No Warranty? No Problem: California’s Lemon Law When There’s No Warranty

California’s Lemon Law is designed to protect your rights as a consumer if you end up with a defective vehicle. Over 100,000 vehicles sold in California every year are lemons. While many believe that only new cars or those under warranty fall under the California Lemon Law, the law also extends to vehicles purchased without a warranty in certain situations. This can include specific cases like used cars that have significant defects.

Let’s clarify how the Lemon Law applies in California, especially for vehicles not covered by a manufacturer’s or dealer’s warranty. 

Close-up of Lemon Law without warranty document

What is the California Lemon Law About?

California’s Lemon Law, officially known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, is designed to protect consumers who purchase vehicles that turn out to be defective. The law primarily covers vehicles with a manufacturer’s or dealer’s warranty, ensuring that consumers can get a refund or replacement if their vehicle has a significant defect that affects its use, value, or safety and cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts.

What Makes a Vehicle a Lemon?

In California, a vehicle is considered a lemon if it has a substantial defect that the manufacturer or its agents are unable to fix within a reasonable number of attempts while the vehicle is under warranty. It is critical to understand the time limits for filing a Lemon Law Claim to ensure your case is processed correctly.

This presumption can make it easier for consumers to seek relief under the law, but it is not a strict requirement; consumers can still pursue a lemon law claim even if their situation falls outside of these specific parameters.

Here are the key elements that define a lemon vehicle in California:

  • The same problem has been attempted to be fixed at least twice and continues to persist if it’s a serious safety defect that could cause death or serious bodily injury.
  • The same problem has been attempted to be fixed at least four times and persists for non-safety-related defects.
  • The vehicle has been out of service for repair for more than 30 cumulative calendar days for any combination of problems.

The vehicle’s manufacturer must have been directly notified about the issue and given an opportunity to fix it. This notification is part of the process to allow the manufacturer a chance to repair the vehicle before it is deemed a lemon.

Because navigating the lemon law can be complex, you should contact us to do all the work for you. We have the expertise and several people like you who have similar cases. Schedule a no-cost consultation with us today! 

Steps to Take if Your Vehicle Has No Warranty

If you believe your vehicle without a warranty qualifies under California’s Lemon Law, you should take the following steps:

  • Keep a detailed record of all repairs, communications, and issues from the moment you notice a defect.
  • Reach out to organizations or legal services specializing in Lemon Law. They can provide advice on your specific situation and help determine if you have a case.
  • Inform the manufacturer or seller about the issues, preferably in writing, to give them an opportunity to resolve the problem.

If the issue is not resolved, consulting with a Lemon Law attorney can help you understand your rights and the next steps to take.

examining a defective vehicle Lemon law criteria

Does the California Lemon Law Cover Vehicles Purchase Without a Warranty? 

No, the California Lemon Law does not cover vehicles purchased without a warranty. However, California has other laws and protections that offer recourse to buyers of used vehicles sold without a warranty. For example, the Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights provides protections to consumers who purchase used vehicles from licensed dealerships in California. It includes requirements for dealers to provide purchasers with a two-day cancellation option on certain used cars, restrictions on advertising certified used cars, and the requirement to provide a vehicle history report in certain circumstances.

Even when a vehicle is sold “as is,” the seller is still prohibited from engaging in deceptive practices. This means they cannot hide known defects or make false claims about the vehicle’s condition. There are also specific requirements and protections related to salvage vehicles.

If you find yourself in a situation where a vehicle purchase may fall into a gray area, contact us for guidance on how to navigate the issue.

Can I still Get Lemon Law Protections Without a Warranty?

California’s Lemon Law can still protect consumers who purchase vehicles without a warranty. This might come as a surprise to many, but even if your car was bought “as is,” or the seller explicitly stated there was no warranty, you could still be covered under certain conditions.

When a vehicle is sold without a warranty, it usually means the buyer takes it as it is, with all its faults, without any promise from the seller to fix potential issues. However, in California, the law provides a safety net through the concept of implied warranties

These are not written or spoken, but they are legal obligations that apply to most consumer goods, including vehicles, and these warranties last for a minimum of 60 days

Here’s How We’ve Helped Our Clients

One of our clients purchased a used car sold “as is” from a dealership. A few weeks after the purchase, he discovers a significant mechanical defect that impairs the vehicle’s use, value, or safety. He took it back to the dealership, and they attempted repairs, but the issue persisted. 

Our client’s detailed records of the defect, repair attempts, and all communication with the dealership formed the basis of a Lemon Law claim. We argued that despite the lack of an express warranty, the implied warranty of merchantability was breached because the vehicle was not fit for its ordinary purposes at the time of sale.

Another client bought a used vehicle from a private seller, with the sale marked as “as is,” meaning there is no express warranty. However, our client later found that the vehicle had a serious defect that was not disclosed and significantly affected its usability. For this case, we argued that our client can seek recourse under the Lemon Law by demonstrating that the seller knowingly hid the defect at the point of sale.

The key takeaway from these cases is the vital role of documentation. Keeping detailed records, including receipts for the purchase, notes from conversations with the seller or manufacturer, repair orders, and any other relevant correspondence, can be invaluable. 

These documents helped us to prove that the vehicle was defective from the point of sale and that the buyer gave the seller or manufacturer a reasonable opportunity to rectify the issue.

Remember, every case is unique, and the specifics of the law can be complex. You should consult with us to get tailored advice and help that would help you navigate the claim process effectively.

Not Sure What To Do? Hire a Lemon Law Assist Attorney Today!

Even without a manufacturer’s or dealer’s warranty, California’s Lemon Law may still offer protection if you end up with a defective vehicle. Understanding your rights and the law’s provisions is the first step toward resolving such issues. 

Contact our skilled legal team specializing in lemon law at Lemon Law Assist to discover how best we can support your case.

Our seasoned team of lemon law experts in California is ready to address any questions or concerns you might have. Remember, the absence of a warranty doesn’t automatically exclude you from Lemon Law protection. Contact us today for a no-cost consultation!

Defective car with a visible engine problem

Frequently Asked Questions

Does California Lemon Law apply to used vehicles without a warranty?

Yes, California Lemon Law can apply to used vehicles without a warranty under certain conditions. If a used vehicle is sold with an implied warranty or if the vehicle’s defects were not disclosed at the time of sale, consumers might have recourse under the Lemon Law.

What qualifies for California lemon law?

A vehicle qualifies under California Lemon Law if it has a substantial defect covered by the warranty that significantly affects its use, value, or safety, and the manufacturer has been unable to fix the defect after a reasonable number of attempts. This can also apply to used vehicles under certain conditions.

Is there a 30-day warranty on used cars in California?

California does not automatically provide a 30-day warranty on used cars. However, dealers must offer a warranty on vehicles that meet specific criteria, such as being less than 10 years old and having under 150,000 miles. The duration of this warranty can vary.

Is there an implied warranty on a used car in California?

Yes, there is an implied warranty on used cars in California. The implied warranty of merchantability means that the vehicle should be fit for the ordinary purposes for which such vehicles are used and last for a minimum period of time, typically at least 30 days.

Can you return a used car if there is a problem in California?

Returning a used car because it has problems can be challenging in California unless the vehicle qualifies under the Lemon Law or there was a breach of warranty or misrepresentation at the point of sale.

What is the implied warranty rule?

The implied warranty rule refers to the unwritten and unspoken guarantee that a product will work as expected. In the context of vehicles, this means the car will function as it should, including being safe to drive and free of major defects.

What is the return policy for used car dealerships in California?

Return policies for used car dealerships in California vary. While there’s no statewide mandate for a “cooling-off” period for used car sales, certain protections, like the implied warranty, may allow for recourse if the vehicle has significant issues.

How long is an implied warranty good for in California?

The duration of an implied warranty in California can vary, but for consumer goods, it typically lasts at least 60 days up to one year, depending on the product and circumstances.

What are 3 examples of implied warranties?

Three examples of implied warranties include the warranty of merchantability (the product will do what it’s supposed to do), the warranty of fitness for a particular purpose (the seller’s advice that a product can be used for a specific purpose), and the warranty of title (the seller has the right to sell the product).

What is the implied warranty law in California?

The implied warranty law in California ensures that products, including vehicles, are fit for their ordinary purposes, meet the buyer’s expectations, and comply with any specific promises or descriptions made at the time of sale.

What is the 7-year lemon law in California?

The 7-year term often associated with California Lemon Law refers to the time limit for consumers to bring a Lemon Law claim for a vehicle. It’s not an automatic coverage period but rather a statute of limitations from the date of the first repair attempt for the warranty-covered defect.


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Attorney Sam Mollaei

These lawsuits claim that Nissan refused to admit the CVT transmission was defective. Instead, they tried to disguise the defects with inadequate repairs. Although some lawsuits have been settled, Nissan continues to install these faulty CVTs in newer models.

Nissan offers warranties that may cover CVT transmission problems. Knowing what is covered and how to file a claim is essential. This guide will help you navigate the warranty process and explain what to do if your claim is denied.

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