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Used Car Lemon Law

Bakersfield Lemon Law Center "Helping Consumers with their defective vehicles throughout California"


With the downturn of the nation's economy, many people are now purchasing used cars to save money.  Because new vehicles experience rapid depreciation in the first few years of ownership purchasing a pre-owned car can make a lot of financial sense.

A used car is covered under the California Lemon Law as long as your used car has been to the dealership for warranty repairs during the manufacturer's original warranty period, typically 3-years/36,000 miles.  Some vehicles come with a longer warranty from the manufacturer, including several of the diesel engine vehicles, which come with a 100,000 mile warranty.  Lemon Law coverage applies if the problem started while under the original warranty.  If you are not sure whether your car was repaired under the original warranty offered by the manufacturer or an extended warranty or extended service contract, please call us at 1-888-805-3666 and we will help you determine if you qualify for a refund under the California Lemon Law.

How to Prevent Having Your Warranty Voided

A warranty is a contract between you and the company that built your car. It promises to take care of any applicable repairs, provided that you maintain the vehicle to proper expectations. But like any contract, it can be broken if you don't hold up your end of the bargain, so it is important to know what circumstances can void your warranty.

When the Dealership Refuses to Repair Your Vehicle Under the Manufacturer's Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty...

Any time you take your car to the dealer for warranty repairs, they must file a claim with the manufacturer, which is how they get paid for the work performed under warranty. If a repair isn't covered under the manufacturer's warranty, the claim will be denied and the dealer won't get paid. This could mean paying for the work out of your own pocket, and in many circumstances, a dealer will make the determination whether your car is covered before a claim is even submitted.

What Voids Your Entire Warranty?

Salvage title: If your car was in a severe accident and was given a salvage title or declared a total loss, your entire warranty is voided. Keep this in mind if you are looking to purchase a late-model used car from a private party or independent used car lot. If you are unsure about a car's past, obtain a vehicle history report.

Misuse of the vehicle: Examples of misuse include racing, overloading the vehicle, and off-roading. Anything outside of normal use of the vehicle can be considered misuse. Some automakers will void your entire warranty for these infractions, and this decision is typically left to the discretion of the warranty administrator. Even if there is no proof but just signs of abuse, your warranty claim may be denied.

Environmental damage: If your vehicle was damaged in a fire, flood, earthquake or any other environmental disaster, the automaker will not honor your warranty.

Altered odometer: If your car's odometer has been disconnected, tampered with or replaced, the dealer cannot determine the exact mileage and may void the warranty.

Failure to maintain the vehicle: Some people are so oblivious to the needs of their vehicle, they have gone years without having an oil change. If your car is still under warranty, avoid this at all costs. If you fail to take your vehicle in for service during its scheduled maintenance, the dealer is not responsible for repairing any damage to the engine.

Aftermarket parts or modifications: This aspect of warranty coverage has a great deal of gray area. Although many dealers would have you think otherwise, simply having an aftermarket part or modifying your vehicle cannot void your warranty. 

The saving grace for consumers is the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975. The act states that a dealer must prove that aftermarket equipment caused the need for repairs before it can deny warranty coverage.

However, if the reason for a parts failure is unclear, a dealer will usually charge you to diagnose the vehicle. If the aftermarket part was not properly installed or a modification led to a component failure, it is within the dealer's right to void the warranty for that part, and you will have to pay for the repairs out of pocket. If the aftermarket parts had nothing to do with the repairs in question, you will be refunded the fee for the diagnosis.

Aftermarket performance parts installed on your vehicle may cause the dealership to suspect you either drive the vehicle hard or possibly race it, either of which could be considered "abuse" and create a basis for voiding the warranty.  Modifications generally raised a red flag to the dealership's service advisor, resulting in additional probing for signs of neglect or abuse to the vehicle.

Follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule: This is a good idea in general, but for the sake of keeping your warranty intact follow the manufacturer's recommended service schedule. 

Keep all service records and receipts: This is another good habit to keep in case you want to sell your vehicle, but also to have as proof that you maintained your vehicle. If you perform maintenance on the car yourself, save the receipts for the parts and fluids you bought.

Warranties are open to interpretation: If you feel that a service advisor has denied your warranty claim unfairly, you can speak directly with an attorney for a free consultation by calling 888-80-LEMON.

Fast Fax Lemon Law Review

Think you got a lemon?  Fax your Repair Invoices to us and we will review the repair history for your vehicle and call you back with specific information about how you can use the California Lemon Law to get a refund.

Fax Number:  1-858-272-9009

"Representing consumers throughout California since 1994"