There’s a lot you have to navigate when you’re trying to buy a used car: finding a vehicle that will fit your lifestyle, won’t kill your budget, and, according to at least one lemon law attorney for used cars in the Bay Area, the possibility of encountering once-defective vehicles that have been put back on the market. They’re called “lemon law buybacks,” and if you’re in the market for a vehicle, you’ll want to know what they are and how to identify them before you start your search. Here’s what you’ll need to know.
An Overview On Lemon Laws And The Buyback
You may have heard stories of—or even know personally—someone who purchased a “lemon” of a car that had continual defects from the moment they bought it. Lemon Laws are a form of consumer protection against these sorts of scenarios, as they provide some recourse to consumers who have purchased a vehicle that was faulty from the start. To qualify as a lemon, though, a vehicle needs to meet a few qualifying criteria first.
To start, the vehicle must have a “substantial defect,” meaning something that can impact the safety or value of the vehicle. These issues should be something that’s covered by a warranty, and they need to occur within a certain time period or number of miles from the initial purchase of the vehicle. Furthermore, to qualify as a lemon, the manufacturer will have had to make unsuccessful attempts to repair the problems in question. Generally speaking:
- For serious safety issues, it’s a lemon if it can’t be repaired after the first attempt.
- For not-so-serious issues, the manufacturer has about three or four attempts.
- If the vehicle has spent longer than a month in the shop (within the period of a year) then that often equates to multiple repair attempts, and qualifies the vehicle as a lemon.
Now, if a vehicle meets these criteria, then there are a few ways things might play out. The manufacturer may attempt to reimburse the owner for just the equity on the vehicle, they may attempt arbitration, or it could go to court. In many of these instances, though, when the car in question is proven to be a lemon, the manufacturer will repurchase it (our “buyback”).
After that buyback, the manufacturer will often try to completely repair the vehicle and get it back into a condition where it can be sold again. It’ll likely get a branded title declaring that it’s a lemon vehicle or manufacturer repurchase, and once it has undergone an inspection and been deemed suitable for the roads, it will go back on a lot to be sold.
This is where you, as a used car shopper, might then encounter it. If the manufacturer/dealer is transparent, then you should have all the information you need to determine if you want to take a risk on the lemon law buyback upfront. If they aren’t however, you could be buying a former lemon without even realizing it. Be sure to ask about used vehicles you intend to purchase, as it obligates the seller to disclose the circumstances around the vehicle in question, and gives you the opportunity to make a fair decision about whether or not to purchase.