While many people understand how California Lemon Laws apply to new vehicles, others may be asking themselves Do lemon laws apply to used cars?
Here at Strategic Legal Practices, we will answer this question and more. We want to ensure all consumers are protected when it comes to possible lemon products. This includes making sure you understand what the California Lemon Law covers, what makes a product a lemon, and your rights when faced with such a product.
The California Lemon Law Statute, also known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, protects consumers. This law covers vehicles purchased or leased from California car dealerships. The major requirement of this law is that the vehicle must still be under the original manufacturer’s warranty. This is an easy requirement to meet for new vehicles, but what about used vehicles?
Any used vehicle purchased or leased from California within three years of its manufacturer date or with less than 36,000 miles should still qualify under the original manufacturer’s warranty. There may be other factors at play that could account for an extended manufacturer’s warranty. If this is the case then you are still protected. If the vehicle is under the manufacturer’s warranty, you can rest easy.
The problem is that many used vehicles are no longer under warranty. Thankfully, in the state of California, used cars sold with a dealer’s warranty also qualify. However, rather than qualifying under new car lemon law, they fall under the used car lemon law. Dealer warranties vary based on the dealership that offers them. Many are quite short and last between 30 days and three months. However, some dealerships do offer longer warranties.
If you’re unsure if you received a dealer warranty you can check the Buyer’s Guide. Federal law requires that all used vehicles available for sale display a Buyer’s Guide. Most dealerships mount it in one of the windows. On the Buyer’s Guide there are two boxes, one labeled As Is and the other Labeled as Warranty. The As Is option means there is no warranty while the Warranty box indicates there is a warranty. As long as there is a check in the Warranty box, you qualify. However, you’ll want to ask the dealership about the terms of the warranty.
It’s important to understand that not just any warranty will protect you under California Lemon Law. Your vehicle’s warranty must be the original manufacturer’s warranty, or the dealership’s warranty. Many individuals purchase additional “extended warranties.” It’s important to realize that these aren’t so much true warranties as they are “service contracts.”
An extended warranty isn’t a promise from the dealership or manufacturer that the vehicle is in good condition. These are actually the promise from a third party to repair your vehicle should it break down. These types of “warranties” don’t qualify under the California Lemon Law. This is why it’s important to speak to the dealership about which type of warranty covers your vehicle prior to purchase. Now, there is an exception to the rule if the service contract requires you to take your vehicle to the dealership where you purchased it for repairs. If this is the case, then it’s best to speak with an attorney specializing in lemon law to understand if the vehicle is protected or not.
If you purchased a used car with a dealership warranty, then you’re protected two ways. During the term of the dealership warranty you’re protected for the parts and components covered under the warranty. If one of those parts or components fails and causes a substantial problem, the dealership has a reasonable number of attempts to fix the vehicle. If they are unable to repair the vehicle they must offer to repurchase the vehicle.
The second way in which you are protected is under “implied warranty of merchantability.” In the state of California the lemon law imposes the implied warranty of merchantability for the duration of the dealership’s warranty. This means that the warranty is not limited to just the specific parts and components covered by the dealership’s warranty. This extension covers the entire vehicle with a basic warranty.
The only requirement under the implied warranty of merchantability is that the used car provides reliable, safe transportation while under warranty. This means it won’t cover cosmetic or comfort items such as a sound system. Instead, it only covers anything that would prevent safe and reliable use of the vehicle. During the implied warranty of merchantability the consumer has a right to free repairs or refund during the warranty period even if the affected item is not covered by the dealership’s warranty.
While protected by the implied warranty of merchantability you’re able to avoid deductibles and co-payments that are typically required under a dealership’s warranty. This means that if the dealership’s warranty requires you to pay some portion of parts and labor then you may not have to. If the vehicle is unable to provide reliable and safe transportation then the dealership may be forced to repair the issue for free.
California Lemon Law can be confusing. If you’re in doubt about if your vehicle is covered by California Lemon Law then you should speak with a qualified attorney. They’ll be able to help you understand the various aspects of the law and how you’re protected. They can also advise how many attempts would be considered “reasonable” for the dealership or manufacturer to repair the problem. If the number of reasonable attempts has been exceeded then you may be entitled to a buyback.
The law experts at Strategic Legal Practices are standing by to answer any and all questions you might have.