What Happens to Cars Repurchased Under the Lemon Law?

California Buyback Program for Cars

California’s Lemon Law offers a legal remedy to consumers who purchase vehicles that fail to conform to their warranties. If you bought a car with a defect that affected its safety or value, it’s crucial to be aware that a manufacturer might be required to repurchase it from you under the California buyback program for cars. However, you may be wondering whether you should opt for a buyback or replacement vehicle in the event you ended up with a lemon — and what happens to the cars that are repurchased under the lemon law.

What is the California Buyback Program for Cars?

California consumers are afforded certain safeguards when they purchase a new or used vehicle within the state. A lemon law buyback is a vehicle that is repurchased by the manufacturer because it has a defect or nonconformity. Significantly, if you prevail in a lemon law case and opt for a buyback — rather than a replacement car — you may be entitled to recover the purchase price of the vehicle and the out-of-pocket expenses you incurred due to dealing with the defect.

Are You Guaranteed to Get All Your Money Back With a Lemon Law Buyback?

Although you may be entitled to receive the price you paid for the vehicle if you choose a lemon law buyback over a replacement vehicle, you still may not get all of your money back. This is because the manufacturer will factor in a mileage offset to the total reimbursable amount. The mileage offset is calculated by multiplying the vehicle's purchase price by the number of miles driven at the time the first repair attempt was made. This amount is then divided by 120,000 — the number presumed to be the life expectancy of a vehicle in California.

When Will a Manufacturer Repurchase a Car?

A manufacturer may buy back a new or used car when it satisfies the criteria of California’s Lemon Law. Generally, a vehicle purchased in the state may be determined to be a lemon when it has a defect that substantially impairs its safety or value.

To invoke the California Lemon Law and take advantage of the California buyback program for cars, an owner must also show:

  • A reasonable number of repair attempts were made; or
  • The car was in the shop for 30 days or more; and
  • The problem persisted despite providing the manufacturer with an opportunity to make repairs

Additionally, the vehicle must be under the original manufacturer’s warranty at the time the defect is discovered to file a claim under the lemon law and take advantage of the California buyback program for cars. An owner has four years from the date of discovering the nonconformity to file a lemon law lawsuit. A vehicle may also be presumed to be a lemon if the defect arose within 18 months of the vehicle’s delivery or within the first 18,000 miles driven.

What Happens to Lemon Law Buybacks?

In many cases, lemon law buyback vehicles are repaired and resold to other consumers. However, California has stringent laws in place that require manufacturers to notify consumers concerning a vehicle’s lemon history. Both dealerships and vehicle manufacturers have an obligation to make disclosures regarding the defects that caused the car to rise to the level of a lemon and the repairs that were made.

Specifically, under the California Automotive Consumer Notification Act, a lemon law buyback must have a decal affixed to the car on the left door frame, indicating its status as a lemon. In addition, the manufacturer must register the vehicle in its own name and request that the DMV label the car as a “Lemon Law Buyback” in both the title and registration certificate.

A dealership must also truthfully disclose the lemon status of a vehicle. In fact, if you are considering purchasing a car with a lemon history, the dealership is required to provide you with a written disclosure that you must sign, acknowledging that you have been informed about the car’s history. The disclosure must inform you of the problem that occurred in the vehicle and the repairs made to correct it.

Is it Safe to Purchase a Lemon Law Buyback?

Depending on the circumstances, a manufacturer buyback can offer tremendous value. But while a car might be labeled a lemon law buyback, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unsafe to drive. In some cases, a minor defect may have been completely repaired. A car can also be deemed a “lemon” if it remained in the repair shop for a total of 30 days or more and the nonconformity was remedied soon after.

Critically, if the defect that made the car a lemon had to do with the brakes, steering system, transmission, or another part of the vehicle that could result in a safety issue, it may be best to avoid buying that specific vehicle. Not only could these types of problems be dangerous if they were not fully resolved, but they can also cause you to spend a significant amount of money at the repair shop.

Contact an Experienced California Lemon Law Attorney

If you purchased a vehicle that turned out to be a lemon, it’s essential to understand that you have options. A skilled California Lemon Law attorney can best advise you regarding your legal rights and remedies — and fight to obtain the buyback or replacement vehicle you deserve from the manufacturer. The Ledbetter Law Firm provides reliable representation and capable counsel to consumers who have experienced the hassle and inconvenience associated with their lemons.

The Ledbetter Law Firm assists people in Southern California who have experienced lemon law issues with their vehicles in obtaining favorable outcomes in their cases. With offices conveniently located in Torrance and San Diego, California, telephone and video conferencing options are also available. Call (424) 407-3745 to schedule a consultation with a California Lemon Law attorney today.