Sample Certified Used Car Sticker

Did a car dealer tell you that you were purchasing a certified used car? Did the car not live up to your expectations? If so, California law may be able to help. Specifically, in addition to California’s used car lemon law, which applies to all used automobiles sold with warranties, California Vehicle Code Section 11713.18 imposes mandatory requirements for all automobiles that car dealers sell as “certified” pre-owned vehicles, or which are described using any similar terms.

Requirements For “Certified” Used Cars

The first (and one of the most important) requirement applicable to certified pre-owned automobiles sold in California is that car dealerships are not allowed to describe a used car as “certified” if it is being sold on an “as-is” basis. That means that at least some minimal warranty will likely accompany the sale of a certified used car, and therefore California’s used car lemon law will typically apply.

Additionally, whenever a California used car dealer represents that a used car is “certified,” or describes it using any similar terms, then to the extent of what the dealer knows or should know, the following must all be true:

  1. the car’s odometer must be accurate;
  2. the vehicle has not been repurchased under any state lemon law or the federal lemon law; and
  3. the automobile must not have previously sustained frame or unibody damage;

The following requirements also apply to certified used car sales, regardless of what the dealers actually know or should know:

  1. the vehicle’s title (or titles if more than one state has issued a title) cannot previously have been branded as a “lemon law buyback,” or as a flood, junk, salvage, or nonrepairable vehicle;
  2. the car cannot have previously sustained damage in a collision, fire, or flood that (even after the repair of such damage) materially decreases its performance or safety; and
  3. the term “certified” cannot be employed by used car dealers in a manner that is untrue or misleading.

California law also mandates that prior to the sale of any certified used car the dealer must give the buyer a copy of the inspection report showing which specific components of the vehicle were inspected in the certification process. An example of a certified pre-owned automobile checklist is pictured below.

Modified Form Originally Created by the Reynolds & Reynolds Company

Remedies Available if a Dealer Violates California’s Certified Used Car Rules

California Vehicle Code Section 11713.18 provides powerful remedies for consumers damaged by dealers’ fraudulent or misleading use of the term “certified” (including any failure to comply with the above-listed rule). Specifically, Vehicle Code Section 11713.18 specifies that any violation of California’s certified used car rules can be prosecuted under California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act. The Consumers Legal Remedies Act (or the “CLRA” as it is commonly referred to) is one of California’s most powerful and useful consumer protection statutes. It permits car buyers to obtain compensatory damages, punitive damages (under some circumstances, and injunctions to force dealers to cease their illegal conduct. The CLRA also permits consumers to bring class actions on behalf of other consumers who are victims of the same illegal conduct.

Most importantly, the CLRA permits prevailing consumers to recover from defendant car dealerships their attorneys’ fees and court costs. That means that if a car dealer violated California’s certified used car rules, then you can sue the dealer for breaking the law, and forced the dealer (and not you) to pay all of your lawyer’s fees and court costs.

Want to Talk to An Expert Lemon Law Attorney About Your Certified Used Car?

The Vachon Law Firm provides free consultations in all certified used car, California lemon law, fraud, and repossession cases. So if you purchased a certified used car or truck, and you think that it does not qualify for the “certified” designation, then call the Vachon Law Firm toll free today at 1-855-4-LEMON-LAW (1-855-453-6665). We’ll listen to your complaint, assess your legal rights, and tell you whether we think we can help. You can also contact us via email.

The Vachon Law Firm typically takes certified used car cases on a contingency-fee basis.