Questions and Answers on California Lemon Law

If you have purchased a car (brand new or secondhand) and discovered that it has some problems, you may find yourself asking the question: How can your car qualify for California Lemon Law?

The last thing anyone want is to get in their new car, drive it home only to find out there’s problems with it. For some, these problems can be minor, but for some, they can be devastating. A lot of people rely on a reliable, functioning car to make it to work or anywhere they are going to on time. They might also need a car to transport their family, or for other reasons. If you have invested a lot of money on what you thought to be a good and dependable family car, then getting one that’s problematic can be devastating. Fortunately, there are laws in place that protect customers from purchasing a vehicle with ongoing issues. 

If you’ve had the misfortune of buying a new, used, pre-owned, or certified vehicle that’s covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, then you can relax. There are laws in place to ensure that you don’t have to suffer with a car or vehicle that spends more time in the repair shop than on the road. 

The California Lemon Law protects consumers who purchase or rent vehicles still with the manufacturer’s original factory warranty or with a certified extended warranty. Thanks to this law, owners of defective vehicles (also called lemons) that qualify under the lemon law requirements are entitled to compensation, which can be in the form of cash, refund, or replacement. 

What is Covered Under California’s Lemon Law? 

California’s Lemon Law covers new cars, but it covers used or second-hand cars too if there is still time remaining under their manufacturer’s warranty. The Lemon Law covers:

  • Dealer-owned automobiles and demonstrators
  • Cars, pick-up trucks, vans and SUVs. It also covers parts such as the chassis, chassis cab, and drive train of a motor home. After-market parts including van conversions are not covered. 
  • Vehicles purchased or rented for personal, family, or household use
  • Vehicles purchased or rented for business use 

The Lemon Law Does Not Cover:

  • Vehicles not registered under the California Vehicle Code, like off-road vehicles
  • Vehicles that have been used and abused

How Do Vehicles Qualify for the Lemon Law?

As we have explained earlier, California’s Lemon Law covers new and used vehicles bought or rented for personal, family or household use. It also includes new and used vehicles under 10,000 pounds of gross weight and used for a business with five or less registered vehicles. Of course, as we have also mentioned, it also covers new and used vehicles purchased with a written warranty. The Lemon Law also covers vehicles that have been identified as defective (lemons) but were purchased by the manufacturer, repaired and then sold again with a warranty.

The law protects the consumer for the entire duration of the manufacturer’s warranty. If the vehicle comes with a certified extended warranty from the manufacturer, then the protection period is extended too. For instance, if the vehicle you purchased comes with a two-year warranty and you discovered a defect one year after the warranty starts, you still qualify for coverage. This simply means that if the vehicle meets the requirements of California’s Lemon Law, the manufacturer is legally obligated to replace the vehicle, repurchase it, or compensate you.

The defects of the said vehicle must not only meet the requirements of the lemon law, but the manufacturer is granted a reasonable amount of repair attempts to repair the vehicle. In the state of California, there’s a four-year statute of limitations on filing a lawsuit for breach of warranty.

From a Manufacturer’s POV: How Does a Car Qualify for Lemon Law?

Under California’s Lemon Law, the manufacturer and authorized dealers are given a reasonable amount of time to fix or repair the defect of the vehicle. They are given several attempts to repair the vehicle before they are required to repurchase or compensate the buyer. The number of attempts and time allotted to repair the vehicle depends on whether the defect poses a safety risk.

California Lemon Law is applicable after at least two attempts at fixing or repairing a serious safety defect. This includes a serious issue that can result in injury or death, such as a brake failure. If the problem happens again then it’s only reasonable that the owner to feel unsafe using the vehicle. Manufacturers are then given four or more tries to repair a non-safety related issue. The exact number of repair attempts, therefore, depends on the problem of the vehicle.

Manufacturers are also instructed to repurchase the vehicle or compensate he owners if the number of repair attempts go beyond a reasonable amount, of if the vehicle has been in the repair shop for more than 30 days. 

There are some instances when a manufacturer doesn’t have to refund or replace the vehicle. The Californina Lemon Law is considered void if the vehicle’s defect/problem is due to abuse occurring after the vehicle was purchased. 

What to do If Your Vehicle is a Lemon?

The first thing you need to do is to reach out to a lawyer that’s well versed with California’s lemon law. They’ll be able to guide you through your rights and evaluate the case at the same time. It’s not uncommon for manufacturers to challenge the lemon law claims. Fortunately, most California Lemon Law attorneys will work on a contingency, meaning there’s no need for you to pay out-of-pocket fees. You still have a great chance of winning the case as well.

Keeping any and all repair information concerning the vehicle and the specific issue is important. Keeping a paper trail will give your case more teeth. Documentation should also include a copy of the repair order explaining the vehicle’s problem as well as its repair history. It helps to make copies of these documents and store them in a safe place. Provide copies of your warranty and correspondence with the manufacturer as well. Always keep track of any additional expenses related to the vehicle’s problems. 

Make sure you notify the manufacturer of your vehicle’s defects because they may have a process in place that handles any lemon law claims. The California Lemon Law protects consumers, but it pays to consult with an attorney first to completely understand your rights and responsibilities. 

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