You see the ads on Craigslist and you wonder if the first thing that pops into your head should be “Buyer beware.” We are talking not about Craigslist ads in general but the ads car sellers have placed online.
Savvy car buyers can find better deals for the same make and model of a vehicle that a local dealership has on sale by doing business with a private seller. What happens if a deal turns out to be too good to be true? Is the car buyer stuck with the lemon, or can the car buyer pursue a claim by referring to California lemon law?
Two legal issues form the foundation of whether consumers that purchase a vehicle from a private seller receive the same lemon law rights that car buyers have when doing business with an auto dealer. First, you have to know the answer to the question “Is the car you are interested in buying come with a warranty or a guarantee the vehicle is in great operating shape. Second, does a car purchased from a private seller that remains under the manufacturer’s warranty qualify you for a lemon law buyback if the car has irreparable damage?
Private Seller Deals Typically “As Is”
Buying a car that is outside of warranty coverage is taking a big risk on your investment. Without a guarantee backed by a manufacturer’s warranty, California lemon law considers the car to be “As is.” California lemon law does not require private vehicle sellers to offer warranties of any kind, which means purchasing a used vehicle from a private seller is like trying for an inside straight in a game of poker. If you buy a used car from a private seller and the car breaks down the next day, then you have found the ultimate definition of caveat emptor (buyer beware).
A private seller can offer you a deal that includes one or more guarantees such as the seller has replaced the brake pads and upgraded the vehicle’s electronic safety system. However, actions should speak louder than words in the form that any guarantee a car seller tells you must be backed by a written statement. Oral guarantees made in a private auto sales transaction carry little if any legal weight in California.
The Legal Power of the Manufacturer’s Warranty
If you decide to purchase a used vehicle from a private seller and the car remains under the manufacturer’s warranty, you probably are covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. Nearly every car manufacturer’s warranty automatically transfers to the person buying the car.
Let’s say you purchased a used car from a private seller that comes with the original manufacturer’s warranty. If the car experiences an issue and you take it into a car dealership for repairs, the car dealership must honor the manufacturer’s warranty. Failure to honor the warranty constitutes a violation of California lemon law
Is There a Way to Apply California Lemon Law to Private Sales?
Until recently, the answer was no. However, a growing number of California attorneys that specialize in lemon law cases believe it is possible to apply California lemon law to the private sale of an automobile. The legal theory, which an attorney has not yet tested in a California appellate court, states that a consumer who buys a lemon car from a private seller can bring a claim against the car manufacturer if the seller of the car assigns their California lemon law rights to the buyer.
If you can find a consumer protection lawyer who handles this type of case, you should be able to convince the seller of the used car to assign you the seller’s California lemon law rights. Assigning California lemon rights requires the drafting of a simple written agreement between the buyer and the seller that confirms the assignment. A California consumer protection lawyer can draft the assignment agreement for you.
Consult with a California Lemon Law Attorney
California has some of the strongest consumer protection laws of any state in the country. It is not out of the question that the state might eventually strengthen its lemon laws by protecting auto buyers that participate in a private transaction. If you are stuck with a lemon that you purchased from a private seller, contact an experienced consumer protection lawyer to determine the best course of action.