Lemon Law for Used Cars in California

Lemon Law for Used Cars in California

California Lemon Law protects consumers from getting stuck with a defective vehicle and it typically covers newer vehicles. Yet, there are some stipulations covering used cars as well. Knowing these guidelines can help you get the compensation you deserve if you are stuck with a defective motor vehicle.

Contact a California Lemon Law Attorney today to learn more about your rights. As the premier legal team in California helping thousands of clients just like you, we know how to get you maximum compensation for your vehicle. We offer a free lemon law consultation, so you don’t need to pay us anything upfront.

Without understanding the ins and outs of California lemon laws, it would be easy to miss out on valuable compensation. Considering that cars are only covered for a specified time and for qualifying defects, it would be easy to miss the opportunity to file a claim if you weren’t knowledgeable about the regulations.

To guide you in the right direction, we will explain the used car lemon law. We will also describe the purpose of a manufacturer’s warranty and outline how to file a lemon car claim.

Car Lemon Law in California

Car Lemon Law in California

Lemon Law, otherwise referred to as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, protects people who buy or lease a vehicle that turns out to be unrepairable or defective. This regulation provides a resolution to consumers for vehicles that fail to meet certain safety or quality standards, but the process for each claim is different.

Once the California lemon law claim is started, the average timeline varies by how complicated the case is, but it could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Most of the time, a demand letter must be sent to the manufacturer before any claim can proceed. However, once the resolution occurs, many consumers find that the average lemon law settlement in California is between $5,000 and $100,000. With this much money at stake, you could be missing out on valuable compensation if you don’t have a qualified lemon law attorney on your side.

Does Lemon Law Apply to Used Cars?

While lemon law protection is generally meant for new cars, some used vehicles also qualify. Used and pre-owned vehicles qualify as long as there’s an active warranty from the dealer or manufacturer.

The good news is that since 2013, all “Buy Here, Pay Here” dealerships must provide a minimum 30-day/1,000-mile warranty on all used vehicles sold. Dealers that don’t offer in-house financing may provide consumers with a better warranty, especially if the car has been labeled “Certified Pre-Owned,” meaning it’s been reconditioned and carefully inspected.

Sadly, some of the specific new car lemon law guidelines are vague when applied to used cars. For this reason, navigating a used car lemon claim can be much more complicated. To illustrate this point, when receiving a refund or replacement vehicle of equal value with a new car lemon law claim, the purchase price provides the base compensation, minus a deduction for the amount of time that the consumer used it. However, with a used vehicle, there’s no formula provided, leaving the contending parties to settle on an appropriate number.

When considering how easy it could be to lose out on valuable compensation, the only logical solution would be to hire a qualified attorney for representation. Yet, some people choose to remain unrepresented because they are concerned about the expense of doing so. But, how much do lemon law attorneys cost? While every lawyer sets their own fees, our prestigious firm doesn’t charge for the initial consultation and we only get paid when you do. Therefore, you don’t have to pay out of pocket to get started.

What Qualifies a Car as a Lemon?

To have California lemon law apply to used cars, the following conditions must be met:

  • The used car was purchased from a dealership, not a private seller
  • The vehicle contains an active warranty, either through the manufacturer or an extended warranty provided by the dealership
  • Used car has a significant defect that cannot be repaired in a reasonable amount of time

In terms of the “reasonable amount of time,” California Lemon Law requires a minimum of two repair attempts before the vehicle qualifies. Appellate courts determined that this is the absolute minimum amount of attempts that must be made before proceeding with the claim. (Silvio vs. Ford Motor Company, 109 Cal.App.4th 1205).

Additionally, dealerships have thirty days to resolve the defects before the car is covered under lemon laws. These thirty days don’t run consecutively, so it can be counted as the total number of visits for one problem, no matter how significant the problem is.

The guidelines for determining how significant a problem is aren’t as clear-cut as some of the other rules. This begs the question of what types of problems are covered by lemon law. California lemon law covers safety issues, mechanical failures, and defects impairing the use or value of the vehicle. Structural defects, unresolved manufacturer recalls and ongoing performance problems are also covered.

But, not all defects need to be severe. While it makes sense to file a claim for a vehicle with unexpected acceleration that cannot be repaired, there’s just as much of a case for the used car with an electrical issue causing the battery to drain overnight.

Examples of Eligible Defects for Used Cars

With that in mind, let’s look at three examples where a used vehicle would qualify for compensation through the state’s lemon law. Consider these possible used car scenarios worthy of lemon law disputes.

  1. Harry bought a car from a “Buy Here, Pay Here” dealership and the transmission started slipping ten miles down the road. There hasn’t been a resolution after three repair attempts and forty total days in the shop.
  2. Jose chose a Certified Pre-Owned truck from the dealership, but the airbag warning light continues to come on because of a wiring issue. The dealership has attempted to repair it two separate times with no luck.
  3. Sonja was thrilled with her purchase through a used car dealership, but almost immediately, the SUV she chose started smelling like mildew. After four trips back to the dealership, the technicians have been unable to find the root cause of the smell.

While all three of these cases exhibit a different severity level, one thing remains true: the defect can’t be repaired with a reasonable number of attempts and the vehicles could be considered lemons. California lemon law applies and could provide compensation for all three situations.

What is a Manufacturer’s Warranty?

What is a Manufacturer's Warranty?

Auto manufacturers supply warranty coverage for mechanical defects and failures on a new car for a specified period of time or until the vehicle hits a particular mileage. These factory warranties may also cover used cars if the mileage or time limit hasn’t been reached, such as when it’s a Certified Used Car.

An extended warranty or service contract is purchased or provided after the factory warranty term ends. While there are extended warranty plans through the manufacturer, third-party companies also offer coverage options.

It’s important to note that only certain components are covered with both plans (manufacturer and extended warranty). Neither will cover the expenses of routine maintenance or consumable parts, while the extended warranty may only cover a handful of parts, depending on the plan chosen. For example, a powertrain warranty may be limited to the engine and transmission.

How to Pursue a California Lemon Law Claim for a Used Car

How to Pursue a California Lemon Law Claim for a Used Car

Most importantly, you want to have all the paperwork related to the vehicle and its defects. This paperwork would include the purchasing agreement, warranty terms, repair orders, and communications you’ve had with the dealership. With communications, make sure you have the date, name of the person you spoke with, and the outcome recorded.

The next step is to contact the manufacturer so your claim can be documented according to Lemon law guidelines. Notarize this demand letter and send it by certified mail. Keep a copy of this letter for your records. The manufacturer may offer arbitration, but you may want to refuse this course if it’s optional. While it will provide an efficient and speedy resolution, the manufacturer tends to come out on top in the end.

By now, you are wondering when you should get a lawyer involved. Ideally, you would have a highly experienced lawyer on your side from the beginning. Even when it comes to writing the demand letter, there are a lot of mistakes that can be made, especially if you aren’t experienced in these legal battles. Every word written can have a consequence. A lemon lawyer can also help navigate arbitration or resolve a court case to ensure the best outcome.

Common Challenges and Misconceptions about Used Lemon Law Cases

Common Challenges and Misconceptions about Used Lemon Law Cases

Even though most lemon law cases involve new cars, an experienced lawyer can help you get compensation for a qualified pre-owned car. The claim’s success depends heavily on whether the vehicle is qualified and how much documentation is provided.

That brings us to the most common challenge of getting compensation for a used car case. Not having documentation of the warranty repairs or communication with the dealership can prevent you from receiving reimbursement. The other downfall can be waiting too long to get legal representation, which is why we recommend getting your free consultation with us sooner rather than later.

Will the Dealership Compensate Me for a Used Lemon Car

In most cases, the service department and sales force at your local dealership aren’t going to give you the time of day when it comes to fighting for compensation. To get anywhere with the dealership or manufacturer, you need to communicate with someone higher up in the company, but that can be difficult to do if you aren’t a lawyer.

Here’s where a lemon law attorney helps. Most dealerships know that they are going to spend more money fighting lemon law claims than simply paying out what’s owed on a used car. Once they receive a letter from us, they are very likely to back down and give in, especially if the amount is minimal. In this case, there would be no reason to take further action and court could be avoided.

Other expenses may also be covered, such as towing or a rental car that was needed while the vehicle was in the shop. If the car was under warranty, you won’t need to recoup compensation for the repairs because you shouldn’t have paid out of pocket in most cases. Most people find themselves confused when presented with this information and end up wondering do dealerships even get paid for warranty work? The answer is yes. The manufacturer or third-party provider pays for qualified repairs, but often at a lower rate than standard jobs, leaving you with one less expense to worry about.

Want to File a Used Lemon Law Claim?

Just because lemon laws tend to be more centered around new cars doesn’t mean you have to give up compensation on a defective used vehicle. With a qualifying vehicle, an experienced lemon lawyer can win you the replacement vehicle or cash settlement you deserve.

Used car lemon laws can be tricky and sometimes vague, which is why you want someone with a proven track record of winning on your side. The key is to take action quickly and have all your ducks in a row.

Our experienced lemon car lawyers in California have helped more than 5,000 drivers receive compensation for their lemon vehicles. With our expertise behind us, we will help you understand the options, handle all of the paperwork, and communicate with the car manufacturer to get a quick resolution. Book a free lemon law consultation to get a review of your case and let us work towards receiving a favorable outcome for you.

When only the best will do, it’s time to work with our prestigious lemon law attorney practice in Beverly Hills.

Call us today for a free consultation before time runs out to pursue your claim.

Phone: (800) 917-7147

Email: info@thelemonpros.com

Why Choose The Lemon Pros?

Our specialty is Lemon Law, that is why we only handle Lemon Law claims. When you hire us, our attorneys will do all the legal work for you, because we understand the stress that consumers like you deal with when they have a Lemon.

We have an excellent success record in representing consumers just like you! We are award winning attorneys, but that has not gotten to our heads. We are attorneys who care and give personalized attention to each and every client, our attorneys directly handle your claim.

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