Are used cars covered under lemon laws?

May 18, 2022 by Juan Herrera, Vice President, Dispute Resolution Programs, BBB National Programs

As new car production continues to lag and prices soar, the demand for used cars is at an all-time high. While it is still possible to save on a used car versus its new counterpart, shoppers buying used are paying a premium due to the increased demand.  

Now, more than ever, it is important to do your homework to make sure the used car you plan to buy is not a lemon. But what if it does turn out to be a dud? Lemon laws protect new car buyers in every state if they buy a car with a defect that substantially impairs its value, use, or safety, but what about used car buyers? Do lemon laws cover used vehicles?

The answer may depend on where you purchased the vehicle or where you live. But before you dive in, if you are new to lemon laws read Lemon Law 101

 

Lemon Law and Used Cars

As with new vehicles, how used cars (vehicles with titles previously issued) are covered by state lemon laws varies state by state. While some states clearly exclude used vehicles from lemon law coverage, others avoid referencing them at all. If a state’s lemon law does not specifically exclude used vehicles, a consumer’s eligibility will depend on the various statutory guidelines of each state.  

State lemon laws that cover used cars have a variety of limitations. For example: 

  • Some require that a used vehicle be both purchased and registered in the same state. 
  • Some apply to dealership sales, but not private sales; others may include both, and some may cover a demonstrator vehicle but not a vehicle marked as purchased used.
  • Most state lemon laws will refer to the original purchase date or in-service date as opposed to the date of the used vehicle purchase.
  • Each state will have a deadline based on the vehicle’s age and mileage for when a lemon law dispute can be filed.
  • Some states will only address issues reported to the dealer or manufacturer within a specified timeframe.

 

Navigate the twists and turns of used car coverage by reviewing the lemon law in your state. Ready to file a claim? Get Started

 

Aside from the lemon law, some states provide additional warranty protections to used car buyers. For example:

  • In Illinois, people who buy used cars are protected by a law that requires used car dealers and auto auctions who sell a car "as-is" to provide a limited powertrain warranty for 15 days or 500 miles, whichever comes first.
  • Arizona provides an implied warranty of merchantability for the sale of a used vehicle.  It applies if a major component breaks within 15 days or 500 miles of its purchase, whichever comes first.
  • If the purchaser of a used car in California buys directly from the dealership and does not use a bank or other lending company, then the dealership must provide a warranty that lasts either a minimum of 30 days or 1,000 miles (whichever occurs first). Also in California, if a used car is sold as a “certified” pre-owned vehicle, the dealership must supply a 30-day warranty of merchantability indicating that the vehicle is adequate for consumer use and not defective.

 

How can BBB AUTO LINE help?

Clearly, lemon law cases involving used cars can be complicated. If you have an unresolved dispute involving a used car defect that is covered by the manufacturer’s original warranty, or a manufacturer’s used car warranty (versus a dealer warranty), BBB AUTO LINE may be able to assist you. 

To be eligible for BBB AUTO LINE support, your claim must involve one of our participating manufacturers and fall within the eligibility guidelines set forth by that manufacturer’s program summary. Eligibility may be based on your state’s lemon law or on the manufacturer’s warranty coverage period or a combination of both.

BBB AUTO LINE is one of the largest and longest-running out-of-court mediation and arbitration dispute resolution programs in the United States. For the past 40 years, we have helped consumers and businesses resolve vehicle warranty, lemon law, and class action disputes in a hassle-free, timely, and cost-effective manner. To learn more about BBB AUTO LINE, or to open a claim, go to bbbautoline.org, or call us at 1-800-955-5100. 

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