New vs. Used Cars: Does the California Lemon Law Apply to Both?

February 2, 2024

 

When it comes to purchasing a vehicle, consumers often face the decision of whether to buy a new or used car. Regardless of the choice made, consumers expect their vehicles to be free from significant defects and problems. In California, the Lemon Law is in place to protect consumers when they find themselves with a problematic vehicle, commonly referred to as a "lemon." However, a common question that arises is whether the California Lemon Law applies to both new and used cars. In this blog post, we will explore the application of the California Lemon Law to new and used vehicles and provide insights into your rights as a consumer.

California's Lemon Law: An Overview

The California Lemon Law, officially known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, is a comprehensive set of regulations designed to safeguard the rights of consumers who purchase or lease vehicles that have substantial and unfixable defects. The primary purpose of the law is to ensure that consumers are not burdened with vehicles that fail to meet safety, performance, or quality standards.

Key Provisions of the California Lemon Law

1. Coverage of New and Used Vehicles: California's Lemon Law applies to both new and used vehicles, as long as they were purchased or leased for personal, family, or household use. This means that both brand-new cars and used vehicles may qualify for protection.

2. Lemon Law Rights Period: To be eligible for relief under the Lemon Law, the vehicle must still be under the manufacturer's original warranty or an extended warranty. The Lemon Law rights period typically lasts for 18 months from the date of delivery or until the vehicle reaches 18,000 miles on the odometer, whichever occurs first.

3. Substantial Defects: A vehicle must have a substantial defect or problem that affects its use, value, or safety to qualify as a 'lemon.' These defects should persist even after a reasonable number of repair attempts.

4. Reasonable Repair Attempts: Under the Lemon Law, the manufacturer or authorized dealer must be given a reasonable number of opportunities to fix the defect. The definition of a reasonable number of repair attempts may vary depending on the severity of the defect:

- For serious safety-related defects, such as brake or airbag issues, two or more repair attempts may be considered reasonable.

- For other non-safety defects, such as persistent engine or transmission problems, four or more repair attempts may be required.

5. Out-of-Service Period: If your vehicle has been out of service for a cumulative total of 30 or more days during the Lemon Law rights period due to repair attempts, it may qualify as a lemon.

Does the California Lemon Law Apply to New Cars?

Yes, the California Lemon Law applies to new cars. If you purchase or lease a brand-new vehicle and it develops substantial defects that affect its use, value, or safety, you are covered by the Lemon Law. New vehicles come with manufacturer warranties, and the Lemon Law protects consumers who experience issues that persist even after a reasonable number of repair attempts.

Does the California Lemon Law Apply to Used Cars?

Yes, the California Lemon Law also applies to used cars. This is a crucial aspect of the law that many consumers may not be aware of. When you purchase or lease a used vehicle for personal, family, or household use and it develops substantial defects during the Lemon Law rights period, you have the same rights and protections as if you had purchased a new car.

However, it's important to note that the Lemon Law rights period for used cars is the same as for new cars: 18 months from the date of delivery or until the vehicle reaches 18,000 miles on the odometer, whichever comes first. This means that if you buy a used car that is still covered by the manufacturer's original warranty or an extended warranty and it exhibits substantial defects within this period, you can pursue a Lemon Law claim.

What Qualifies as a 'Lemon' for New and Used Cars?

Whether you have a new or used vehicle, the criteria for what qualifies as a 'lemon' under the California Lemon Law remain the same:

1. Substantial Defects: The vehicle must have a substantial defect or problem that affects its use, value, or safety.

2. Reasonable Repair Attempts: The manufacturer or authorized dealer must be given a reasonable number of opportunities to fix the defect. The number of repair attempts may vary depending on the severity of the defect.

3. Out-of-Service Period: If your vehicle has been out of service for a cumulative total of 30 or more days during the Lemon Law rights period due to repair attempts, it may qualify as a lemon.

The California Lemon Law provides protection for consumers who purchase or lease both new and used vehicles. If your vehicle, whether new or used, develops substantial defects that persist even after a reasonable number of repair attempts, you have the right to pursue a Lemon Law claim. Understanding your rights as a consumer is essential, and taking the necessary steps to document issues and seek legal assistance from a California lemon law lawyer when needed can help you assert your rights and work toward a resolution that provides you with a reliable vehicle or a refund for your defective purchase.

 

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