A vehicle is one of the most expensive purchases that you will make in your lifetime. Whether your vehicle is new or used, car or truck, bought or leased, you have important legal rights under California’s consumer protection laws. The experienced consumer protection attorneys at Lemon Law are here to answer all your questions about California Lemon Law cases. At your free consultation, we will help you determine whether your vehicle is, in fact, a lemon. We will also explain your legal rights under the California Lemon Law and develop the best strategy for enforcing those rights against the vehicle manufacturer. It is important to have this free consultation with an attorney in order to get information that is specific to your particular case. In the meantime, learn more about the California Lemon Law and the vehicles it covers, as well as your remedies under this law and what not to do while your case is pending.
A “lemon law” is a general term for consumer protection acts that apply to newer cars sold with defects. While many new cars need various minor repairs, a “lemon” is a car that is sold with a defect that seriously endangers your safety or has a defect that cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts. Each state has its own consumer protection laws. The California state legislature has enacted the Tanner Consumer Protection Act into the California Civil Code, and this law determines your legal rights after buying a lemon here in the Golden State.
This Lemon Law requires your vehicle to be within eighteen months of delivery to you and have under 18 thousand miles on it in order to qualify as a lemon. If the manufacturer started repairs within this timeframe, but the repairs continued past these milestones, you may still be entitled to relief under the California Lemon Law.
The Office Of the Attorney General provides a website with a lot of helpful information about your consumer rights when buying a vehicle. In addition to the Lemon Law, this website discusses the Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights, warranties and extended warranties, and helpful tips for protecting yourself during the car buying process. The Attorney General is tasked with protecting consumers in California. Because of this, their website will provide more objective data on your Lemon Law rights than any information that comes from an auto manufacturer.
Remember: the manufacturer is not on your side. Your rights under the lemon law are in direct conflict with the manufacturer’s financial interests. Be careful when searching for information about the California Lemon Law, and look for information that comes from objective sources.
There are many different types of vehicles that can qualify as a lemon under the California Lemon Law. If you are not sure whether your vehicle qualifies, be sure to consult with a lawyer about your unique situation. If you simply assume it does not, you could miss out on thousands of dollars to which you are legally entitled, or even the opportunity to sell the vehicle back to the manufacturer and be done with the entire stressful process of ongoing repairs. Here are some of the most many different types of lemon law cases that we handle at Lemon Law:
NEW CARS AND TRUCKS
When you think of the lemon law, you are probably thinking of a new car or truck that was purchased for personal use. These are some of the most common vehicles identified as lemons. Whether your new vehicle is a sedan, coupe, SUV, pickup truck, crossover, or any other body style, it is likely to be covered under the California Lemon Law. The Lemon Law also covers newer vehicle types, such as electric vehicles and hybrids, or those that run on alternative biofuels.
Vehicles used for business purposes can, in some cases, also qualify as lemons under California’s strict consumer protection laws. To qualify as a lemon, a business vehicle must:
- Have a gross weight below 10,000 pounds, and
- Be used primarily for business purposes at
- A company with five or fewer vehicles registered to it.
These requirements can cause confusion when filing a lemon law claim. An auto manufacturer might try to claim that you are not eligible for Lemon Law protection simply because the vehicle is being used for business. This is not the case. An experienced lemon law attorney will be able to protect your legal rights and prove that your business vehicle is eligible for protection under the California Lemon Law.
Leased vehicles are also eligible for protection under the California Lemon Law, so long as they meet the requirement of having less than 18 thousand miles and being within eighteen months of delivery to you. You have many of the same options with a leased lemon as a purchased lemon. You can ask the manufacturer to replace it with another vehicle or return it and get a refund for your lease origination fee and payments. (There may be deductions for the mileage you put on the vehicle.)
Like cars, a motorcycle is a motor vehicle that is subject to the protections of the California Lemon Law. Motorcycles are treated much the same as passenger vehicles for the purposes of Lemon Law claims, but it is still a good idea to consult with a lemon lawyer about your legal rights. Any potential complications in your case (such as the specific reimbursements you are owed for a lemon motorcycle) could threaten your legal rights.
There are many different types of recreational vehicles that are also subject to the protections of the California Lemon Law. These vehicles include traditional motorhomes and recreational vehicles, but it also applies to off-road vehicles, travel trailers, fifth-wheel trailers, and campers. The Lemon Law also applies to a wide range of boats and watercraft. Claims involving recreational vehicles and watercraft can be more complicated than Lemon Law cases that involve passenger vehicles. Because of this, it is important to hire an attorney who has specific experience with these unique types of Lemon Law claims.
Used vehicles can also qualify for Lemon Law protection in certain circumstances. There are more strict requirements, however. Many used vehicles are sold with more than 18 thousand miles on them. Some are also sold “as is” with specific written disclaimers of all warranties. In these cases, the Lemon Law may not apply. Even if the Lemon Law does not cover your used vehicle, there could be other consumer protection laws that apply to your situation. You may also have claims for fraud or misrepresentation if the used car dealer engaged in deceptive business practices. Whatever the circumstances, it is important to consult with a consumer protection attorney if you are having any problems with your used car.
Because manufacturers can be required to buy back a lemon, they sometimes repair these vehicles for reselling. These vehicles can then be resold with a title that specifically designates them as a former lemon. If the vehicle is then resold with a manufacturer’s warranty that covers the specific lemon defect, the vehicle is still covered by the California Lemon Law. The new owner may claim Lemon Law protections under the new provisions of the manufacturer’s lemon warranty. These rules mean that resold lemons have more limited protections under the California Lemon Law. Use caution when purchasing any vehicle with a lemon title.
YOUR REMEDIES UNDER THE CALIFORNIA LEMON LAW
Once a vehicle has been designated as a lemon, you have several different options to choose from. All lemon victims are entitled to compensation for their consequential damages and attorney’s fees. (Consequential damages are the financial losses you suffered because of the lemon, such as lost wages from time off work, rental vehicle costs, or Uber rides to pick up the vehicle from the repair shop.) In addition to these costs, you may also choose how to deal with the vehicle itself:
If you are comfortable accepting a new vehicle from the same manufacturer, you may require the company to provide you with a new vehicle that is not a lemon. The new vehicle must be comparable or better than your old vehicle. For example: if you bought a 2020 SUV that turned out to be a lemon, the manufacturer could replace it with another 2020 SUV.
But if the entire 2020 line turned out to be lemons, you could get a 2021 SUV instead. A 2019 model would not be as good or better than your lemon.
If you believe the manufacturer has successfully repaired your lemon, you could keep the vehicle and agree to a settlement for your financial losses. These losses include attorney’s fees, consequential damages, and other losses you suffered because of the repairs to your vehicle. It is, of course, not always a good idea to keep a vehicle that is a lemon, even if the manufacturer claims that it has been repaired.
Be very sure your vehicle has been safely repaired before agreeing to keep it. It is a good idea to have an independent mechanic who is not affiliated with the dealer or manufacturer to look at the car.
Many lemon owners and lessees are not comfortable keeping a defective vehicle. The Lemon Law allows you to require the manufacturer to repurchase the vehicle from you. The repurchase includes the down payment or lease origination fee, plus any monthly payments you have made on the vehicle. (There may be deductions for the miles you put on the car or for payments made before the vehicle was ever repaired.)
Doing this is often the best way to have a “clean break” and ensure that you will not have to deal with the manufacturer in the future. It is not required that you select any particular option. The choice of what to do with the lemon vehicle is up to you – not the manufacturer. Do not let a manufacturer tell you what you can or cannot do with the lemon, and do not let them bully you into choosing one option over the other. The Lemon Law provides all these choices in order to allow the consumer to choose whichever is right for their unique situation.
VEHICLES THAT ARE NOT COVERED BY
THE CALIFORNIA LEMON LAW
Some vehicles and circumstances are not covered by the California Lemon Law. It is helpful to learn about these exclusions, but even if you think one may apply, it is still important to get an attorney’s opinion about your case.
VEHICLES SOLD WITHOUT A WARRANTY
The Lemon Law is based upon repairs made under the manufacturer’s warranty. If a vehicle is sold “as is” or has other clear written disclaimers that exclude any warranty repairs, the consumer will not be able to make a Lemon Law claim. But a manufacturer or used car dealer must properly disclaim a warranty under specific legal requirements. You may also have other consumer protections available to you, so it is still important to contact the consumer protection team at Lemon Law to determine your legal rights.
VEHICLES PURCHASED FROM A PRIVATE SELLER
Unlike licensed dealers, a private seller is not required to offer any type of vehicle warranty. Because of this, you cannot file a Lemon Law claim against a private seller. Your vehicle might be under the original manufacturer’s warranty (if this was not voided by the terms of the resale). You might also have other legal rights, so don’t give up on a lemon sold by a private seller. Let the attorneys at Lemon Law help you figure out what legal remedies you have in this situation.
VEHICLES THAT WERE NOT REPAIRED WITHIN 18 MONTHS OF DELIVERY OR 18 THOUSAND MILES
The California Lemon Law has clear requirements: to qualify as a lemon, a vehicle must have been delivered to the buyer or lessee within eighteen months, and it must have less than 18 thousand miles on it. This is a “whichever occurs first” test. Either event can disqualify your vehicle from Lemon Law protection. You must send the vehicle to the manufacturers for repairs before either event occurs, or else your vehicle could be disqualified from Lemon Law protections.
Sometimes vehicles are sent for repairs within this timeframe, but the repairs continue beyond it. If your first lemon repair occurred before the eighteen-month and 18 thousand mile deadlines, your vehicle could still be eligible. Speak to an attorney about the specifics of your situation to ensure you do not miss out on Lemon Law protections to which you are legally entitled.
OUT OF STATE VEHICLES
The California Lemon Law applies to vehicles purchased in the State of California (or delivered by the manufacturer to a consumer in California). The vehicle must be registered in-state, and the repairs made under the manufacturer’s original warranty must occur in the State of California. If you do not meet these requirements, you may still have legal rights under federal consumer protection laws. There is also one exemption to this in-state requirement for active-duty military personnel. If a military member purchased a vehicle in the United States from a manufacturer that also sells vehicles in the state of California, they might have a California Lemon Law claim. The military member must be a California resident or be stationed in California when they purchased the vehicle (or started their lemon law claim).
NEVER DRIVE THE VEHICLE IF IT IS UNSAFE
Some defects are a mere annoyance but do not endanger anyone while the vehicle is in motion. Other problems require you to stop using the vehicle immediately: for example, faulty brakes that prevent you from stopping the car when necessary. If there is any question about whether your vehicle is safe to drive, do not use it until satisfactory repairs are completed. If you drive a vehicle with a known defect and cause an accident, you could be at fault for causing that accident and have claims filed against your insurance policy. Most importantly, you could injure – or even kill – other road users. Always err on the side of caution where vehicle safety is concerned.
CONTINUE MAKING PAYMENTS ON THE VEHICLE
If you stop making payments on your vehicle (whether it was purchased or leased), this could hurt your credit. Even if the vehicle is in the repair shop, and even if the manufacturer is taking too long to fix your vehicle, you still must continue making payments. The vehicle could be repossessed. The delinquent payments could be reported to the credit bureaus, which could prevent you from getting another loan on a vehicle that is not a lemon. It is difficult to make payments on a vehicle that you cannot use, but it will help protect your Lemon Law claim.
REPAIR ANY DAMAGE
You are responsible for any damage to the vehicle beyond ordinary wear and tear. If, for example, you scratched the front bumper, this would have to be fixed before you could return the vehicle to the manufacturer (either for a replacement or as a buyback). If you do not fix this damage, the cost of repair could be deducted from your lemon claim settlement. Ask your attorney about any specific issues you are not sure of. A helpful test is to think of the lemon as a rental vehicle: if you turned in a rental vehicle dirty or with worn tire treads, this would be considered normal wear and tear on the vehicle. But if there were any damages, the rental company would charge you for them. These are the types of damages that can become an issue in a lemon claim.
DOCUMENT ALL OF YOUR RELATED FINANCIAL LOSSES
As we have discussed, you are entitled to compensation for the financial losses you suffer because of your lemon. You might have to take Ubers or rent another vehicle. You might have to get a hotel room if you are stuck in another city overnight while your lemon is being repaired. You might miss work because you are going back and forth to the repair shop. All of these are financial losses, and you are entitled to be compensated for them. But you need to be able to prove these costs with documentation. Receipts from Uber or a rental company are usually available. Your employer can provide a statement with the number of hours you missed from work and your hourly wage, which will prove the cost of your lost wages. Your attorney will help you identify all the financial losses you have that are related to the lemon and help you determine the best way to document them to make a persuasive lemon claim.
LEMON LAW ATTORNEYS TO PROTECT YOUR CONSUMER RIGHT
You could spend hours searching the internet for a “Lemon Law attorney near me,” but the best consumer protection attorneys in California are right here at The Lemon Pros. We serve areas throughout the Golden State. Our experienced California Lemon Law team serves clients in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks, and all across California. For decades, clients throughout the state have trusted us to protect their important legal rights. We will fight hard for you, too. We believe in holding manufacturers accountable for defects that put everyone at risk on the roads of California. Your consumer protection rights are important legal safeguards that give you peace of mind when buying an expensive vehicle. We fight hard to protect these rights for the safety of all Californians. Call (800) 917-7147 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.