Picture this: you’ve just driven your new car off the dealership lot, and suddenly the check engine light shows up.

Or maybe you’ve been driving your new pickup for a month, and there’s an unsettling, loud noise from the rear axle that’s getting worse.

You think the dealer sold you a lemon. And you might be right.

In the U.S., a ‘lemon’ refers to a car that has serious defects or requires frequent repairs. They’re potentially unsafe to drive and could be unfit for sale due to the severity of their problems.

Purchasing a lemon can do plenty of damage to your wallet, free time, and mental health. What’s worse, some dealerships will try to trick customers into buying lemons by burying problematic details about the car under a stack of paperwork.

If you suspect your dealer sold you a lemon car, it’s important to know what to do next. Let’s talk about it.

What are Dealers Responsible For?

Car dealers must meet certain quality standards, which are part of what is known as ‘implied warranties’. The most common one is the warranty of merchantability. This means the dealer promises the car will work as it should.

In many places, dealers can sell cars “as-is,” or without any warranty. If the car’s paperwork says, “As Is – No Dealer Warranty,” you’re agreeing not to hold the dealer responsible for any problems with the car.

However, dealers must still tell you about any past accidents or damage. If they don’t, and you find out later, you could make a case for dealership fraud.

Proving Misrepresentation or Non-Disclosure

Auto sale fraud can take on many forms, one of the most common being denial of defects. This happens when a dealer sells a car without telling you the full truth about its history or condition.

Fortunately, you can take legal action against the dealership for fraudulent misrepresentation or non-disclosure. To win such a case, you must show that:

  • The dealer falsely described the car
  • The dealer knew these descriptions were false.
  • The dealer expected you to rely on this false information.
  • You relied on this information in your decision.
  • The false information was believable.
  • You faced losses due to these falsehoods.

What to Do if Your New Car is a Lemon

Under California’s lemon law, your vehicle needs to have an excessive repair history while still under warranty to qualify as a lemon. This typically includes, but is not limited to:

  • 2-4 attempts to fix the same issue.
  • A total of 6 repairs on the vehicle.
  • The vehicle being out of service for 30 days or more due to repairs.

Sounds familiar? Here’s what to do if you were wrongfully sold a lemon.

  1. Understand Your Options

There are two ways to deal with a lemon car in California.

Return the Car for a Refund: You can give the car back to the manufacturer and ask them to pay back:

  • Your down payment.
  • Monthly car payments.
  • Sales tax.
  • Registration and license fees.
  • Rental car expenses.
  • Towing costs.
  • Other related expenses.

Get a Replacement Vehicle: Alternatively, you can opt for a different vehicle from the dealership.

In California, you must allow the dealership a ‘reasonable’ number of tries to fix your car before you file a lemon law claim. This might sound vague, but usually, two failed repair attempts can justify a lawsuit. Sometimes, even one unsuccessful repair might be enough.

  1. Consult a Lemon Law Attorney

Proving dealership fraud can be tricky. You may not have the legal knowledge to handle this case on your own. Hence, it’s essential to hire a lemon law attorney in California to seek justice.

An attorney will:

  • Explain your rights and legal options
  • Assess your situation to determine if you have a valid fraud claim
  • Help you compile necessary documents and evidence
  • Negotiate a settlement with the dealership
  • Represent you in court, if necessary

Hiring a lawyer for your lemon law claim is often the most effective way to ensure fair compensation. Additionally, many lemon law firms in California operate on a contingency basis, meaning you don’t have to pay them upfront. Essentially, you’ll get expert legal representation without the immediate financial burden.

  1. Document Everything

A successful lemon law claim starts with the right documentation. You must keep track of:

Repair Attempts: Write down every repair, including dates and details. Keep all related bills.

Talks with Dealership: Note every call, email, or visit to the dealership, including who you spoke with and what was said.

Car’s Impact on Your Life: Record how the car’s issues affect your daily activities, like work or errands.

Extra Costs: Keep receipts for any extra expenses, like renting a car or using public transport.

  1. Watch Out for Baiting Tactics

Car dealers can use several tactics to dodge responsibility. First, they might try to pin the blame on you, claiming the car’s defects are due to your misuse or neglect.

Also, if the defects are clear, they might push you towards arbitration instead of a lemon law claim. They’ll likely argue that arbitration is quicker and less expensive and even offer to cover the costs.

But beware: arbitration can be risky. The arbitrator might favor the dealer, and you could end up with a much smaller settlement or nothing at all.

Do not take the bait. If your car is a lemon, it’s usually better to aim for a complete buyback or a replacement.

  1. Keep as Calm as Possible

We get it. It’s frustrating to buy a defective car and face the resulting problems. You might want to lash out at the dealer and give them a piece of your mind.

However, composure is key.

Getting angry, using harsh language, or losing your temper during negotiations won’t help your case. In fact, how you present yourself can significantly impact the outcome of your lemon law claim.

Remember, your demeanor matters, particularly if your case goes to court. Any negative interactions, like heated emails or angry calls during the negotiation phase, can be used against you to portray you as unreasonable.

Dealerships and their legal teams might use various tactics to make the process difficult. Do your best to keep your emotions in check.

The Bottom Line

Dealing with a lemon car isn’t easy, but you can handle it well with the right steps. Hopefully, this post has given you the insight you need to navigate through your lemon car situation effectively. We recommend getting in touch with a lemon lawyer in California for the best outcome.

Meta Description: If you suspect your dealer sold you a lemon car, it’s important to know what to do next. Let’s talk about it.

Author Bio: Brian K. Cline’s Lemon Law Legal Group provides premier legal services. Our California lemon law lawyers aggressively and ethically force vehicle manufacturers to buy back defective and dangerous vehicles. Our team includes experienced trial lawyers with over 40 years of combined trial experience.