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How do I file a lemon law claim on a used car?

You needed a new car badly, so you started to shop around. You decided to buy from a local car dealership, because you believed that you’d be better protected against a bad purchase. Unfortunately, not all defective vehicles are covered by the lemon law, unless they are under one of three specific warranties

If you buy a vehicle and it doesn’t work as described, you might be in luck, but there is also a chance that you could be stuck without a way to seek back the money you spent. Here is a little bit more information on how your attorney will determine if you’re covered by the lemon law. 

Your Vehicle: Is It Still Under Warranty?

The first thing your attorney will look at is if the vehicle is still under warranty. If your vehicle is under a manufacturer’s warranty at the time when you make the first repair on the vehicle, then it should be covered by the lemon law. Even if you purchased a used vehicle, you may have a warranty transferred into your name. Your attorney will be able to look into your specific case and determine if you qualify based on that fact.

Did You Buy Your Vehicle in California?

The next thing that your attorney will review is where you purchased your vehicle. If you bought it in California, or if you originally leased it there, then you may be able to pursue a claim. There is an exception for those who were active members of the military and who were living in California at the time when they made the claim. The exemption allows people in that category to make a claim even when the vehicle was purchased outside the state.

Is the Specific Defect Covered By the Vehicle’s Warranties?

You’ll need to show that the defect was covered by specific types of warranties when you started getting repairs on the vehicle. For example, the vehicle may have had a powertrain warranty that has now expired but that was used for an initial repair. 

How Heavy Is Your Vehicle?

The last thing your attorney will look at it is the total weight of your vehicle. To qualify for the lemon law, the vehicle has to be under 10,000 pounds. Motor homes can qualify, so long as the parts that are defective are related to transportation elements of the vehicle, such as the drive train or suspension. Even recreational vehicles may qualify, like boats and motorcycles. 

In addition to these requirements to qualify, you will also have to show that the defect impaired the vehicle’s value, use or safety substantially and objectively. On top of that, you’ll need to show that there were attempted repairs and that those repairs were unsuccessful after a reasonable number of visits to an authorized dealer.

You should know that a single visit to the repair shop isn’t going to be enough. The courts have previously stated that more than one attempt is necessary before you can make a claim. However, they have ruled that any attempt to take your vehicle to an authorized dealer for repair is made, even if the dealership doesn’t attempt to fix the repairs. 

What Are the Three Warranties that Protect Consumers?

There are several warranties that protect consumers. These include:

  • Transferred New Car Warranties
  • Lemon Law Buyback Warranties
  • Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Warranties

Here is a little bit more information about each of these. 

Transferred New Car Warranties

Transferred new car warranties are warranties that came originally with the vehicle but transfer to a new owner upon the vehicle’s sale. So long as the vehicle is still under the original warranty period, you may benefit from this warranty.

Lemon Law Buyback Warranties

Lemon law buyback warranties are warranties granted to vehicles that were once lemons but that have now been repaired. If you buy a vehicle that was a lemon in the past, you should get a copy of the lemon law buyback warranty. The warranty covers the vehicle for 12 months or up to 12,000 miles for any issues with the previous defect.

Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Warranties

The last warranty is a certified pre-owned warranty. This warranty offers more protections than a usual used vehicle would have. Only authorized dealerships offer them. 

What Should You Do If Your Vehicle Is a Lemon?

If you want to pursue a lemon law claim, then you should consider talking to your attorney about the situation you’re in. Under California’s laws, you have two remedies that may be open to you. The first is to ask for a refund for the cost of your vehicle, out-of-pocket costs for rental cars, towing and repairs and even your DMV fees. 

You can also ask for a replacement of the vehicle with a new model that is similarly equipped and that doesn’t have the defect. If you choose this option, the manufacturer has to cover the fees and taxes associated with the replacement. The manufacturer may insist on a refund in lieu of the concerns, in which case, you must take the refund. 

You have up to four years to make your claim. Keep your receipts for any repairs made, and have your warranty on hand. Your attorney can help you move forward with a claim.

Sudhir Choudhrie: Owner of the World’s Largest Private Vintage Car Collection

Sudhir Choudhrie: Owner of the World’s Largest Private Vintage Car Collection

How do I file a lemon law claim on a used car?