California Lemon Law: Does Your Car Qualify as a Lemon?

California Lemon Law: Does Your Car Qualify as a Lemon?

If your vehicle has been giving you consistent issues after a reasonable number of repair attempts, that vehicle might be a lemon. Thankfully, California Lemon Law was designed to help you get the compensation you deserve when you purchase or lease a defective car from a licensed manufacturer or dealer.

To maximize Lemon Law compensation, you need to understand your rights as a consumer under this law and the right steps to take to get compensated, and consulting with a California lemon lawyer can make the process smoother and less stressful for you.

Our experienced California Lemon Law attorneys at The Lemon Pros have helped over 5000 consumers get the compensation they deserve for their lemon vehicles. Our team can help you understand your options, handle the legal paperwork, and talk to the car manufacturer on your behalf. This can increase your chances of getting a favorable outcome, whether that’s getting your money back or getting a new car, we can negotiate a favorable settlement for you. Book a free consultation with us today for a free case review.

This blog will help you understand how lemon law works in California, what makes your car qualify as a lemon, as well as 7 pro tips for dealing with a lemon vehicle.

What is Lemon Law in California?

What is Lemon Law in California?

Lemon Law, officially known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, provides protection to consumers who purchase or lease vehicles that turn out to be defective. The law provides remedies to consumers for vehicles that repeatedly fail to meet certain standards of quality and performance. In California, the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty is supplemented by the Tanner Consumer Protection Act (California Civil Code Section 1793.22).

What does California Lemon Law cover?

California lemon law covers new vehicles purchased or leased in California that come with the manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty. This includes cars, trucks, boats, SUVs, motorcycles, chassis, chassis cabs, drive trains of a motor home, dealer-owned vehicles, and demonstrators. It also covers used vehicles if they are still under the manufacturer’s original warranty.

How Does California Lemon Law Work?

How Does California Lemon Law Work?

California Lemon Law applies to defects that significantly affect the use, value, or safety of a vehicle. Such defects are often referred to as “warranty defects” or “non-conformities”. Lemon law allows the vehicle manufacturers a reasonable number of attempts to repair the vehicle. While the number of repair attempts that is “reasonable” is not strictly defined, California Lemon Law presumes that a vehicle is a lemon if, within 18 months of delivery or 18,000 miles on the odometer (whichever comes first), any of the following occurs:

  • The manufacturer or its agents have made two or more attempts to repair a warranty problem that could cause death or serious injury.
  • The manufacturer or its agents have made four or more attempts to repair the same warranty problem.
  • The motor vehicle has been out of service for more than 30 calendar days while being repaired for any number of warranty problems. The 30 days must not be consecutive.

If a vehicle is confirmed as a lemon, the consumer may receive cash compensation, a replacement vehicle, or a refund.

The refund includes the purchase price or lease payments made, minus a deduction for the consumer’s use of the vehicle before the first repair attempt for the defect. The manufacturer is required to either replace the vehicle with a new one that is substantially identical or buy back the vehicle (refund the purchase price).

When dealers buy back motor vehicles that are lemons and then sell them again, they must label them as “lemon law buyback” and put a “lemon” sticker on the door. If these cars are sold “as is” without proper disclosure, the buyer might still have the right to seek legal action under Lemon Law. Also, note that consumers have the right to seek their own legal representation in lemon law claims. The fees and costs associated with hiring lemon law attorneys for a lemon law claim may be recoverable from the manufacturer if the consumer prevails.

What Qualifies as a Repair Attempt Under California Lemon Law?

In the context of California’s Lemon Law, a repair attempt is generally considered any time a consumer takes their vehicle to the manufacturer’s authorized dealership or repair facility for service due to a warranty problem.

To qualify as a repair attempt under Lemon Law:

  • The dealership or authorized repair facility must document the repair attempt, providing a repair order or service invoice that details the visit date, the consumer’s reported issue, and the actions taken to diagnose or repair the problem.
  • The issue must be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. Non-warranty issues don’t count towards a Lemon Law claim.
  • The vehicle must be taken to an authorized place for repair, allowing the manufacturer a chance to fix the issue as per warranty procedures.
  • The issue should significantly affect the vehicle’s use, value, or safety. Minor problems might not qualify.
  • There should be a reasonable number of attempts to fix the same problem. What’s reasonable varies, but often includes at least two tries for serious safety issues or four for other defects.

Types of Defects Covered Under California Lemon Law

Types of Defects Covered Under California Lemon Law

California Lemon Law covers a wide range of vehicle defects but with a focus on issues that substantially impair the vehicle’s use, value, or safety.

  • Defects that impair use are issues that hinder the vehicle’s ability to perform its primary function as safe and reliable transportation.
  • Defects that impair value diminish the overall value of the defective vehicles. Even if the car is drivable, such issues can significantly reduce its market value.
  • Defects that impair safety include problems that compromise the vehicle’s safety in a significant way. Even a single defect that poses a serious safety risk can be enough to make a vehicle a lemon if it cannot be fixed promptly and effectively.

Note that the defect must be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty to qualify.

There also must have been attempted to be repaired by an authorized dealer or repair service a reasonable number of times. Typically, this means at least two attempts for serious safety issues or four attempts for other significant defects. Moreover, it must occur within a certain timeframe from the vehicle’s purchase, usually within the warranty period or a specified number of miles.

Minor problems, such as normal wear and tear, do not qualify under the Lemon Law.

The defect should not be due to abuse, neglect, or unauthorized modifications by the consumer. The vehicle must have been used and maintained according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. California Lemon law also does not cover vehicles that are not registered under the California Vehicle Code, such as off-road vehicles.

10 Examples of Defects Covered Under California Lemon Law

10 Examples of Defects Covered Under California Lemon Law
  1. Engine Problems: This includes issues that affect the vehicle’s performance, such as engine failure, loss of power, overheating, and problems with starting the vehicle.
  2. Transmission Issues: Problems with automatic or manual transmissions, such as slipping, difficulty shifting gears, and complete transmission failure.
  3. Electrical Systems: Defects in the vehicle’s electrical system, including issues with the battery, alternator, computer systems, lighting, and electrical components that affect the vehicle’s operation.
  4. Steering and Suspension: Problems that affect the vehicle’s steering or suspension, leading to poor handling, unusual noises, or a rough ride.
  5. Brakes: Issues with braking performance, including brake failure, vibration during braking, and persistent squeaking or grinding noises.
  6. Safety Systems: Defects in safety systems like airbags, seat belts, and electronic stability controls that could compromise the vehicle’s safety.
  7. Leaks and Fluid Issues: Significant leaks and problems with fluid systems, such as oil leaks, coolant leaks, and issues with the fuel system.
  8. Heating and Cooling: Problems with the vehicle’s HVAC system that affect the comfort and usability of the vehicle, including the inability to heat or cool the interior.
  9. Paint and Body: Substantial defects in the vehicle’s paint or body that were not caused by an accident and that affect the vehicle’s value or integrity.
  10. Noise and Vibration: Unusual and persistent noises or vibrations that are not normal for the vehicle and affect its use or value.

How Long Do I Have To File a Lawsuit Under California Lemon Law?

How Long Do I Have To File a Lawsuit Under California Lemon Law?

In California, consumers have a specific timeframe within which they must file a lawsuit if they believe their vehicle qualifies as a lemon. This timeframe is known as the statute of limitations.

In California, the statute of limitations for filing a Lemon Law claim is four years from the date the consumer first realized (or should have realized) that their vehicle was a lemon.

The four-year period for Lemon Law claims doesn’t always start on the vehicle’s purchase or lease date. Rather, it begins when you first notice or should notice, a consistent defect. This could mean the time starts counting with the first repair effort or when it’s clear the issue can’t be fixed. Since the start date can vary and is open to interpretation, it’s important to act quickly if you think your vehicle is a lemon. Delaying legal advice or filing a claim might mean missing out on Lemon Law protections.

Once you suspect that your vehicle may qualify under the Lemon Law, consider consulting with an experienced California Lemon Law attorney. Our experienced lemon law lawyers at The Lemon Pros can provide you with guidance on how to proceed, help you understand your rights and the specifics of the law, and ensure that any legal action is taken within the appropriate timelines.

Start by booking a free consultation with us today to confirm whether or not your new or used vehicle qualifies as a lemon.

Can I Return a Car I Just Bought in California?

The simple answer is, it depends. In California, there isn’t a general “cooling-off” period that allows you to return a car simply because you’ve changed your mind after purchase. This means that once you’ve signed the contract and bought the car, the vehicle is yours, and the sale is considered final.

However, there are some specific circumstances where you might be permitted to return the car:

First, you might be able to return your new motor vehicle if you can prove that it is a lemon. Secondly, some dealers may offer a contract cancellation option for used cars which must be purchased at the time of sale. The option typically allows you to return the vehicle within a short period, such as 2 days, for any reason. However, there may be restrictions based on the mileage driven after the sale and a restocking fee.

Also, if the sale involved fraudulent practices or significant misrepresentation of the vehicle’s condition, you might have legal grounds to return the car or seek compensation. If your car is subject to a recall or is a manufacturer buyback (also known as a lemon buyback), you might have additional rights.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to return a vehicle shortly after purchase, it’s advisable to review your contract and speak with the dealership directly. If your situation falls under Lemon Law or involves fraud, reach out to us at The Lemon Pros and we will provide guidance tailored to your specific circumstances.

8 Steps to File a Lemon Law Claim in California

8 Steps to File a Lemon Law Claim in California

Filing a Lemon Law claim in California involves several steps aimed at either getting the manufacturer to replace the defective vehicle or refund the purchase. Here’s a step-by-step guide to guide you through the process:

1. Gather Documentation

Start by collecting all relevant documentation related to your vehicle and the issues it has experienced. Required documents may include purchase or lease agreement, warranty information, all service orders and repair records showing the dates your vehicle was in the shop and the repairs attempted, and any correspondence with the manufacturer or dealer regarding the vehicle’s issues

2. Attempt to Resolve the Issue with the Manufacturer

Before filing a claim, you must give the manufacturer a reasonable number of repair attempts to fix the vehicle. Take your vehicle to an authorized dealership or repair facility for repairs. Keep all records of repair attempts, including dates, descriptions of the problems, and the dealer’s response.

3. Send a Formal Notification

If the manufacturer cannot fix the vehicle after a reasonable number of repair attempts, send them a formal, written notification of the problems and your request for a refund or replacement. Use certified mail for this communication to ensure you have a record of it being sent and received. Provide all the collected documentation to support your claim. California law encourages, but does not require, consumers to use the manufacturer’s arbitration program before going to court.

4. Consult a Lemon Law Attorney

Consider consulting with an attorney who specializes in Lemon Law. Many attorneys offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they don’t get paid unless you win your case. Our experienced lemon law attorney at The Lemon Pros can help you navigate the legal process, negotiate with the manufacturer, and maximize your chances of a favorable outcome.

5. Prepare Your Claim

If you decide to proceed with a claim, your attorney will help you prepare your case. This involves organizing your evidence, detailing the vehicle’s issues, and demonstrating how the situation meets the criteria under California Lemon Law.

6. Consider Arbitration or Legal Action

Some manufacturers offer an arbitration process as an alternative to court, which can be quicker and less expensive. However, you’re not bound to accept the arbitrator’s decision if it’s not favorable to you. If arbitration is not successful or not chosen, your next step would be to file a lawsuit in court.

7. Court Proceedings

If your lemon law case goes to court, be prepared for a process that can take several months or even longer. During this time, your attorney will present your case, and the manufacturer will have an opportunity to respond. The outcome will depend on the strength of your evidence and the nature of your situation.

8. Resolution

A Lemon Law claim can be resolved through a settlement or court judgment. The resolution may include the manufacturer offering to buy back the vehicle, replace it with a comparable model, or, less commonly, compensate you in some other way. For example: if you bought a 2020 SUV that turned out to be a lemon, the manufacturer could replace it with another 2020 SUV. Throughout this process, maintaining detailed records and clear communication is crucial.

7 Pro Tips for Dealing with a Lemon Vehicle

7 Pro Tips for Dealing with a Lemon Vehicle

Dealing with a lemon vehicle can be frustrating, but taking the right steps can significantly improve your chances of resolving the issue effectively. Here are 7 expert tips to help you.

  1. Keep Detailed Records: Start keeping detailed records of all repairs, receipts, and interactions regarding the vehicle’s issues. Ensure repair documents clearly state the reported problem and the actions taken.
  2. Follow the Warranty Process: Always use authorized dealers or repair shops for repairs as prescribed by the warranty. Unauthorized repairs might nullify Lemon Law protections.
  3. Be Persistent: Return the vehicle for further repairs if the issue persists. Lemon Law requires a reasonable number of repair attempts to resolve the problem.
  4. Communicate Clearly and Keep Everything in Writing: Be clear about the issues when talking to the dealership or manufacturer. Follow up verbal communications with a written summary.
  5. Understand Your Rights: Learn about your state’s Lemon Law and your rights. This knowledge helps in effectively navigating the process.
  6. Use Certified Mail for Important Correspondence: Send formal complaints and legal notices via certified mail. This provides proof of your communication.
  7. Consult a Lemon Law Attorney: Consider seeking advice from a qualified Lemon Law attorney. Many offer free consultations and work on a contingency basis.

Get the Compensation You Deserve

As long as you qualify, California Lemon Law helps you get a befitting compensation when you purchase or lease a defective vehicle. However, you need a proper understanding of the law, its requirements, and its process to get maximum compensation. And that’s where The Lemon Pros come in. Our experienced Lemon Law attorneys are always available to help you file and win a successful lemon law claim. Book a free appointment with us today for a free case review.

Call us today for a free consultation before time runs out to pursue your claim.

Phone: (800) 917-7147


Why Choose The Lemon Pros?

Our specialty is Lemon Law, that is why we only handle Lemon Law claims. When you hire us, our attorneys will do all the legal work for you, because we understand the stress that consumers like you deal with when they have a Lemon.

We have an excellent success record in representing consumers just like you! We are award winning attorneys, but that has not gotten to our heads. We are attorneys who care and give personalized attention to each and every client, our attorneys directly handle your claim.

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