Last Updated: March 2012
The California Lemon Law, or the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, applies to three types of vehicles:
1.) The law applies to new vehicles that are still covered by their original factory warranty, including the bumper to bumper warranty and the powertrain warranty.
2.) The law also applies to certified pre-owned vehicles that are either still covered by their original factory warranty or they have a factory warranty that has been extended through the cerificaton process. These vehicles will often be covered by a six or seven year and 100,000 mile factory warranty.
3.) The law also applies to used vehicles that are still covered by their original factory warranty, including the bumper to bumper warranty and the powertrain warranty.
If you buy a brand new vehicle and you have to take it back to the dealership for repairs three or more times for the same defect, and the repairs are all covered by the original factory warranty, you may have a lemon. The California Lemon Law has a “presumption period” which says that if your vehicle has been subject to three or more repairs in the first 18 months or the first 18,000 miles of use, and the manufacturer cannot repair the defect, your vehicle is presumed to be a lemon. However, the law alo states that the defects have to substantially impair the use, value, or safety of the vehicle. In order for us to prove that you have a lemon, you will need to provide us with evidence, which comes in the form of documented repair invoices. If you take your vehicle to the dealership for a repair and the dealership does not open a repair order for the repair, and they do not give you a repair invoice, then sadly, it is as if the repair never happened. It is extremely important to have every single repair visit documented even if the dealership could not repair your vehicle.
If you buy a “Certified Pre-Owned” vehicle, the lemon law will apply so long as the repairs were performed during the applicable warranty period. Each manufacturer has a different CPO program, so check your purchase documents to make sure you know when your warranty ends. You can only buy a true “Certified Pre-Owned” vehicle from the dealership that manufactures that type of vehicle. For example, you can only buy a “Certified Pre-Owned” Mercedes-Benz from a Mercedes-Benz dealership because only Mercedes-Benz can “certify” the warranty extension. This is true of all manufacturers so please do not be fooled by dealerships claiming to sell “Certified Pre-Owned” vehicles that are not manufactured by them. For example, you cannot buy a “Certified Pre-Owned” Lexus from a Nissan dealership and you cannot buy a “Certified Pre-Owned” Infiniti from a Honda dealership. Here is an example of how the CPO program works at Lexus. If someone leases a brand new 2008 Lexus and their four year lease is up, they can take their vehicle back to Lexus at the end of the lease period to turn the vehicle in. Normally, the Lexus dealership will then take a look at the vehicle to make sure it is in excellent “like new” condition. If it is, the dealership will then put the vehicle through a rigorous multi-step certification and reconditioning process and inspect each of the vehicle’s systems to make sure that they are in proper working order. If the vehicle passes the inspection, the Lexus dealership can then market the vehicle as a Certified Pre-Owned 2008 car. A Lexus bumper to bumper warranty covers the vehicle for 4 years/50,000 miles. A Certified Pre-Owned Lexus, however, is warranted for 3 years from the time you purchase the vehicle or up to 100,000 miles, whichever expires first.
If you buy a used vehicle, the California Lemon Law will only apply if you bought the vehicle from a retail seller, not from a private party. Additionlly, the lemon law will only apply if the repairs were covered by the original manufacturer’s warranty. This means that you have to bring the vehicle to its manufacturer’s authorized repair facilities for repairs. For example, if you buy a used Ford at a Honda dealership, you must bring the vehicle to a Ford dealership for repair, not to the Honda dealership where you bought the vehicle. And, the repairs must be covered by the original Ford warranty, either the bumper to bumper warranty or the powertrain warranty, or whatever warranty applies to the defect. Do not be fooled by “warranties” that used car lots try to sell you along with a car. There is no such thing as a manufacturer’s warranty from a used car lot. Whatever “warranty” a used car lot is selling you covers only what it says it covers, be that 30 days or 60 days or 90 days. This “warranty” has nothing to do with your vehicle’s manufacturer and it is not afforded protection by the California Lemon Law. Also, your insurance company or used car dealership may try to sell you a third party warranty. These types of plans are also not covered by the California Lemon Law.
Be very careful when buying a vehicle. A new car is obviously the most expensive to buy, but it comes with the most consumer protections. A Certified Pre Owned vehicle is less expensive than a new car but more expensive than a regular used car. However, the extra money you pay for a certified pre-owed vehicle may save you a lot of money and grief in the long run. If you have any questions, please feel free to call or email us at the California Lemon Law Group.