San Diego Lemon Law
Picking a New Car


By Doug Sohn

When I get a client's car bought back, I'm frequently asked what car I would recommend.  After all, they just got rid of their lemon, so they need a new car, and they don't want another lemon, so this is a natural question.

I don't really have a realistic way of recommending cars, however.  I'm generally aware of the "bad" cars out there--a specific make and model year (like the Focus and Fiesta from 2011 on, for example), but that just allows me to warn them off certain cars, not recommend cars that don't have problems.  I always explain that, just because nobody has come to me with complaints about a certain type of car, doesn't mean there is nothing wrong with them.  It might just mean that the manufacturer and dealer are doing a good job of taking care of the problems.

Instead, what I can offer are some general suggestions on how to research a car before buying it:

Don't Be a Guinea Pig

Over the years, I have found that many of my clients tell me that their problem car is the first year this particular model has come out, or is a major revamp of that model.  From this, I've come to the conclusion that manufacturers often need a year or two to work out the bugs in a new model.  Don't be the one to do that testing for them!  Wait one or two years down the road to buy that model.

Use the Internet

Today's technology has given us the ability to instantly search out information from thousands of sources.  Use it!  Before you buy any car, Google the make, model and year.  Go to consumer sites like Consumer Reports.  Look for owner forums for that particular car.  Find out all the negatives and positives and use that to eliminate any cars that seem to have problems.  Remember, it make take a while for problems to surface and become the subject of articles or even posts.  (See my paragraph above about not buying the first year!)

Talk to Other Owners

Many of my clients have told me that, while they were waiting in the customer lounge of the dealership for their lemon to get worked on, they heard from the other owners that they were having the same problem.  I've started recommending that people do that before they buy the car.  Go down to the dealership and hang out at the customer lounge.  Talk to the people there and find out if there is a common problem (or if they love the car).  The lounges are usually very nice and have free coffee!  And if you do buy one of their cars, you're going to end up in the lounge at some point, even if only for regular maintenance, so you should find out how they treat their service customers.  (Do they provide loaners, for example?)

Test Drive!

Once you have a list of potential cars, go drive them.  Take a substantial test drive so that you get a good feel for the car.  If possible, rent a car of the same make and model and get a really good feel for the car.  Once you've picked the make and model and you're looking at a specific car--test drive that one.  A lot!  I've had many clients tell me that they didn't realize the car they bought had a problem, because they didn't take the obvious step of driving it before they bought.  ("I drove one just like it!" just doesn't cut it.)

If All Else Fails

I hope this helps you avoid buying a lemon.   Remember, however, that the classic "lemon" is an anomaly--a make and model that typically is very good, but this particular example is not.  And if, despite all your efforts, you do end up with a lemon, you know that you have rights under California law, and attorneys who can help you pursue those rights!


See you next time!


© 2016 Douglas C. Sohn

Doug Sohn is a San Diego attorney specializing in Lemon Law cases.  He is a native of San Diego and lives in the North County with his wife, Cheri, and son, Colin, who also work with Doug in the practice.

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