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California Used Car Lemon Law Fact Sheet

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If you bought a used, pre-owned, and/or certified Car, Truck, Van, SUV, or other vehicle that had mechanical issues begin while covered by either a manufacturer's warranty or a dealer warranty (typically 30-90 days), then you may be protected under both the California Used Car Lemon Law and the Federal Used Car Lemon Law.

The California Used Car Lemon Law provides legal protection for anyone that purchases or leases a used car, or any other used vehicle that is still covered by a manufacturer's original factory warranty from being stuck owning a lemon. The Used Car Lemon Law also covers demonstrator (demo) vehicles, vehicles previously repurchased under the lemon law and then resold with a manufacturer’s warranty, and any vehicle that has been certified and given an extended warranty that increases the length of the manufacturer’s original warranty. This law provides the owners of defective vehicles that meet the requirements of the Used Car Lemon Law with compensation in the form of a refund, a replacement or cash compensation.

Cars Covered By California Used Car Lemon Law Include:

  • Used cars or vehicles bought and used primarily for personal, family or household purposes.
  • Used cars or vehicles with a gross weight that is below 10,000 pounds and used primarily for business purposes where 5 or fewer vehicles are registered to the company.
  • Used cars or vehicles that are sold with a written warranty.
  • Lemon cars or vehicles that are repurchased by a manufacturer and then resold to consumers with a manufacturer’s warranty covering the defects.

Statutory Warranty Length

California Used Car Lemon Law applies for the entire period of a manufacturer’s warranty and extends after the original warranty if the vehicle has been certified or includes a Manufacturer's extended warranty. This means, for example, that if a vehicle is covered by a 3 year warranty and a defect or nonconformity is discovered after 2 years from the warranty start date (typically the date the vehicle was originally sold unless the vehicle has a manufacturer's extended warranty), then the manufacturer will be required by law to either repurchase or replace the vehicle, or to compensate the owner of the defective vehicle providing that the defects or nonconformities meet the requirements of the Used Car Lemon Law and the manufacturer was given a reasonable number of attempts to repair the car or vehicle.

There is a 4 year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit for breach of warranty.

A Manufacturer’s Duty to Repair

The California Used Car Lemon Law provides the manufacturer and its authorized dealers with a reasonable number of attempts to repair the defects or nonconformities in a used car or vehicle under warranty before they are required to buy back a vehicle or compensate the owner. A reasonable number of opportunities may be exceeded if the vehicle has experienced:

  • 1 to 2 repair attempts for a serious safety defect such as a brake failure.
  • 2 or more repairs attempts where the defect recurs and is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if the vehicle is continued to be driven.
  • The same nonconformity or defect has been attempted to be repaired 4 or more times.
  • The vehicle is in for repairs for any number of defects or nonconformities by the manufacturer or its agents for a total of 30 or more days.

Exceptions When a Manufacturer or Its Agents Will Not Be Required To Make a Refund or Replacement

California Used Car Lemon Law Does Not Apply If:

  • The problems that a car or vehicle is experiencing is caused by abuse after the vehicle was delivered to the consumer.
  • The terms of the vehicle’s warranty for maintenance and proper use were not followed properly.


What Should You Do As A Consumer If You Realize or Suspect That Your Used Car May Be A Lemon?

  • Contact a California Lemon Law Attorney to understand your rights and to see what options may be available to you. Manufacturers often fight individual Lemon Law claims and most California Used Car Lemon Law Lawyers work on a contingency basis, so not only will you not have to pay any out of pocket fees, but you will have the best chance for success.
  • Get and keep a copy of the repair order clearly indicating what problem your car has been repaired for.
  • Make sure you have a copy of every repair order clearly indicating what problems your car has been repaired for and keep them in a safe place.
  • Directly notify the manufacturer of your car or vehicle of the defects and nonconformities that your car has experienced.
  • If the manufacturer of your vehicle maintains a state-certified arbitration program, you may submit the warranty dispute to the arbitration program listed, but you should contact a California Lemon Law Attorney before going to Arbitration as the outcome of the arbitration could hurt your chances of receiving proper compensation.

In addition to the Used Car Lemon Law, You may also be protected by law if you feel that you have been deceived by a dealership regarding repairs made to a vehicle prior to its sale or the condition of the used vehicle that you purchased. Certified cars trucks, SUVs and other vehicles may also be improperly certified according to California Used Car Lemon Law and you should have an experienced California Lemon Law or Auto Fraud Attorney review your documents as soon as possible if you are having problems with your certified used car or vehicle.

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