Californians who take the time to do so can often find better deals by purchasing used cars, trucks, and SUVs from private parties, as opposed to car dealers. However, if the automobiles don’t operate as expected they often have questions about whether or not the California lemon law applies to private party sales.
Generally, there are two legal issues involved in whether or not the California lemon law covers private party sales: (1) whether automobiles purchased from private parties come with any warranties or guarantees that they are in good shape or will continue to be operable; and (2) whether automobiles purchased from private parties while they are still under the manufacturers’ warranties qualify for a lemon law buyback if they turn out to have chronic unrepairable defects.
If you buy an automobile from a private party in California that is already out of the manufacturer’s warranty, then absent a guarantee from the seller that the vehicle will continue to operate it is an “as is” sale i.e., it comes with no warranties whatsoever. The California lemon law does not mandate that private sellers offer any warranties at all. That means that the automobile could break down the next day and you would have no legal recourse against the seller. This is a classic scenario in which the maxim caveat emptor (“buyer beware”) applies.
Moreover, even if a private party did tell you that the vehicle was in excellent condition, just had its engine rebuilt, would work for years to come, etc. unless you obtain this statement in writing it will be virtually impossible for you to later prove.
So the most important thing to remember when buying an automobile from a private party is that you should get the vehicle’s mechanical condition checked yourself. Ask if you can have a mechanic of your choice look it over prior to buying it. It will probably cost you $100 – $250 for an inspection, but this money is well spent considering your investment. If the seller won’t let you have the vehicle inspected, then don’t walk away – run.
The second most important thing to remember is that you should not rely on anything that the seller tells you, unless he or she puts it in writing. If you need to enforce your legal rights later, then what actually happened doesn’t really matter – it’s what you can prove that matters. So get it in writing.
If you purchased a used car from a private party and the vehicle was still under the manufacturer’s warranty, then you are likely still covered under the warranty. Virtually all auto manufacturers’ warranties transfer to a subsequent purchaser. But if you take the vehicle in for repair numerous times and the manufacturer’s dealerships either cannot or will not properly repair the vehicle, then the issue of whether the California lemon law covers the private party sale, and whether you are entitled to a lemon law buyback, is another matter.
The California lemon law’s requirements cover both “consumer goods” and “new motor vehicles.” Purchasing a used car, truck, or SUV from a private party is obviously not a purchase of a new motor vehicle. Further, although it is a purchase of a “consumer good,” and even though the definition of “consumer goods” covers used goods purchased with a warranty, “consumer goods” is defined in the California lemon law statute to mean goods purchased at retail with a warranty. Since a private seller is not a retailer, it is very likely that the California lemon law’s buyback rules do not apply to automobiles purchased from private sellers, even if they were purchased while the manufacturers’ warranties were still in effect.
That being said, some (but not all) lemon law attorneys in California are willing to take cases that involve the private sale of a used automobile under warranty if the purchaser knows the seller and convince him or her to sign a document assigning (i.e., selling) his or her rights under the California lemon law to the buyer. So if you purchased a used automobile, under warranty, from a private seller and it turned out to be lemon, then don’t give up. If you can convince the seller to assign his or her lemon law right to you, then if you are persistent, and willing to call several attorneys, you may be able to find an attorney to take your case.
The Vachon Law Firm, in some cases, represents consumers who purchased used cars, trucks, and SUVs from private parties while they were still under warranty. If you purchased a lemon automobile from a private party while it was still under warranty and know the seller or can obtain his or her cooperation, then contact us immediately. You can reach us at 1-855-4-LEMON-LAW (1-855-453-6665) and you can also contact us through this website.
At the Vachon Law Firm, consultations are always free!