By: Brett Shainfeld
Searching for used or certified pre-owned vehicles is often a good way to go about buying a car. You can usually find a great deal on a gently used cars that costs thousands of dollars less than the same car would brand new, and you can often still get several great years of use out of the vehicle.
But there is a certain risk that comes with purchasing a used car. You won’t always know what kind of life the car had before you — who owned it, what they used it for, or if it had any significant repairs or problems.
For this reason, it can often be better to purchase a certified pre-owned car as opposed to a plain used one.
What Is A Certified Pre-Owned Car?
Certified pre-owned cars typically have fewer than 80,000 miles on them and are no more than seven years old. These cars are still backed by the manufacturer and generally undergo serious, multi-point inspections to guard against issues. Certified pre-owned vehicles will also usually come with extended warranties that are better than what you’ll get with a used vehicle (which is typically no warranty, or the very short remainder of the original factory warranty).
So, what does “certified” mean when buying a used car, and how do cars get that designation? It means the car has met certain requirements in line with the manufacturer’s specifications. The California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights outlines some of these requirements:
- The car’s odometer must indicate the actual mileage of the vehicle
- The car was not bought back under state or federal warranty law (lemon law)
- The vehicle has not been damaged by a fire, collision, or flood – or if it was, it has since been repaired to safe, drivable conditions
- The car doesn’t have a Lemon Law Buyback, manufacturer repurchase, salvage, junk, flood, or similar designation
- Vehicle does not have frame damage and is not sold, “as is”
- The manufacturer provides a complete inspection report of all components that have been inspected
How Do I Know I’m Buying A Certified Pre-Owned Car?
Before signing on the dotted line, you’ll want to make sure your “certified” used car really is what it’s supposed to be. Check different dealerships and manufacturers to see which warranties and services come with the vehicle. When you find a car you love, take these next steps:
- Ask for a detailed list of inspections and any fixes that have been made to the car
- Research the vehicle for a history of defects or maintenance issues
- Look into how much certain repairs for the car cost and see if the most expensive ones are covered under the warranty
- Ask the dealer a million questions about the car’s history, what’s covered under the warranty, and anything else you aren’t sure of
While you can’t return a used car, you can opt for a two-day grace period when purchasing a used car in California that costs less than $40,000. If your car meets the price requirement, dealers have to offer you the chance to purchase this contract cancellation option. This cancellation option will cost you $75–$400, depending on the price of the car. But it gives you the chance to return the car within two days for any reason.
During these two days, you’re able to have a mechanic you trust look over the car and verify it’s safe and in good condition.
How Does The California Used Car Lemon Law Protect Consumers?
Many people don’t know the California lemon law can provide coverage for used cars too, but at Shainfeld law, we’re lemon experts. Many used and certified pre-owned vehicles are eligible for legal coverage under the lemon law.
Many used cars (and especially certified pre-owned ones) are sold with written warranties. These warranties entitle them to protection under the state lemon law, which requires manufacturers to repair persistent issues that are covered under warranty. And if they don’t or aren’t able to, then you’re entitled to compensation under the law. Even if your warranty has run out, but you can prove the issue started while it was still under warranty, you can pursue a lemon case.
You’ll need to first understand what makes a car a lemon before pursuing a case under California lemon law. But if you do have a lemon on your hands, even a used lemon, you’re still entitled to a buyback, replacement or cash settlement.
Need Lemon Law Help?
If you’re shopping for a used car, be sure to follow the guidance above to look for a certified pre-owned vehicle that meets all the necessary requirements. Doing so will lower your chances of buying a lemon — but it still won’t eliminate the possibility entirely. Be sure to check out our lemon law tips.
If you’ve already purchased a used car and it turns out to be a lemon, you may still have some protection under the California lemon law. Though it can be trickier to pursue a lemon law case for used cars, the experts at Shainfeld Law are here to help. We understand the ins and outs of California lemon law for used or certified pre-owned vehicles.
Reach out for a free personalized lemon law consultation, where we’ll take a look at your specific case and give you our expert advice. We have over a decade of experience winning lemon law cases in the state of California, and we’ll be here to guide you through every step of the way.