Everyone knows that new cars are quite expensive. If you’re careful, and if you take your time, you may be able to find a used vehicle that’s a great deal. But if the used vehicle that you buy is a “lemon,” do you have any recourse? Will a California Lemon Law attorney be able to help?
When a used vehicle is sold from one private party to another in California, the buyer is free to ask for his or her money back, but the seller is unlikely going to give the money back. That’s because private sale vehicles are sold “as is.”
A used vehicle buyer’s legal rights and options hinge on the details of the sale, but generally speaking, a buyer’s rights are quite restricted when buying a used vehicle from a private party.
When Are You Covered By Consumer Protection Laws?
When you buy a vehicle from a dealer, you are covered by federal and state consumer protection statutes for certain claims. However, if you buy a vehicle from a private party, the vehicle is sold and bought “as is.”
California’s Lemon Law protects buyers who have leased or purchased “warrantied” vehicles from retail sellers, not private party sellers. If a dealer or manufacturer of a warrantied vehicle can’t repair it after a “reasonable” number of attempts, the law requires a manufacturer to buy back or replace the vehicle.
Does California’s Lemon Law Cover Private Vehicle Sales?
Unfortunately, no. California’s lemon law does not apply to vehicles purchased from a private seller.
So, do not depend on anything that a private vehicle seller tells you. Before you buy a used vehicle from a private seller, have a mechanic you trust give the vehicle a comprehensive look. That’s the smart thing to do. If the seller won’t let your mechanic inspect the vehicle, find another vehicle and another seller to do business with.
What If A Used Vehicle Is Still Under A Manufacturer’s Warranty?
If you buy a used vehicle privately while the original warranty is still open, your vehicle is still likely covered by the warranty, though some manufacturers shorten the warranty for subsequent purchasers so be sure to check the warranty booklet.
But, if you take a used vehicle in for repair a “reasonable” number of times and the manufacturer’s dealer can’t or won’t repair it properly, are you covered under the California lemon law – and entitled to a buyback? Sadly, the answer is “no.”
California’s lemon law specifically provides that only people who buy warrantied vehicles from a dealer can benefit from the lemon law. In other words, the lemon law does not apply to a used vehicle purchased from a private seller even if the used vehicle was purchased while a manufacturer’s warranty was still in effect.
There are important legal differences between buying a vehicle from a retail dealer and buying it from a private party. That’s why a California Lemon Law attorney is likely to decline a case involving the private sale of a used automobile.
How To Put Yourself In The Best Legal Position
If the vehicle qualifies as a “lemon,” you may be entitled to a refund or a replacement vehicle. To be in the best possible legal position, California consumers should save, make copies, and securely store all sales and repair receipts, contracts, and other documents related to a vehicle’s purchase and history.
If you file a claim under California’s Lemon Law, your lawyer will need those receipts and other documents. That’s the evidence you’ll need for your claim to prevail. When you take a vehicle to be repaired, be sure the receipts specify the reasons for the repairs and the work that was done.
There are deadlines, so if you need to file a claim regarding a “lemon,” speak at once to a Lemon Law attorney – like California consumer attorney Sotera Anderson – who understands the state’s Lemon Law and who advises and represents consumers with Lemon Law claims.