When Does Lemon Law Include Refund Laws for Private Sales?

You don’t have to buy your vehicle from a dealership to get a good deal or a reliable car. A private party may be an excellent option for a quality ride. Unfortunately, ‘as is’ is the implied term when you buy the vehicle from a private seller.

It means private car sales have no warranty, and you can be surprised to find a defect days or weeks later. Although it is normal for a car to develop a defect, there’s a gray area in consumer laws that protect private sales.

Similarly, consumer laws do not offer solid protection like lemon laws protect buyers who acquire vehicles from manufacturers or dealers. Although refund laws for private sales do not exist under the lemon law, there’s still a chance of earning a refund.

If you want a refund for a lemon car acquired from a private sale, consider consulting an experienced lemon law attorney about your options.

Meaning of ‘’Private Sale’’ Under Lemon Law

The Magnuson-Moss Consumer Warranty Act was enacted to hold manufacturers to account for selling vehicles that become defective while still under warranty. Consequently, a consumer enjoys protection if the defect occurs when the vehicle is under warranty.

The California Lemon Law ( Magnuson-Moss Consumer Warranty Act) protects consumers who buy new or used vehicles that develop defects that manufacturers cannot fix after a reasonable number of attempts.

More importantly, if the manufacturer or dealer cannot fix the defect after a ‘’reasonable number’’ of repair attempts, the manufacturer must either refund the purchase price or replace the defective vehicle.

Private sale agreements are sold ‘’as is’’, meaning the consumer acquires a vehicle without warranty. As a result, the buyer takes responsibility for subsequent defects. However, sellers must disclose the ‘’as-is’’ term in the buyer’s guide before completing the sale.

California lemon law covers vehicles sold with warranties at retail. Unfortunately, California lemon refund law does not consider private sales as retail— even when the warranty is still in effect.

Can Lemon Law Issue a Refund For a Private Sale?

When Does Lemon Law Include Refund Laws for Private Sales?

Although the chances of a refund for a private sale are slim, there is a way around it using the federal lemon law. The argument is based on the premise that a consumer doesn’t have to buy the vehicle at retail to enjoy protection.

Here’s an overview of refund laws for private sales.

First, inform the manufacturer about the defective vehicle acquired through a private sale agreement.

The vehicle should also meet the following California lemon law qualifications:

  • The defect should be covered by the manufacturer or dealer’s warranty when you reported the fault
  • It is a substantial defect that impairs the vehicle’s value, use, and safety
  • The vehicle owner gave the manufacturer a ‘’reasonable number’’ of repair attempts to fix the defect
  • The vehicle spent over 30 days— not necessarily consecutive— in a repair shop for a repair covered by a warranty
  • The defect didn’t arise due to driver’s abuse

Vehicle Defects That May Qualify for Refund Law for Private Sales

A vehicle becomes a lemon if it develops a defect but is sold with a manufacturer’s warranty. In addition, the defect should substantially impact its use, value, and safety. More importantly, a lemon vehicle doesn’t have to be immobile; however, it should have a noticeable and substantial impact.

If your vehicle is under warranty and you’re experiencing any of the following defects, you may be eligible for a private sales refund:

  • Engine failure
  • Engine stalling
  • Service brake failure
  • Transmission failure
  • Defective seat belts
  • Airbag failure
  • Power steering loss
  • Fuel line defects
  • Exterior lighting defects
  • Engine fire
  • Defective power train
  • Defective vehicle speed control unit

Although many vehicle defects enjoy lemon law protection, there exist a few exceptions, including:

  • Defects Caused By Owner Negligence: Consumers are required to take good care of their vehicle to enjoy warranty protection. That said, a defect doesn’t enjoy lemon law protection if it occurred due to owner abuse, neglect, or lack of proper maintenance.
  • Defects Due to Unauthorized Repairs: According to the manufacturer’s warranty, a consumer should get service from an authorized dealer or agent if it develops a defect. Unfortunately, you can void the manufacturer’s warranty and lemon law protection if you make do-it-yourself repairs or seek repairs from an independent repair shop.
  • Defects Caused By Accidents: A car tends to develop other problems after it is involved in an accident despite complete repairs. Unfortunately, lemon law doesn’t prevent defects due to an accident, irrespective of warranty coverage.

How to File a Lemon Law Refund Claim for Private Sales

Step 1: Inform the Manufacturer

Inform the manufacturer about the vehicle’s defect once you’ve identified the problem. Taking the vehicle to the dealership for repairs is a good starting point. More importantly, give the manufacturer a ‘’reasonable number’’ of repair attempts to fix the defect.

Step 2: Gather Evidence

The strength of any lemon law claim increases if you have evidence to back your argument. Therefore, compile supporting documents, including repair orders, repair invoices, warranty documents, and original sale or lease documents.

Step 3: Hire an Experienced Lemon Law Attorney

After gathering essential documents, it may be time to engage a lemon law attorney. The attorney will help you initiate the claim and guide you through the process.

Step 4: Negotiate With the Automaker

The manufacturer may present an offer after evaluating your claim. Your attorney can negotiate a better settlement if you’re unsatisfied with the automaker’s proposal. Alternatively, an attorney can litigate the matter in court if you do not strike a deal with the manufacturer.

Get Help From an Experienced Lemon Law Attorney

Owning a lemon car is a frustrating experience. The vehicle’s persistent defect makes it difficult to rely on it to run your business or personal errands. In addition, a lemon car causes unplanned expenses, including towing charges, accommodation fees, and car rental.

Consider working with an experienced lemon law attorney to increase your chances of success in the claim.

At LemonLaw123, our lead attorney, Valerie G. Campbell, has a high success rate, which gives us the confidence to represent you.

Contact us online or call us at 657.529.5239 for a free case review.

Valerie G. Fernandez Campbell

Valerie G. Fernandez Campbell, known as The Lemon Law Lady, has dedicated her entire legal career to the specialized field of Lemon Law, a journey that began immediately after her
graduation from UCLA School of Law.

With a 99% success rate and a policy of no fees unless you win, her practice stands as a testament to her expertise in California’s Lemon Law, her commitment to her clients, and her unwavering dedication to justice and consumer rights.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney Valerie G. Fernandez Campbell, personally handled over 500 lemon law cases and settlements.