IS MY CERTIFIED PRE-OWNED CAR COVERED UNDER CALIFORNIA LEMON LAW?
Norman Taylor & Associates
January 1, 2023
There are certain risks that come with buying a used car.
You don’t always get the assurance that the car is reliable, especially if you don’t know the vehicle’s history. It may be hard to find out exactly how the previous owner used it or if it was maintained properly
Even if you’re provided with this information, or find detailed service records, there’s a good chance it’s not 100% accurate.
So how can consumers best protect themselves if they don’t want to pay the sticker price for a brand-new car? Buying a certified pre-owned vehicle can be a much smarter choice. However, they can end up being lemons, too.
Here’s how California lemon law applies to certified pre-owned vehicles and what your rights are as a consumer.
WHAT DOES CERTIFIED PRE-OWNED MEAN?
When a vehicle is certified pre-owned (or CPO), it should typically have fewer than 85,000 miles on it and should be less than six years old. Certified pre-owned vehicles still have a valid manufacturer’s warranty and usually even come with an extended warranty.
Before being offered for sale, vehicles go through a series of thorough inspections to determine if they’re worthy of the certified pre-owned title.
The following may be considered when inspecting a vehicle to be labeled certified pre-owned:
- The car does not have frame damage
- The car has not undergone damage caused by flood, collision, or fire
- The vehicle was not bought back under federal or state warranty law
- The odometer of the vehicle must clearly show its actual mileage
- All mechanicals and systems are in proper working order
Can a Certified Pre-Owned Car be a Lemon?
Yes, a certified pre-owned car can still be a lemon. Luckily, California has laws in place that extend lemon law protection to used cars.
If you’re interested in purchasing a used car, certified pre-owned ones are a great choice. This certification should remove most doubts you have about something going wrong with a used car.
However, even passing a thorough inspection with flying colors doesn’t mean the car will be defect-free forever. Nothing can ever be 100% guaranteed, and even certified pre-owned vehicles can turn out to be lemons.
Sometimes, vehicles that were extensively inspected still end up being a lemon. Other times, the dealership may have failed to thoroughly inspect the vehicle, missing a serious problem. (We put together this certified pre-owned car checklist to help you avoid these scenarios!)
WHAT ARE THE RULES AND REQUIREMENTS FOR DEALERS?
Dealers are required to disclose material facts about the car’s history. They must always be ready to give this information even if you don’t ask.
Should a dealer fail to disclose essential facts about the car’s status and damage — a warning sign you could be buying a lemon — they can be charged with fraud.
Some examples of the information that should be disclosed include:
- The car was a former rental vehicle
- Repair history
- History of accidents
Differences in Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle Requirements
While most manufacturers require certified pre-owned vehicles to have up-to-date repair history, the requirements vary.
For example, Toyota’s Certified Pre-Owned program involves a 160-point inspection and requires vehicles to be less than six years old with less than 85,000 miles.
Certified Pre-Owned BMWs require a car to have less than 60,000 miles, be less than four years old, only contain genuine OEM parts, and pass an extensive inspection and road test.
HOW IS A “CERTIFIED” WARRANTY DIFFERENT FROM AN EXTENDED WARRANTY?
Certified pre-owned vehicles must meet specific requirements as per the manufacturer’s standards to be eligible for the certified warranty.
There are several differences between a “certified” manufacturer’s warranty and an extended warranty.
These may include:
- Price – An extended warranty is an additional cost whereas a certified warranty is included in the price of the vehicle.
- Coverage – Many certified pre-owned vehicles have some bumper-to-bumper provision. Extended warranties usually only cover parts.
HOW CERTIFIED WARRANTIES WORK UNDER LEMON LAW
Certified pre-owned cars are offered on the market with written warranties. These warranties offer consumer protection under lemon law, which requires manufacturers to fix any issues stipulated under warranty. Should they fail, new owners are entitled to compensation.
California Lemon Law & Certified Pre-Owned Cars
Unfortunately, even certified pre-owned vehicles can wind up being a lemon. If you’ve experienced problems or have noticed defects with your certified pre-owned vehicle, you may be protected under lemon law if:
- The vehicle was purchased from an authorized retailer (private sales aren’t covered under lemon law)
- The car is still covered under a warranty, whether it’s the original manufacturer’s warranty or an extended warranty offered at the time of sale
- The vehicle is experiencing an issue affecting its use, value, or safety that’s covered under its warranty
- The issue has not been resolved even after multiple repair attempts, or a reasonable number of opportunities to repair
Think Your Certified Pre-Owned Car is a Lemon?
If you’ve recently bought a certified pre-owned vehicle and have been experiencing repeated issues despite repair attempts made by the manufacturer, you could be entitled to a replacement or refund.
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