Used Car Lemon Law

Seven Law California

Here’s the good news:

California’s lemon law applies to used as well as new vehicles. The not-so-good news is that the consumer protection provisions for used cars are more limited and less specific. Read on to learn how California’s lemon law for used cars works and whether you may have a viable claim.

Is Your Used Car a Lemon?

Used car buyers know they can’t expect to purchase the perfect car. However, you can expect to buy a car that doesn’t have major defects and isn’t a safety hazard — in other words, a lemon.

Your vehicle may be a lemon if it exhibits one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Your car has a substantial defect, whether a manufacturing defect or one caused by the previous owner, that causes it to fail in quality and performance.
  • The issue persists even after a reasonable number of repair attempts or after your car has spent an unreasonable amount of time in the shop.

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Does Your Used Car Qualify for Lemon Law Protection?

Just because your car is a lemon doesn’t necessarily mean you can avail of the consumer protections under used car lemon laws. To qualify for compensation under the lemon laws, you must meet the following conditions:

  • You bought the vehicle from a dealer or retailer, not a private individual.
  • Your vehicle has a used car warranty, whether that’s the original manufacturer’s warranty, an extended retailer’s written warranty, or an implied warranty.
  • The warranty period hasn’t expired.
  • You didn’t cause the damage yourself.

An experienced lemon law attorney can assess your case and advise whether you meet the criteria for a viable claim under state or federal laws.

What Types of Used Vehicles Are Covered by Lemon Laws?

The following motor vehicles are covered under California used car lemon laws:

  • Cars
  • SUVs
  • Trucks
  • RV trailers
  • Watercraft

What Is a “Reasonable” Time or Number of Repairs?

The rules for used cars are similar to new car lemon laws. For general defects, used car lemon laws typically consider four repair attempts as reasonable. However, just one or two attempts may be enough for a serious safety defect that can cause severe injury or death.

You may also meet the reasonableness standard if your vehicle has been out of service for 30 or more days for repairs. The 30 days don’t have to be consecutive or for one repair visit.

What Compensation Is Available in Used Vehicle Lemon Cases?

If lemon laws apply, dealers or manufacturers must refund you or provide a replacement vehicle, as well as reimburse related expenses such as repair bills and car rental costs. However, they may deduct an amount corresponding to your use of the vehicle before you discovered the defect. This deduction is calculated using a formula for new vehicles, but there is no such guidance for used cars so parties have to negotiate the amount.

Steps To Take if You’ve Bought a Used Car That May Be a Lemon

If you suspect that your vehicle could be a lemon, you must act fast. Lemon law only applies in limited used car cases and while the warranty is still active. 

  • Keep records of all repairs. You need a paper trail each time you take your used car for repairs. Ask the mechanic to write down all defects and necessary repairs. You should also note how many times you took the vehicle to the shop and the result of each repair attempt.
  • Write to the manufacturer or dealer. Make a list of all defects and send it to the manufacturer or dealer, together with a letter to document your claim and any other supporting documents. Every word in this letter could impact the outcome of your claim, so consider asking a lemon law attorney to write it for you.
  • Be aware of time. Warranties for used cars tend to be quite short. As a general rule, they are valid for a specific period (usually, 30 days) or mileage (usually, 1,000 miles), whichever is sooner. You must inform the manufacturer or retailer of any issues before the warranty period expires. So, keep an eye on your odometer (and watch for odometer tampering) and the days since you bought the car. Additionally, you only have four years to file a lawsuit under California’s used car lemon laws.

California’s lemon laws are complicated. You shouldn’t navigate them alone — especially since manufacturers and used car dealers are likely to retain experienced counsel to try and discredit your claim.

Hire an Experienced California Used Car Lemon Law Attorney

California’s lemon law protects you as a consumer when you buy a defective used vehicle. If you think you may have bought a lemon, contact our team at Seven Law Group, APC. Our experienced attorneys can advise whether you have a serious case and whether you can seek compensation from the responsible party to refund you or replace your vehicle. 

Call (310) 525-2244 or fill out our form for a free consultation with a lemon law consumer protection attorney.

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