Ford Mustang: The RAV Buyback CA Lemon Law Nightmare

I have decided to write a blog detailing my issues with Ford in getting them to repurchase my 2011 Ford Mustang. Under CA lemon law, a car is considered a lemon if it has been at an authorized dealer for more than 30 days and if it has had a reasonable number of repair attempts within the first 18 months or 18000 miles.

I purchased my 2011 Ford Mustang from Capital Expressway Ford in San Jose, CA on March 2nd, 2011.

About 5 months later, I began to notice issues when shifting. The biggest issue with this problem was that my car was an automatic — it has a computer to tell it how to properly shift. When I purchased the vehicle, I also purchased a maintenance plan with it to be safe. I brought it down to Capital Expressway Ford for standard maintenance and explained my issue to them. They said they would let me know if anything turned up. This was on August 6th, 2011. They returned the car to me the same day and said that it was working fine.

A month later, on September 8th, I brought it back in to Capital Expressway Ford and told them that the car is NOT working fine and I want it checked out. They took it for 3 days, without providing me a loaner, and returned it back to me after replacing the mass airflow sensor. The car had supposedly passed all checks and was tested. Within 15 minutes, I called the service advisor, Ken and said they did not check it and the issue was way worse than before. I brought the car back in on September 13th (I couldn’t return sooner due to a family emergency) and it remained at Capital Expressway Ford until October 4th.

They ran several tests and concluded a component of the valve body was not functioning properly and that was causing the car not to shift properly. They had tried to order the replacement part but it was on national back order. I didn’t get daily or even weekly updates so I finally went down there and spoke to anyone of authority I could find. After escalating the issue, Ford agreed to replace the transmission in full. As an apology effort, they also provided me with an extended warranty, after I asked several times for some assurance.

So with 13K miles on my new Mustang, and a brand new transmission, I drove off the lot and the car performed as expected. I drove it across the country a few months later and arrived to FL in one piece. After nearly the same amount of miles on my new transmission as there were the first time the issue presented itself, the issue returned. This was right around 26K to 27K miles. I brought it into the local FL Ford Dealership and they had it for 5 more days. The solenoid pack had failed, as did the clutch pack and a few other components. They replaced them all and returned the car. The car was never fully fixed. On acceleration or even going a steady 40MPH the car will slam in and out of gear thus causing the car to jerk. I brought it back to Ford and they said that was normal because the car was “cold”. Two things: 1. It would happen regardless of vehicle temperature. 2. That is not normal, under any circumstance. Nor is it safe.

I finally escalated the issue to Ford Corporate again, this time saying that I would like to file a Lemon Law claim under the state of CA. They began the exasperating process on November 1st of 2012 — nearly a year and a half after purchasing a brand new vehicle. Now, here, is what I think the trick is to getting Ford to agree to repurchase a vehicle — BE A PAIN IN THEIR ASS. I called every day, sometimes 2 or 3 times per day asking for a status update. I spoke to everyone who would listen and asked several times to speak to supervisors. I took it to the social media world and wrote a review about the dealership in CA (Capital Expressway Ford is a dealership I will never recommend) on Yelp and I tweeted every Ford handle I could find on Twitter. I began getting daily updates from representatives from Ford Service via Twitter and I continued to call until I pissed someone off — anyone off. I wanted them to be as frustrated as I was. I didn’t buy a $30K Mustang to have it sit in the shop for 32 days and go through 4 transmission repairs only to result in a lemon.

Finally, on November 23rd I received a “packet” from Ford saying that they would agree to repurchase my vehicle or offer a replacement. I am only interested in a refund because I no longer trust Ford’s customer service or machinery after this exasperating experience. The packet of information I received was a mere 4 pages long — and it didn’t explain much at all. There wasn’t any offer for a dollar amount and it wanted signatures which wasn’t clear if I was legally obligated to fulfill if I didn’t like the offer. I called Ford’s Vehicle Reacquired Headquarters several times and told every representative I spoke to that I received this packet and wanted an update. They had reported that my case was not in their system and to call back.

Finally, on November 26th, I called Ford’s RAV department again and spoke with a very nice and knowledgable woman named Renee. She explained to me that that packet is not legally binding if I don’t like the offer Ford presents but that completing that packet is required for Ford to make a formal offer. I completed the paperwork and mailed it that day. I called the following day and was lucky enough to speak with Renee again. She said that it could take a few days for the packet to arrive and when it does she would enter the information into the system. I asked if there were a way to email the packet and she provided me with her email address. I sent it right off an she replied with an email update that she had uploaded my case, formally, to Ford’s RAV department. I was told I could expect a call during the business hours of November 28th.

On November 28th, today, Latrice from Ford called me and asked which state I was in. I informed her that I am currently residing in FL but the car was purchased in CA and I would be returning to CA on January 1st. However, I also mentioned that, ideally, I wanted this process completed prior because I should not have to deal with transporting an unsafe vehicle 2700 miles. She said she would put in a request for transportation and would get back to me. I was informed that the reason the car must be brought back to CA is because CA has strict rules to have 2 inspections performed on all vehicles that are being lemon law-ed. There was no way around it being that I lived in FL. Thank God that I decided to move back, otherwise this would be a complete and total nightmare for anyone who had to move out of the state of CA for work and could not move.

I am expecting a call back from Latrice by tomorrow with at least an update. If we don’t get movement by the end of this week with progress, I may have to pursue other alternatives to getting this case resolved as I do not have the time to waste. If I do have to pay for transportation back to Ford in CA, I promise this: Ford will reimburse me for all incurred costs because, as the CA Lemon Law states, the repurchase of my vehicle is to include all necessary fees, less a usage fee. They are supposed to reimburse the owner enough to where its as though he or she never owned the vehicle at all.

I will continue to post updates as this case progresses.

For anyone who needs Ford’s RAV number, you may find it here: 1-800-367-3050 (Ford Reacquired Vehicle Headquarters)

Reminder: All of my posts are provided "AS IS", imply no warranties, and confer no rights or special privileges. Use of included postings, code samples and other works are subject to the terms specified at Microsoft. For more information, click here.

Comments 48

  • When/if Ford gets around to making a refund offer on your car please let me know if they try to take a deduction other than the statutory formula. Such as for damage or excessive wear and tear. The happened with my lemon car and we have a legal action pending and are looking for others similarly situated.

    • Hi Jeff! Ford did repurchase the vehicle and I need to write an update but I am still waiting for my loan to be paid off (they mailed the check to the wrong address). The usage fee is a little confusing for various people from what I have learned.

      I created a spreadsheet on my own to ensure I would receive a fair and just offer. My usage fee was calculated based on CA’s lemon law and, as I understand it, every state has their own. In the state of CA, an owner of a lemon is due a usage fee based on miles divided by 120,000 up until the point the issue was first reported. In my case, the first documented issue was at 13,400 miles but the car was a roll-back and came with 840 miles on it. This means that I was liable for 12,560 miles multipled by my purchase price ($29k and change). Their offer was spot on and equated to roughly 10% (just under $3K). I did learn through the FL BBB that the state of FL allows a manufacturer to charge for a usage fee for the total amount of miles on the vehicle when it’s officially returned. Being that my car had 28K miles when I brought it back to the dealership, this would have added an additional $4K in usage fees. In my case, I was fortunate enough to have an excellent representative who arranged for me to return the vehicle in the state of FL (because it now had a FL title from moving) but used the CA lemon law (because it was purchased in CA) statues to calculate my usage fees.

      I am very happy with my payout as I feel it is very fair and included all finance charges, etc.

      Please let me know if you need additional information or if I can help in any way. Unfortunately and fortunately, because of this exasperating experience, I am now well versed in dealing with Ford’s RAV department.

  • I am going through a very similar situation. You can read about my story here…

    My truck has been in the shop 7 out of the 19 months I have owned it and is currently in the shop for an undetermined amount of time. I am skeptical I will get such a fair shake. I received the replacement vehicle packet in the mail from Ford two days ago.

    What a painful process. I’m glad your outcome had a happy ending.


    • Jim, I am happy to help get you a fair outcome if I can. Having recently gone through this, I am well versed with the RAV department. Send me an email — jessica@localhost.

  • Hi.

    Similar situation with a 2013 mustang…I asked a lemon law attorney to assist me with the process. Your story is very encouraging. I hope i can copy your outcome. Congratulations.

  • I bought my 2012 Ford Focus new in CA and currently live here. The title is clear. On 12/15/16 I received a letter from the Reacquired Vehicle Headquarters stating that Ford is extending to me a conditional settlement offer of replacement or refund.

    I would think that a “substantially identical vehicle” means they’ll replace like-for-like and do whatever it takes them to replace my 2012 with the same features on a new model. I, of course, would pay a mileage usage and should I choose to add any features such as NAV, I would be responsible for that fee and associated taxes.

    A dealer told me that Ford will give me whatever my 2012 Focus SEL with 23K miles is worth towards a new vehicle and I have to come up with the rest of the money. Really?? I’m 70 yrs. old and on a fixed income and will not spend any more money on a vehicle. I was very content with my “current and final” car until it was deemed a lemon. Now I’m stuck with it through no fault of my own??

    Please, if you’ve had any experience or knowledge of the RAV and CA lemon law, let me know ASAP before I’m forced to do something I may regret.

    • Hi Anita,

      It’s been a few years now since I dealt with Ford, but so long as you purchased the vehicle in CA, you should fall under CA Lemon Law regulations. At the time of this post, CA had a policy where Ford could only charge you a fee for the mileage accrued on the vehicle up until the point where the issue was first reported. In my case, despite the nearly 30k miles on the Mustang, I reported the issue at 10k miles so Ford could only charge me a fee for those miles. I recommend taking a check from Ford, rather than a replacement vehicle as cash tends to go further for a car purchase. Note: Ford also has to reimburse for any interest fees paid after the point of the issue being reported as well, or at least that was the law in 2012. If you select refund, they will then give you a sheet outline all necessary charges and a final amount owed to you. After you agree on the amount, then you should be able to select a dealership to facilitate the return and go down to pick up the check. Again, all of this is from memory, but I hope it’s helpful!

      • Jessica, your response was very helpful. I bought the car in Livermore and I still live in Danville so CA Lemon Law should apply. I paid cash so that will save Ford a reimbursement; maybe I can use that to benefit me in my negotiation when I get to that point. Thanks!

        • Ah, I know that area very well! The CA Lemon Law should definitely apply. The good new is you already received a letter from the RAV department agreeing to replace/refund the vehicle – you’ve reached the hardest part. After you send the paper back stating you would like a refund, the remaining process should take only a few weeks. If I recall, and my story was 4 years ago so it’s a bit fuzzy, I opened my case November 2nd and walked away from the dealership with a refund check on December 18th or so. I know my turn around time was less than 2 months, which may not be the norm, but one piece of advice – call daily for a status update. It keeps Ford on top of your case and ensures you get a speedy turn around time so you can replace your vehicle in a reasonable time frame. Let me know how it goes for you!

          • Update: $1,605 less than OTD in 2012

            Jessica, I finally got the proposal from Ford’s RAV department. I’m happy even though it took 6+ weeks to get numbers. They reimbursed me full taxes, fees, battery replacement and ESP. I’m off to get my Mazda CX-3 as soon as I get the check.

            Thanks for your feedback and suggestions!

          • So happy to hear that, Anita!

  • Jessica, thank you for your blog.

    My purchased a used 2012 Ford Focus from a local Ford dealer in summer of 2014.
    We have had to take the Focus back to the dealer for transmission issues three times.
    Three weeks ago the car broke down on the freeway due to another transmission failure.
    My wife managed to drive the car in second gear to the nearest Ford dealership. She called Ford’s RAV department for the second time in two years.
    We could not afford the $1400 bill to repair the transmission again. And we couldn’t afford a rental car for who knows how long it would have taken the RAV department to return our calls. So we were “lucky” enough that the Ford dealership would allow us to trade-in that car three days after my wife took it there.
    Guess what, two weeks after we called, and after we had traded in the Focus, then the Ford RAV department called us to say they would purchase the vehicle.
    They will soon make an offer to us minus the mileage offset. We live in CA.
    But they will not pay off our loan balance that was added to our new Ford Focus.
    I know you don’t have an answer but maybe someone will read this and be able to advise us about how to try and get back the $11,000 balance that was added to our new car loan.

    • Wayne – I might have some ideas. Where was the $11000 from? The remaining balance of the original loan? By CA Lemon Law, ford needs to pay you back the purchase price of the vehicle including interest, less the miles from when the issue was FIRST reported to them, NOT the mileage when you returned it. If they do things the right way, I would think the amount they offer you should cover the $11k balance. I didn’t have any balance from my RAV buyback, and got nearly all the money I paid for the car back, including interest, less mileage. This paid off the outstanding loan I had and gave me money for my new vehicle. Keep me posted!

  • Thanks for your reply Jessica.

    Ford’s RAV department has been telling us for the past three weeks that they would not reimburse us the $11,000 balance that we still owed on the Focus.

    But now that we are at the Refund Worksheet stage they have asked us for the Sales Contract of our new car so that they can see the “trade-in” value that the new dealer gave us for the broken down Focus.

    Hopefully that means they will reimburse us for some of the outstanding balance, if not a large part of it swing as how the “trade in ” value was a small percent of what we still owed.

    • After 4 months of dealing with the RAV department and even writing to CEO Fields about the poor communication such as letting messages go directly to voicemail and not returning calls by the department or the dealership, I thought it was a done deal. Instead of taking my car and issuing a check to me, I was told that I had yet one more piece of paper to complete. I delivered it to FEDEX the day after receiving it. A week goes by without a peep so I called today and the mailroom couldn’t find the FEDEX envelope that they had sent to return the final piece of paper. They actually wanted me to scan it and email it to them. I told them to go to the mail room and find the original!

      BTW, I paid cash for the car and still have grief so you have my sympathy with your complicated transfer. Wish I could be of some help but at least know that you’re not alone in your frustration.

      • Hi Anita,

        I’m so sorry you’re dealing with so much from Ford. I would scan what they want, email it, and set your email to send a confirmation email to you when the email is open. This way you have a paper record of them receiving every document they are requesting.

  • Yes, I scan, email and upload everything to my case agent. All docs. I even uploaded my own Repair History Summary doc that I created. And I uploaded some of my email exchanges with the case agent to the MyFordHelp web site.

    We’ve now been in Step 3 phase for one week. Still waiting for the Refund Worksheet to be released to us for our review.

  • Jessica,

    I noticed that the Focus that we traded in is being advertised by the dealer.

    Shouldn’t a prospective buyer be made aware that the car has had transmission issues and is currently in the buyback process?

    Also, I pulled the CarFax report and it does not list all the Transmission repairs that were made. Shouldn’t a dealer or manufacturer be reporting ALL repairs to CarFax?

    I wonder if I were to create a blog with the VIN and the complete Repair History on that Focus, and upload all Repair Orders, if that threat might speed up our Refund from Ford?

    • Hi Wayne,

      I’m not a legal expert, but I would publicly document every single thing that is happening with Ford. I do believe, per CA law at least, a prospective buyer has to be notified a vehicle being purchased was part of a corporate buy back program. Also, all transmission issues should definitely be disclosed. I would escalate this higher within the RAV department with Ford, and if social media will help, do it. Note: This blog post is one of my most popular blogs and I do believe its existence helped me secure a buyback from Ford within 6 weeks.

  • The RAV dept made us an offer but it did not include paying off the outstanding balance of the Focus that we traded in. So we rejected their offer and requested they add the balance to the Refund.
    Were waiting to hear back from them.

  • We rejected their offer because they subtracted the trade in momey that the dealer gave us .
    But they didn’t add in the balance.
    They pick and choose for their benefit.
    Not equitable.

  • Nothing new to report. The Ford RAV department is not budging on their offer and neither are we.

    However I did talk to someone who suggested that we call the local newspapers and TV Consumer news and see if they’ll run our story.

    They also sent me the following:

    Thanks for contacting … referral hotline. I am responding to your complaint.

    Here’s guide on California’s Lemon Law at:

    and California’s Lemon Law:

    Here is our guide on filing an effective complaint:

    If you haven’t already contacted Ford’s corporate office, you can contact the corporate office at

    You might also try Twitter to contact the company. Sometimes corporations are more responsive when they are contacted on twitter at

    You can report any defects with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at
    The NHTSA investigates safety defects and may issue recalls.

    You may also file a complaint against them with:
    – CA Attorney General at
    phone # 800-952-5225

    – Better Business Bureau at

    As for legal options, you could contact your local Legal Aid at 800-399-4529

    You may want to contact your local news media to see if they are interested in doing a story. By presenting the story to the local news media, it may pressure the dealership to stop such practices and make the public aware of such practices.

    I hop you find the information helpful, and we wish you good luck.

    • Good – stick to your guns! Hopefully they give in and you can find a compromise. I would definitely get the BBB involved – that’s what I did in my case, too.

  • Follow up: we decided to accept their offer and just move on.

    An attorney we spoke with told us that Ford could always withdraw the offer at any time. So we decided to skip all the negotiations and just accept the offer. They got the check to us within a week of accepting the offer.

    • I’m glad you were able to move on, though I’m sorry it wasn’t the offer you wanted. Hopefully the next vehicle you pick will be headache free!

  • Hi Jessica, I also just received an offer. Do you recall having to wait for confirmation from RAV to go to the delaership for initial inspection? I live in californi. I have called and emailed the last 2 days and no response. I just want to take it to the dealership prior to their confirmation.

  • Jessica,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. It was quite helpful. I’m currently in the letter phase and have just received my vehicle replacement offer letter from FMC. Like you, I was concerned that no dollar amount or any more specifics were included with this letter, but that it was asking for my signature. To clarify, if I sign this letter am I still able to decline their offer if the dollar amount they later calculate does not meet my satisfaction? I live in Hawaii, and our lemon law is slightly different. Ford can deduct mileage costs up to the point where the car is returned/replaced, meaning I’d be several grand in the hole. I have paid nearly $7k off on the loan, however, so I assume this would offset the milage usage.

    • Hi Max, It’s been several years since I dealt with Ford so I don’t know if their policies changed. However, at the time I went through it, signing their letter did not force me to accept their offer; it only allowed them to make one.

  • FARV has been an absolute nightmare for us. After signing a settlement over 10 months ago and fighting between lawyers for over a year our replacement car has just been received by the dealership. When we got the paperwork we were baffled by the price of the new loan. We were told time and time again the $9,000 we have paid on our car would be applied to the new vehicle. We are now, the day we are supposed to get our car, being told that that money will not be applied to the new car because our bank wants a new loan drawn up and doesn’t allow swap of collateral. They are telling us our $9,000 is payment for use of the car for the past year. FRAV missed their deadline on delivering us a replacement 4 times. My husband was gracious and granted 3 extensions but wouldn’t grant a 4th. Turns out the extension doesn’t do anything but give them 1 black mark on their quarterly grade. No fines, no discount for us. We have been paying monthly payments on a car that flooded 5 days after purchase and was in the shop for 2.5 months for repairs and now they want to keep ALL our money

  • Hi Jessica,

    Your blog was extremely helpful! Thank you for that!

    I’m currently in the process of a buyback for my 2013 Ford Escape under the CA Lemon Law. They decided my car was a lemon due to engine and oil leak issues. The Ford RAV department has assigned a Ford case manager and will be receiving my FedEx documents soon. My car is in California still (with my parents) and I’m currently living in Washington. I had a few questions about this process and I want to make sure I get the best possible offer (fingers crossed!)

    Did you have to be there physically to turn in your vehicle?

    Was a refund check delivered to you or did you have to pick it up at the dealership?

    When they determine my mileage usage fee, will they account for the first time the vehicle was taken in (such as a recall for the engine fuel line, 933 miles) or the most recent visit I took my car in for (72000 miles)?

    Thanks in advance! 🙂

    • Hi Lisa,

      I’m glad you found my blog to be helpful!

      I purchased my car in CA, but was physically residing with it in FL at the time. As such, I was physically there to turn in my Mustang. Upon returning it, the refund check was sent to the dealership and the dealership gave me the check in exchange for the keys to the vehicle.

      If you purchased your car in CA they should calculate the mileage from the date the car was purchased up until when the issue was first reported, not its current number of miles. That said, that is a CA specific requirement if I recall. Other states will allow Ford to calculate usage with the total number of miles and not when the issue was first reported.

      Hope this helps!

      • Hi Jessica,

        Thanks for the response! So just to clarify, would a Ford recall relating to that engine issue be the “first” reported issue? Or would it be the time I brought the vehicle in for a needed service and warranty work needed to be done on the engine?

        • Hi Lisa,

          When I went through my process, the recall process calculated the mileage from the time the engine issue was first reported, not just a warranty/service appointment.


  • Hey Jessica,

    Is there anyway you can email me? I am in the same boat as you and I have never dealt with this before so I’d love to talk to you about it.

    • Hi Chelsea,

      I’m happy to answer any questions you have here or you can send me an email if you like (jessica@localhost). I will say this post is 6 years old so some of the details are hazy at this point, but I’ll share whatever insight I can.

  • Hi Jessica,

    Good news, I just received my refund offer! Now just waiting to accept the offer once it’s uploaded on MyFordHelp. I was curious to know how long it took to process the check after accepting the offer? Is there a long waiting period for the check to be sent to the dealership? Again, thanks so much for the help!

  • I just went through this process with RAV for a $50K Mustang GT. Ford RAV has given me the worst customer service (downright foolish) I’ve ever seen. Lost faxes, miscommunications, non-returned emails (many) and calls, rudeness, misinformation, delays, and finally my check arrived yesterday — wait for it — $2K less than it should have been.

    It’s been two months for something that should have taken 45 minutes from start to finish. I’m going to raise absolute hell with RAV and Ford management.

    • Though its been 6 years, I do remember how awful the customer service with Ford was. As a result, I will never purchase a Ford again. I’m now a happy owner of a Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro. No regrets.

  • hello, i am sick of my stomach. i bought my new 2018 ford mustang gt with the performance package and all the goodies. had the oil change at 1000 miles. a few weeks ago. The car is a garage queen. The only time it is driven is on saturdays or sunday, sometimes stay in the garage covered. I started to look at some youtube videos and ran into this issue with the ticking sound. started the car and damit! I have that sound. Called the service rep on the oil change and I am bringing it in saturday (8-11-2018) San Diego Calif. I don’t want the engine changed out. So depending what happens tomorrow I would rather ford buys it back. The service rep said even though the service record shows 8 quarts of oil instead of the 10 The engine only requires 8????
    I would like help with the buy back program please..:-(

    • I do not work in legal so I cannot give you any official advice on how to deal with the buyback. This blog post is 6 years old so all I can offer is the experience I had and the steps I took to get my ultimate resolution of a buyback. I wish you the best of luck. I recommend brushing up on California Lemon Law so you know what you have to do/what has to fail to report a lemon. If I recall, I do believe you have to give Ford a chance to fix it, which might mean working on the engine or transmission. Remember, I had 3 new transmissions on a brand new 2012 Mustang before I had a solid case.

  • I am very frustrated with the Ford rav department. I was told it would be handled within 30 days it is over 30 days. The rep who is handling my case keeps giving me the same answer when I can get a hold of her and doesn’t return emails has been a nightmare and the car dealership had already order my vehicle. Lastly the transmission is going again, 2014 Ford Focud se and just turn 35000 miles.

    • From everyone I have spoken to, it definitely takes longer than 30 days. Many people have reached out to me over the years and reported it took years. The only advice I can offer is to stick to your guns and keep calling them. Be the biggest pain in their ass you can be.

  • Does this work for used vehicles i have a 2012 ford focus i purchased it used and it has many transmission issues

    • I do not know. I do not work in legal. I would look up the lemon laws for new and used vehicles in your state and go from there.

      • Ok thanks i filed a claim to see what the outcome maybe they did ask for all payments i made,the total of the car when purchased, the payoff,my finance information, and the contract information as well now i have to wait the so called 21 days thankfully the last i did get has been answering my calls/questions hopefully this doesn’t take to long and i hope they can help

  • Wow! I’m so glad i found this blog. Last Tuesday, i got an email from Ford. They will repurchase my undependable 2012 Ford Fiesta under CA lemon law. So they now r asking for the purchase agreement. I don’t have that anymore. Did you all still have that document?? So what do i do since i don’t have it??

    • I would contact the dealership to see if they have a record of it. Also, check your glove box. Typically, when I purchase a new car, I throw the paperwork in the glove box before filing it physically and digitally. It’s always a good idea to save all paperwork for large purchases. Good luck!

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