One of the most critical legal elements under the California lemon law is that a vehicle must be a “new motor vehicle” to qualify under the law. Since its inception decades ago, the California lemon law has enjoyed a very broad definition of the term, “new motor vehicle” which included new vehicles, but also included used vehicles which had some of the factory warranty left remaining on the used vehicle at the time of purchase. For example, if you purchased a used vehicle from a dealership with 25,000 miles on the odometer, and the vehicle had a 36,000 mile warranty when sold as new, the vehicle would still qualify under the lemon law despite being a used vehicle.
Sadly, however, the new recent case law sent a punch to consumers who have bought used vehicles. In Rodriguez v. Us, the California Court of Appeals determined that a used vehicle with some of the factory warranty remaining is not to be considered a “new motor vehicle” and is therefore not protected by the lemon law. (There are some exceptions to this such as the vehicle was a certified pre-owned vehicle, and dealership demos.) Rodriguez basically wipes out access to the lemon law for about 30% of all consumers.
The full effect of this new law is still unfolding and the full impact yet unknown. Rodriguez may also be appealed before California’s Supreme Court. However, in the meantime, we do know that the Rodriguez case has sent a shock wave in the California lemon law legal world, and significantly impacts consumers who have purchased used vehicles.