Manufacturer Warranty Doesn’t Extend to Buyers of Used Cars Under California Lemon Law

Manufacturer Warranty Doesn't Extend to Buyers of Used Cars Under California Lemon Law

California Lemon Law Only Applies to Buyers of New Vehicles

A recent state appellate court ruling on April 7, 2022, upheld a lower court’s decision that a manufacturer’s warranty does not carry over to the second owner of a vehicle purchased used. Therefore, the second owner is not protected under California lemon law.

Everardo Rodriguez and Judith Arellano found this out the hard way. In 2013, they purchased a used, two-year-old 2011 Dodge Ram 2500 pickup truck. The vehicle had 55,000 miles on it when they bought it from Pacific Auto Center in Fontana. The couple knew the basic three-year/36,000mile bumper-to-bumper warranty had expired. However, they erroneously believed the balance of the five-year/100,000mile limited powertrain warranty still applied to their vehicle. The powertrain warranty covers the engine, transmission, and drive system. They started experiencing electrical defects in the truck one year later. The dealership in Hemet initially repaired the truck, but the check engine light kept coming on and there were five more attempts to fix it.

Used Car Buyer Sued Chrysler

The Dodge owners made an attempt to get FCA US, LLC (Chrysler) to refund the sales price or replace the vehicle, but the auto maker refused. Chrysler claimed the “refund or replace provision” of the lemon law does not apply to vehicles such as theirs that were purchased used — even if the warranty period had not expired.

The couple fought back. They sued Chrysler on April 30, 2018 at Riverside County Superior Court. The couple believed they were protected under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (the Act) (Civ. Code, § 1790 et seq.) — also known as California’s “Lemon Law.”

The law, enacted in 1970, protects consumers who purchase new cars sold with an express warranty. In this case, Rodriguez and Arellano believed they were covered by this warranty when they bought their Dodge used.

However, the auto manufacturer argued that the couple’s used vehicle does not qualify for lemon law protection. At issue, was the phrase in the lemon law “other motor vehicle sold with a manufacturer’s new car warranty.” The Dodge owners argued their used car was sold with a valid express or written warranty. Apparently, that was not the case as it didn’t extend to their ownership.

Judge Confirms Lemon Law Doesn’t Apply to Buyers of Used Cars

Indeed, the auto manufacturer moved for a summary judgement. They argued, the Dodge was purchased used or previously-owned and does not qualify for the 5-year powertrain warranty on new vehicles. The trial judge agreed with Chrysler that the lemon law does not cover sales of previously owned vehicles.

Specifically, the judge confirmed the phrase “other motor vehicle” sold with a new car warranty applies only to “dealer-owned cars and demonstrators” sold with a new car warranty. It does not apply to vehicles that were previously sold with leftover warranty. Also, the FCA argued consumer warranty act’s definition clearly states it applies to “new motor vehicles.”

Rodriguez v FCA has finally settled the question about whether the term “new car warranty” in the lemon law applies to buyers of a used vehicle.  Under the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, the consumer who purchases a used vehicle will not be eligible to claim the replacement or refund benefit from the manufacturer even if there is a balance on the warranty.

California Lemon Law Attorney James Johnson

Did you purchase a new defective vehicle with a major safety issue, an unfixable defect or ongoing problems? If so, you may need help.

California Lemon Law Attorney James Johnson will review your potential case and let you know if it qualifies as a lemon.

We recommend that you obtain an invoice for all repairs and recall visits from the dealership. These documents will support your potential case. Should the vehicle experience repeated issues or become a safety risk, these documents support the Lemon Law Claim. Contact us for a free case review at (800) 558-1087.

James Johnson ESQ