Used car dealers typically sell cars on which the manufacturer’s
warranty has expired. Consumers often assume that used cars do not qualify
for the California Lemon Law. However, sometimes the dealer will issue
a separate “dealer’s warranty” – usually good
for 30 days. The short term of the warranty gives you as the buyer a very
narrow time frame to do anything about a problem car. However, you still
have some rights.
The first and most important rule is know what you’re buying. But
let’s say despite all of your diligence, the car starts to sputter
when you try to accelerate up to freeways speeds or you discover some
other serious defect two days after you buy it. It is very important to
present the vehicle for repairs and make a record of it within the 30-day
period and if the problem isn’t handled to go back.
Ideally, you’ll present the car, they’ll do the work and give
you a repair order documenting when you brought it to them. But what do
you do if the dealer says, sorry we’re busy, bring it in next week
(after the warranty is up)? Or, they claim it is a normal characteristic
of the vehicle and refuse to repair it or give you a document?
It is vital to any case you may want to present to have evidence of presenting
it for repair within the warranty period. If polite persistence doesn’t
get you a repair order, you can write a letter to the dealer stating the
date and time you brought the car in for service, whom you spoke to, the
defects with the car that you wanted to fix and the exact response. You
can have someone go with you who can provide corroboration that you went
there. You should save things such as voice mails and e-mails from the
dealership that indicate they knew of the problem within the warranty period.
If you have a used car that can’t be fixed don’t assume you
have no rights under the lemon law just because it is used. A qualified
lemon law attorney may be able to help you get a refund or replacement.
The job is made easier if you’ve got a paper trail.