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  • Ben Beck

Does the Lemon Law Apply to Used Cars?

If you are in the market for a used car it might be worth familiarizing yourself with your state's laws regarding lemon vehicles to see if the law applies to your used vehicle, and what stipulations you must meet to qualify. Buying a car should be an exciting time but going prepared will help you preempt some of these worries and put your mind at ease.


Federal and state consumer protection laws have long existed. Their main purpose is to hold the manufacturer and seller accountable for their goods and if a vehicle cannot be repaired or the defect is too severe, the consumer is lawfully due a refund or a replacement vehicle.


Do All States Have Lemon Laws?

All 50 US states have their own car lemon laws, but these can vary significantly depending on where you are and whether you are talking about a new or used vehicle. Generally speaking, US federal laws only cover new and leased car purchases, but there are seven states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, and California) that also have lemon laws specifically aimed at used vehicles, and the California used car lemon law is one of the most comprehensive in protecting consumers.


In this blog post, we will discuss in what circumstances California lemon law applies to used cars, and what you need to do if you think your car may be a lemon.


What is the Lemon Law and How Does it Work in General?

The lemon law is a consumer protection law that is designed to help people who have purchased a defective vehicle. If your car meets certain criteria, you may be eligible for a replacement or a full refund under the lemon law. In order to be covered under the lemon law, your car must have a defect that substantially impairs its use, value, or safety. This can include anything from major engine problems to issues with the brakes, steering, or transmission. If you have a problem with your car that falls under one of these categories, you may be covered by the lemon law.


In order to receive a replacement or refund under the lemon law, you must first notify the manufacturer or car dealer of the problem and give them an opportunity to fix it. If they are unable to do so, you may be eligible for a replacement or refund. In order to receive a refund, you must return the car to the dealer within a certain period of time. In some cases, you may be able to get a partial refund if you keep the car.


Are All Damages Covered Under Lemon Law?

The lemon law does not cover every situation. For example, it does not apply to problems that were caused by recklessness or neglect, nor does it apply to issues that are caused by general wear and tear such as a dead battery, worn timing belt, cracked windshield, or transmission issues. If you have a problem with your car that is not covered by the lemon law, you may still be able to get help from the manufacturer, but you will not be eligible for a replacement or refund under the lemon law.


How do You Know if Your Car is a Lemon?

Buying a car is entirely the consumer's responsibility and purchasing a used car carries inherently more risks than opting for a brand-new vehicle, which often comes with an extended warranty. By law, a car dealer must declare any major accidents the vehicle has been in and it is always illegal to change the mileage favorably on any vehicle, however, this doesn't mean that these unsavory practices never happen.


The Onus is On You

Therefore it is wise to remember that before you sign a contract, you always need to carry out a thorough visual inspection of the vehicle. Cars can be sold in any condition and car dealers are not obliged to declare every fault, therefore checking the car over becomes the buyer's responsibility. This can include a test drive, a check for any scratches, or obvious bodywork defects, and even a visit to the mechanic's workshop to ask for a repair logbook and find out about the car's service history and the number of past owners. You should also check the government's vehicle recall website to see if there have been any recall notices or safety alerts for your vehicle.


What Constitutes a Lemon Car?

In order for a vehicle to be classified as a lemon car, it must meet the following criteria:

  • The car has a serious manufacturing defect that impairs its use, value, or safety.

  • The manufacturing defect has not been fixed after a reasonable number of repair attempts by the manufacturer or authorized dealer.

  • The car is still covered under its original manufacturer's warranty at the time the lemon law claim is filed.

If your car meets all of these criteria, then it may be considered a lemon car under California lemon laws and you may want to consult with an experienced Lemon Law attorney who can evaluate your case and advise you of your legal rights.


Can the Lemon Law be Applied to Used Cars?

The answer is not a straightforward one as different states have different lemon laws. In general, the lemon law applies to new and leased cars that have a manufacturing defect that cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts. The lemon law, in general, is less favorable to used cars unless the problem with the car was caused by the manufacturer and not the previous owner. However, there is still some level of protection under California used car lemon law if you can produce a valid manufacturer's warranty.


What to Look Out for in Used Cars?

As a general rule of thumb, when you are car shopping take your time in doing your research, or even take a professional with you to cast an expert eye over the vehicle you are about to purchase. Not everyone can afford brand-new cars fresh out of the factory and there are some excellent used car options out there.


It's also fair to say that not all used vehicles are lemons but to stay on the safe side, always aim to purchase a vehicle that is well-kept and has a comprehensive history log with very few gaps in it, no more than one owner for every five years of service and preferably less than 200,000 miles on the clock. If you can also track down any vehicle warranties, it'll put you in a good position should you need to exercise your legal rights.


What Should You Do if You Think Your Car is a Lemon?

The good news is that certainly in the state of California, used cars fall under some level of lemon law protection if they are not outside of their original new vehicle warranty period. If you think your car is a lemon, the first thing you should do is contact the manufacturer or dealer and let them know about the problem. Be sure to keep all documentation of the problem, including repair bills and any correspondence with the manufacturer or dealer.


If the manufacturer or dealer is unable to fix the problem after a reasonable number of attempts, you may be entitled to a refund or replacement car under California lemon laws. If you are in this situation, or if you are not sure whether your car qualifies as a lemon, you should contact an experienced Lemon Law attorney who can evaluate your case and advise you of your legal rights.


The Lemon Law applies to most vehicles purchased or leased in California that are still under a manufacturer's new car warranty. Members of the Armed Forces, who are stationed in or are residents of California, are protected by the Lemon Law even if their vehicles were purchased or registered outside of California.


In Lemon Law Warranty is Key

The federal Lemon Law is often referred to as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and applies to cars, trucks, motorcycles, and all other consumer products too. In fact, when the federal Act was enacted by Congress in 1975, it was done so with the automobile industry in mind.

For used cars, this generally means that the car must be within its original new car warranty period. In other words, if you purchase a used car that is more than three years old or has more than 36,000 miles, it is less likely that the lemon law will apply. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, if the problem with your used car was caused by a manufacturing defect and not by normal wear and tear, then you may still be protected under the lemon law.


Implied Warranty of Merchantability

A second-hand car dealer may also provide a dealer warranty upon purchase, and unless you have purchased the car "as is", your car will be covered by an implied warranty of merchantability, even if the dealer hasn't given you a written warranty.


This is an unwritten promise, or a so-called gentleman's handshake, that the car does what it is supposed to do and it does not have any major defects or safety issues upon purchase.

Under California lemon law, a "buy-here-pay-here" dealer must provide a minimum 30-day warranty or 1,000-mile warranty whichever comes first, to safeguard the buyer from any serious defects within this period.


What Qualifies as a Used Car Lemon in California?

In California lemon law, used cars are protected under the following circumstances:

  • The used car was purchased from a dealer under the manufacturer's warranty.

  • The used car has a defect that significantly impairs the use, value or safety.

  • The used car is defective and it can not be fixed after a reasonable number of attempts.

  • The used car was purchased from a dealer or a manufacturer and not an individual.


What Steps Do You Need to Take if you Suspect a Lemon?

Under California’s used car lemon laws, a manufacturer or dealer must repair or repurchase the vehicle if it has a significant defect or it can not be fully repaired within a reasonable number of repair attempts.


Take the following steps if you suspect a lemon:

  1. Document every single issue with your vehicle.

  2. Refer to your warranty documentation.

  3. Contact your dealer and report the problem.

  4. Give your dealer a "reasonable" timeframe to fix the issue. This could mean up to four attempts to repair your car or repairs that take your vehicle out of service for up to 30 days.

  5. Be sure to keep all documentation of the problem, including repair bills and any correspondence with the manufacturer or dealer.

  6. If the manufacturer or dealer is unable to fix the problem after a reasonable number of attempts, you may be entitled to a refund or replacement vehicle.

  7. If this is not an option and you suspect that your car is a lemon, you should notify your dealer in writing that you consider your vehicle to be a lemon.

  8. Wherever possible, work with the dealer to resolve the problem.

  9. If things escalate and your case needs to go to arbitration, determine if you are eligible

If you think your used car may be a lemon, contact an experienced Lemon Law attorney who can evaluate your case and advise you of your legal rights.


If things escalate and your case needs to go to arbitration, the manufacturer or dealer must pay your attorney fees, costs, and in certain situations even civil penalties if the manufacturer willfully tries to evade the lemon law.


Are there any exceptions to the rule for used lemon cars

The first thing you should do if you think your car is a lemon is to contact the manufacturer or dealer and let them know about the problem. Be sure to keep all documentation of the problem, including repair bills and any correspondence with the manufacturer or dealer. If the manufacturer or dealer is unable to fix the problem after a reasonable number of attempts

The first step is to take the car to an authorized dealer or mechanic for repairs. Be sure to keep all documentation of the problem, including repair bills and any correspondence with the manufacturer or dealer. If the manufacturer or dealer is unable to fix the problem after a reasonable number of attempts, you may be entitled to a refund or replacement car under California lemon laws. You should also contact an experienced California Lemon Law attorney who can evaluate your case and advise you of your legal rights.


How The Beck Law Office Can Help You?

The Beck Law Office we has a decade of experience working alongside major law firms in Los Angeles and accruing all the wisdom and knowledge there is about the California lemon law claim process to successfully fight on all our customers' behalf. We are experts in California lemon law and our personable, individualized, transparent, and efficient approach to all our clients has earnt us the title of one of the most trusted lemon lawyers in California.


If you think you may have purchased a defective car, lemon law attorney specialists like us will be able to help with your claim. We would be happy to review your case and answer any questions you may have about the lemon law or our services – feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

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