Many San Diego County car purchasers buy used automobiles, and have questions about whether the California lemon law applies to used cars as well. The lemon law for used cars is slightly different than the new car lemon law. It provides different levels of protection, with different remedies, depending on whether or not the defect is covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.

Defects Covered by the Manufacturer’s Warranty

All of the major automobile manufacturers offer warranties with their cars, trucks, and SUVs that are transferable to any second purchaser of the automobile. Typically, the bumper-to-bumper warranty is either for 3 years/36,000 miles or 5 years/60,000 miles. Additionally, some (but not all) manufacturers offer power train (or drive train) warranties that can be as long as 10 years/100,000 miles.

Consumers who buy a used automobile that malfunctions in a manner that is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty are covered by the California lemon law in a way that is virtually identical to how the lemon law treats new cars. That is, if a defect is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, and it substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of the automobile, the manufacturer must repair it within a “reasonable number of attempts.” If the manufacturer cannot do so, then it must either repurchase or replace the automobile.

It is important to remember however that under the California lemon law statute the only warranties that count as a “warranty” are the manufacturer’s warranty. Many car dealers sell so-called “extended warranties” along with their used cars. However, the coverage under these warranties is typically provided by a third party rather than the manufacturer. Thus, so-called “extended warranties” do not count as warranties for the purposes of the California lemon law.

Defects Covered by the Implied Warranty of Merchantability

For used car defects that are not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, consumers may be able to utilize the protections provided by the California lemon law statute’s implied warranty of merchantability. The implied warranty of merchantability is a very basic warranty, that usually offers relatively little protection. It essentially means that a product must be suitable for the ordinary purpose for which such products are used. For example, when someone buys a chair the implied warranty of merchantability would require that the chair be capable of supporting a person’s weight. But the fact that the chair squeaks when you sit in it, is stained, or is lumpy or uncomfortable would not be a violation of the implied warranty of merchantability. Only defects that prevent a product from being used for its intended purpose amount to a violation of the implied warranty of merchantability.

Under the California lemon law statute, unless the selling dealer follows some very specific guidelines to eliminate the implied warranty of merchantability (which they rarely do) it applies to any automobile that is sold with any manufacturer’s warranty or any warranty offered for free by the selling dealership under which the dealer (as opposed to a third party) is obligated to make the repairs. Because any warranty triggers the implied warranty of merchantability, this means that some defects may be covered by the lemon law even if they are not covered by the manufacturer’s or dealer’s express warranty. For example, if a dealer offers a 30-day warranty on a used automobile’s engine only, this triggers the implied warranty of merchantability, which covers the entire automobile with regard to defects that prevent the use of the automobile. This means that the implied warranty would also cover defects that prevent the doors from unlocking, that affect the vehicle’s steering making it unsafe, or that cause the brakes to malfunction.

Where present, the length of the implied warranty must be at least 30 days. If the manufacturer’s or dealership’s warranty is longer than 30 days, then the implied warranty of merchantability is the same length as the dealer or manufacturer warranty, up to maximum of three months.

Have a Question About the California Lemon Law For Used Cars?

If you bought a used car or truck from a San Diego car dealer, and want to learn more about the California lemon law for used cars, call the Law Office of Michael R. Vachon, Esq. at (858) 674-4100. Consultations are always free!

So find out if the lemon law for used cars applies to your automobile!