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Is My Certified Pre-Owned Car Covered Under California Lemon Law?


It is commonly believed that purchasing a used vehicle can save you a substantial amount of money. While this is often true, it’s not always the case. Tens of thousands of consumers end up purchasing used vehicles that turn out to be lemons every year. Although these consumers may save some money initially, many find themselves repeatedly visiting repair shops to deal with recurring issues.


**The Importance of Research**


To avoid bringing home a lemon, it’s essential to conduct thorough research before purchasing a used vehicle, especially with the variety of options available today, from pre-owned to certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles.


**What Is a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle?**


A certified used vehicle, also known as a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle, is a previously owned car that has been inspected, reconditioned, and meets the manufacturer’s standards. These vehicles typically come with extended manufacturer’s warranties, have fewer than 60,000 miles, and are usually five years old or less. Auto manufacturers like Toyota, Subaru, and Mercedes Benz sell tens of thousands of certified pre-owned vehicles annually.


**California Vehicle Code Section 11713.18**


California law requires that CPO vehicles obtain the manufacturer’s permission to certify that these vehicles meet specific standards. Certification involves a detailed multi-point inspection and is backed by the original manufacturer for a specified period. However, rigorous inspections don’t guarantee that CPO vehicles are always safe or reliable; some may still turn out to be lemons.


**Auto Fraud and Certification Programs**


Many instances of auto fraud involve used vehicles. Some dealers sell CPO cars for more than they’re worth or falsely advertise certification. Additionally, certification standards vary across brands, so a vehicle passing one program might fail another. To avoid these pitfalls, it’s crucial to request full inspection reports, research the vehicle history report, and closely examine the title for red flags like “lemon buyback,” “rebuilt,” or “salvaged.” A vehicle cannot be certified if it has an inaccurate odometer, is sold "as-is," has damage from collision, fire, or flood, all systems are not in working order, or has frame or unibody damage. Selling such a vehicle as "certified" constitutes fraud.


**Which Types of Used Vehicles Are Covered?**


California’s Lemon Law covers both new and used vehicles repeatedly repaired under the manufacturer’s warranty. If these repairs significantly impair the vehicle’s safety, use, or value, the consumer is entitled to a repurchase or replacement plus related damages. Used vehicle and CPO vehicle consumers may be entitled to Lemon Law compensation if:


- The pre-owned vehicle was purchased from a certified retailer, not a private individual.

- The vehicle is covered by a warranty.

- Multiple repair attempts have been made for the same or similar issue.


Lemon law issues can arise months or years after the purchase, so it’s essential to buy used or CPO vehicles still under manufacturer warranty from authorized dealers.


**Purchasing a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Vehicle at a Used Car Dealership**


Dealers must disclose material facts about a vehicle’s history, even without a specific request. Important disclosures include accident and repair history. Dealers must also provide completed inspection reports with all used vehicle sales. California’s Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights offers additional protections, including buyer disclosures, right to cancel the purchase, and limits on markups. Dealers must provide an itemized price list of all financed items and disclose dealer compensation from financial institutions. This law does not apply to private sales between individuals, off-highway motor vehicles, or motorcycles.


**Certified Pre-Owned Warranties Under the CA Lemon Law**


The California Lemon Law gives manufacturers and authorized service providers a reasonable number of attempts to repair a defect during the vehicle warranty. Generally, a reasonable number of attempts may be met when:


- The vehicle is out of service for 30 or more days for repairs.

- Two or more repair attempts have been made for a recurring defect that can cause injury or death.

- Repairs have been attempted on the same defect over four times.


Keeping track of all repair work is essential if your vehicle turns out to be a lemon.


**Is My Certified Pre-Owned Car a Lemon?**


Your certified pre-owned car might be a lemon if multiple repairs have been made under the limited or powertrain warranties. Common defects include brake system failure, transmission issues, engine problems, defective latches, and electrical issues. These problems can range from distracting to dangerous. If you suspect you have a lemon, it’s crucial to understand your rights.


**Seek Legal Help**


The California Lemon Law can be complex, especially with used vehicles. Consult a highly experienced lemon law attorney for guidance. The Lemon Law Experts can help you determine your legal rights and see if you qualify for a lemon law claim. We have secured substantial compensation for clients throughout California. If you believe you have brought home a lemon, reach out to us today for a free consultation.

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