Does the Lemon Law Apply to Used Cars in California?

At the moment, only a few states have lemon laws for used cars: New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Minnesota, and California. Unfortunately, though, those laws are not very expansive and only help in very unique situations. There is no federal lemon law for either new or used cars. 

In the words of the California Attorney General, Rob Bonta, “The lemon law applies to used vehicles when they are still under a manufacturer’s new car warranty.” So, essentially, the state’s used car lemon law is the enforcement of manufacturers’ warranties.

Used Cars and Manufacturers’ Warranties 

If your vehicle is up to 6 or 7 years old, the powertrain is often still covered by the original warranty. The powertrain consists of the transmission, transfer case, engine, drive box, differentials, and drive shaft.

You can find out the specifics of your vehicle’s warranty by doing a quick Google search. Even if you are the car’s third owner, it doesn’t matter, as the manufacturer’s warranties are based on the car’s mileage and/or age.

Federal Consumer Protection Laws

Due to the ambiguous wording of California’s used car lemon law, many car owners often find better protection under federal statutes. The Uniform Commercial Code, a group of federal laws, safeguards those who bought defective goods.

The UCC does not specifically define a “lemon,” so there is room for interpretation. If you have the right lemon law attorney, this can work to your benefit.  

Another federal statute that can offer protection with lemon vehicles is the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This act helps car buyers enforce their warranties and allows them to recover attorney’s fees if their car is indeed a lemon. 

My Warranty Expired

If your used car is no longer covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, small claims court is always an option. If you are a private person (i.e., not a business), small claims court is an option if your case doesn’t exceed $10,000.

If your lemon was purchased under your business name, you can still go through small claims court if the case doesn’t exceed $5,000. Remember you can not have a lawyer in small claims court and that the automaker or dealership is highly proficient in adjudicating cases like yours. It never hurts to consult a California lemon law attorney before choosing this option.

If you have a used vehicle and wonder about your rights if it is defective, contact an Anaheim, CA, lemon law attorney immediately. 

If you purchased a used car that now has relentless problems, all hope might not be lost. Used cars can be covered by the Lemon law in California.

There are a variety of different ways that the Lemon laws might protect a used car. Regardless of what the used car dealership or private seller may have told you, it is worth it to discuss your options with a lemon law attorney

Used Cars Are Still Protected by Manufacturer’s Warranties

If your car is even up to six or seven years old, the powertrain may still be protected by the original warranty from the dealership. It doesn’t matter if the car used to be a rental or how many owners it has had, as long as it is still under warranty.

What Is the “Powertrain”?

While some manufacturers do provide pretty generous bump-to-bumper warranties (meaning everything on the car), like Volkswagen’s bumper-to-bumper warranty covers you for six years or 72,000 miles (whichever comes first).

However, many lemon law cases concern the vehicle’s powertrain, which means a longer coverage period. The powertrain is what makes your go or things impacting your car’s ability to go:

  • Engine
  • Transmission
  • Differentials
  • Driveshaft
  • Drive box
  • Transfer case

Here are a few of the longest powertrain warranties from car manufacturers:

  • Acura: 6 years or 70,000 miles
  • Buicks before 2019: 6 years or 70,000 miles
  • Cadillac: 6 years or 70,000 miles
  • Infiniti: 6 years or 70,000 miles
  • Isuzu: 7 years or 75,000 miles
  • Lexus: 6 years or 70,000 miles
  • Lincoln: 6 years or 70,000 miles
  • Suzuki: 7 years or 100,000 miles
  • Tesla: 8 years

Dealership Warranties

Nissan Pathfinder Lemon Law 123

Yes, some used cars are sold with warranties from the dealership. These are generally short-term warranties like 30, 60, or 90 days.

The dealership would have most likely mentioned any warranty they provide as they do like to use it as a selling point. If you aren’t sure, check your car paperwork or call the dealer where you bought it from.

Federal Lemon Laws vs. California Lemon Laws

California lemon laws are strong for new cars and, unfortunately, a bit ambiguous for used cars. However, federal lemon laws can apply and are more generous.

The Uniform Commercial Code protects consumers who have purchased faulty goods. It does not spell out the definition of a “lemon,” which means a great attorney can work to persuade the court that your car qualifies, if necessary. 

Additionally, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act protects consumers nationwide from “breach of warranty” and gives you the right to recover any money you spend on a lawyer if you win your case. Additionally, small claims court is also an option.

I Bought My Used Car from a Private Party 

There are a number of reasons why retail cars cost more than those purchased by private parties. One of those reasons is that, in California, a car purchased in a private party sale is not covered by the state’s lemon law. The mileage and age of the car do not matter. Again, federal laws could help you get a manufacturer’s warranty enforced, but California’s lemon law would not apply. 

Sadly, some manufacturers’ warranties limit the protection available to non-retail buyers and/or non-original owners. Again, any and all owners are protected by the original warranty, but, for example, Kia’s warranty says non-original owners do not receive extended powertrain coverage. 

My Used Car Was Sold “As Is”

When a car’s sticker says, “Sold as is,” that simply means that the dealer isn’t going to, for instance, install the subwoofer you want in the trunk or paint the exterior to a new color as part of the sale. “As is” really has no bearing on the manufacturer’s warranty or an extended warranty you may have purchased. Modifications to the car, of course, can almost always be negotiated with a car salesperson, so really “Sold As Is” means very little.  

Extended Warranty Coverage 

Navigating Lemon Law Step-by-Step Guide to Getting a Refund or Replacement

You can purchase additional warranty coverage from the dealership. An extended warranty does not extend the manufacturer’s protection.

Rather it is a secondary type of coverage generally overlapping the manufacturer’s warranty. Extended warranties are usually only for periods of one, two, or three months.

Sometimes dealerships will include a limited 30-day warranty for free on cars that are past their manufacturer’s warranty period. 

If your lemon issue is falling under an extended warranty or dealership’s warranty, the state’s lemon law probably won’t help you, but, again, the federal laws (Uniform Commercial Code and Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act) can help you in getting those warranties enforced.

To clarify, only problems addressed by a manufacturer’s original warranty, an extended warranty, or a dealership’s warranty qualify under California lemon law.

Remember, you can always try to negotiate some warranty coverage from the dealer, whether it’s getting a lower price on an extended warranty or getting the dealership to include (or extend) their own protection.

Know Your Rights

Just as the state’s lemon law is flimsy, you’ll notice that its “Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights” doesn’t include anything pertaining to lemons, new or used. Nevertheless, it’s important to know what is and is not protected under these rights:

  • Car dealerships will frequently pad the interest rate on auto loans you get through them. When a dealership arranges financing on your behalf, their compensation from the bank of choice is capped at 2-2.5% of the purchase price, depending on the length of the loan. 
  • Every penny of your total purchase price must be fully disclosed (extended warranties, undercoating, convenience fees, etc). If you are financing the car through the dealer, they must share your credit report with you.
  • Dealers must offer the option to buy a two-day cancellation option on used cars. You don’t have to buy it, but it must be offered.
  • Used cars listed as “certified” must go through a specific, detailed inspection mandated by the state. Shoppers have the right to see this inspection report.

Learn more by reading the state’s actual lemon law—it’s section 1793.2 of the California Civil Code.

Free Case Review from an Anaheim Lemon Law Attorney 

Book an appointment to get your car’s situation evaluated with “the Lemon Law Lady.” At the time of your appointment, be sure to have all the paperwork we’ve asked you for, such as a copy of the warranty, the bill of sale, and the service records. We are passionate about helping consumers and look forward to assessing your vehicle situation. You have rights! You have options!

Book a Consultation with an Anaheim Lemon Law Attorney 

Set up a convenient meeting time without having to pick up the phone. When it’s time for your appointment, make sure to have the necessary documents handy (bill of sale, service records, warranty).

We look forward to evaluating your claim and are passionate about protecting consumers. There can be justice for the problem of used cars in California.

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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