon Law is much less specific regarding used vehicle purchases, the California Department of Justice recommends that used car owners seeking to pursue a Lemon Law case consult with an attorney. An experienced lawyer will be able to provide complete information regarding your rights.

You don’t have to keep “putting up with” the small problems that continue to happen if your car was purchased or serviced in California. Any vehicle owner can get warranty repairs for the same problem, regardless of its size or cost.

Are you fed up with the issues that the manufacturer or dealer hasn’t fixed? Talk to a California attorney who has decades of experience helping owners like you. Lemon law firm and lemon lawyer will prove your claim and get you the California law-required compensation for your vehicle defect. Don’t delay – California law limits how long you can wait to file a claim. We don’t know how long you have to pursue a buyback or what additional benefits you might be entitled to, so we recommend filling out the lemon law firm contact form on their websites and immediately starting your claim.

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