How Lemon Law Protects you When you Buy or Lease a New Car
A new car that develops a problem with function or safety is protected under California’s Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, otherwise known as the “lemon law.” When you buy or lease a new car and discover a problem, the dealer or manufacturer of the car has a responsibility to quickly repair the problem. This law also offers protection to the manufacturer, allowing them a reasonable number of attempts to make the repair. If the car cannot be repaired to the conditions stated under the car’s warrantee after several attempts, the manufacturer must replace the car or provide a full monetary refund at the discretion of the buyer.
Your Car’s Warranty—not its Age—Secure its Protection under Lemon Law
The protection given by lemon law in California does not necessarily only apply to brand new cars. Instead, which cars are protected is based on the duration of the car’s warrantee. Lemon law is in place for the entire time your car is under warrantee, whether or not you are the original buyer. For example, if your car has a two-year warranty and you do not discover a problem until halfway through the second year, you are covered by lemon law. Even if you did not originally purchase the car, you have the right to request a replacement or reimbursement if the defect cannot be fixed after a reasonable number of attempts.
This means that when a warranty is in place, lemon law protects:
- New cars
- Leased cars
- Used or pre-owned cars
How do I know if My used Car is Protected under Lemon Law?
In California, lemon law protects any car still under warrantee. If you purchase a new or pre-owned car that is still under warrantee, the car is still considered “new” by the state of California. However, an important condition to keep in mind when buying a used car is that lemon law only applies if the car has met all the maintenance requirements necessary to keep the warrantee valid. This prevents a consumer from abusing lemon law by filing for reimbursement after damaging or failing to properly care for a vehicle. The specific maintenance requirements vary from car to car, but generally focus on servicing your car at regular intervals and keeping records of each service.
When buying a used car still under warrantee, make sure to get all the required paperwork from the seller or dealer to ensure that the car’s warranty has not been violated by abuse or improper maintenance.
- Request a maintenance log from the seller – A maintenance history report provides you with documented evidence to support a warranty claim you may need to make in the future. If the seller does not have a history report, you can also contact the seller’s service center to get information about when and how the car was serviced.
- Run a vehicle history report on the car – Ask the seller for the car’s VIN number and use a website like Carfax or Autocheck to view the vehicle’s history report. The report will let you know if the car has been in any major accidents or has had other serious problems that may void the warrantee.
- Take the car to a mechanic before purchasing – Not all incidents will appear on a vehicle history report. Taking the car to a registered mechanic who can identify signs of structural damage will alert you to any potential problems with your warranty.
- Prepare to document your service history– To ensure that your used car’s warranty will remain valid after you take possession of the vehicle, document your own service history using a vehicle repair log. Be sure to keep a record of all repairs and costs.
Does Lemon Law Protect Me if I Buy a used Car “as is”?
California’s lemon law does not protect used cars that are no longer under warranty. Most of the time, a car will not be sold “as is” if it is not still under warranty. In fact, dealers and private sellers often use this term to avoid responsibility for performance issues that develop after a car is sold. Though there are federal laws that use the concept of “implied warranty” to provide protection to those buying used cars, cars sold “as is” are often not protected by these laws.
When a Car is Sold “as is”:
• You cannot assume any implied warranty
• The dealer has no responsibility for repairs or damages after the sale is made and you drive off the lot
• You must get any promises about the condition of the car or the dealer’s repair responsibilities in writing
If you have a lemon law dispute, contact a California lemon law attorney who will advocate for you and seek recovery of your owed compensation. A skilled lawyer works with you to review your situation and inform you of your legal rights under lemon law. If a car dealer has misrepresented a used car’s warranty or if you have not received the protection that California law guarantees you after purchasing a new car, an attorney assists you in defending your rights and collecting the money you are entitled to.
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established. The results in the cases portrayed on this website were dependent on the facts of each individual case, and the results in any case will differ if based on different facts or law. They are provided for illustrative purposes only and are no guarantee, promise of representation of similar results in similar or future litigation.