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Can Used Cars Qualify For A Lemon Law Claim?

  • In most parts of the U.S., including here in California, we rely heavily on our cars to help keep our lives moving. If our car doesn’t work, it can cause serious problems. Nobody likes getting stuck with a “lemon,” a car that is just no good. It is frustrating and costly to deal with, and can even be dangerous. “Lemon laws” help car buyers who feel they have gotten a rotten deal. When buying a new car, the protections are pretty straight-forward, but it gets more complicated for used cars. Although a used car with a certain amount of mileage will probably require more maintenance or repairs than a newer model, the question is when those repairs indicate that you have bought a lemon. Further complicating the matter is whether you bought the used car from a car dealer or private individual.


    In California, the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act outlines the protections afforded to buyers of new and used lemons. Here is some information that will provide guidance on whether your used car qualifies for a lemon law claim in our state:


    • Is the car a lemon or is it just old? Even though your used car has mechanical difficulties, it still might not be a lemon. Lemon laws apply to a substantial defect that affects operability and is covered by the car’s warranty. You must give the dealer a reasonable number of attempts to repair this defect.
    • How old is the car? If you purchase or lease a vehicle from a California car dealership during the original manufacturer’s warranty period, you might be entitled to protection under the new car lemon law.
    • What type of warranty does the car have? If your used car was not sold with the manufacture’s factory warranty still intact, then you may qualify for protection under the lemon law if your car was sold with a dealership or CPO warranty. Look at the Buyer’s Guide on the window of any used car you want to purchase to see if it comes with a warranty. There might be some confusion between a warranty and an extended warranty, so you will need to be very careful. Extended warranties are typically service contracts, which are not warranties at all.  A warranty is the dealer’s confirmation that the vehicle is in good condition, while an extended warranty is more of a contract that may provide for repairs and/or service if the vehicle does break down.


    Buying a used car that turns out to be a lemon can be a confusing and frustrating experience. If you believe that you have been misled about the road-worthiness of your vehicle, save all of your original purchase and warranty information, along with any communication or repair documentation. Then contact our California lemon law attorneys for expert advice on how to proceed.