Used car issues? Consider a claim under California ‘lemon’ laws

Buying a used car can be a smart financial decision, especially compared to purchasing a new car.  A new car loses over 10 percent of its value by the time you get it home from the dealership, and continues to lose on average 10-15 percent per year after that. That said, not all used cars are such a great purchase. For those “sour” deals, there are California Lemon Laws.

California Lemon Law Qualifications

To be protected under California Lemon Laws, you must meet the following conditions:

1. You must buy the car from a retailer, not a private individual. Private used car sales are not covered under the California Lemon Law. From a private seller you are likely buying the vehicle “As Is,” meaning there is no warranty, and you may have to pay for repairs yourself.

2. There is an active manufacturer new car warranty on the vehicle. If this warranty is still in effect the lemon laws apply. That said, every used vehicle purchased in California will have at least a 30-day or 1,000-mile warranty. Most dealers provide a better warranty than this, especially if the vehicle is Certified Pre-Owned. Although in these cases a lemon law claim is not appropriate the issue may still be addressed with the dealer.

3. The pre-owned vehicle has a substantial defect. This is highly fact specific. Schedule an appointment if you are not sure whether your defect is ‘substantial.’

4. The pre-owned vehicle has spent an excessive amount of time in the shop being repaired. This is satisfied if the vehicle has been in shop for more than 30 days, and defects have not been repaired.

5. Despite a “reasonable number” of repair attempts, the car is still not fixed and the problem persists. If it is a serious issue that affects the safety of the vehicle, the manufacturer only gets one or two attempts to fix the vehicle. Examples of serious issues include faulty brakes, steering, or engine. If it is not a serious issue then four or more attempts to fix the issue must be allowed to meet this standard.

Fort Irwin Legal Assistance Attorneys Can Help!

If you are having issues with a used car and you believe these factors are met, please call the Fort Irwin Legal Assistance Office to schedule an appointment. It is important that you maintain and provide detailed records of the warranty and any and all repair attempts that have been made to date. We will need to know how many repair attempts have been made, when they were made, and for how long the vehicle was in the shop for. You will likely need to draft a letter to the manufacturer, which our office will assist with.

Contact the Fort Irwin Legal Assistance Office at 760-380-5321.

Avoid Needing a Lemon Law Claim: Follow This Used Car Inspection Checklist

When you shop for a used car, you may find the following checklist helpful. Make sure you or your mechanic check for cracks, leaks, breaks, abnormal noises, and missing or inoperable parts in the systems of the car listed below. Being diligent in the buying process can prevent headaches later.

Frame and body: is the frame straight and solid?

Engine: Is there excessive oil leakage? Are the belts in place? Is the block or head cracked? Is the exhaust normal?

Transmission and drive shaft: Is the transmission fluid level proper and seepage normal? Is the transmission solid? Is the drive shaft in good shape?

Differential: Does the differential operate quietly without excessive seepage?

Cooling system: Does the water pump function properly? Is there any leakage, including any from the radiator?

Electrical system: Does the battery leak? Do the alternator, generator, battery, and starter work properly?

Fuel system: Is there any visible leakage?

Accessories: Do gauges and warning devices work? Do the air conditioner, heater, and defroster work?

Brake system: Do the warning lights work? Is the brake pedal firm under pressure? Does the vehicle stop in a straight line? Check the hoses, drum, and lining for soundness. Are structural and mechanical parts solid?

Steering system: Is there too much free play in the steering? Are the front wheels aligned properly? Check the power unit belts for cracks or slippage and the unit fluid levels.

Suspension system: Are the ball joint seals intact? Are the structural parts solid and straight? Are springs and shocks properly connected? Check shock absorbers for leakage and loose mountings.

Tires: Check the tread for depth of wear, sizes for match, and for any other obvious damage.

Wheels: look for any visible cracks, damage, or repairs. Check for loose or missing mounting bolts.

Exhaust system: Check for leakage and exhaust smoke while the engine is running.

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