California Lemon Law FAQ

05/1/19 9:32 AM

The California Lemon Law protects consumers who buy vehicles with defects or nonconformities and present the vehicle for two or more repair attempts during the warranty period. It doesn’t matter if the vehicle warranty has technically expired because the warranty never expires for defects that were not correctly repaired during the warranty period.

In other words, the manufacturer cannot instruct its dealer to perform “band-aid” repairs during the warranty and wait until the technical expiration of the warranty by time or mileage—so the warranty does not expire until the defect or problem is fixed.

Most cars do not fix themselves, so in about 98 percent of cases, despite several repairs, the vehicle will most likely never actually be fixed.

If you purchased or leased a car, motorcycle, truck, SUV, or RV from a California dealership fitting this description, you may have a lemon on your hands. If you think you may have a lemon, always contact Lemon Law Associates about your particular case. Each case is unique and different. Many variables constitute a “lemon” under California law. Below we provide answers to some of the questions that you may have about California’s Lemon Law.

How Many Repair Attempts Before My Vehicle Is Considered a Lemon?

Under California’s Lemon Law (a section in the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act), a lemon is any vehicle that is presented for repair to an authorized dealership at least two or more times for the issue (unless no more than one repair is possible). Even if the vehicle is presented to the dealer for regular maintenance, such as an oil change, and the dealer performs a recall in the form of a “computer reflash” on, let’s say, a transmission, this constitutes a “repair attempt.” So the only duty on the consumer is to present it to the dealer.

Also, the consumer does not have to tell the dealer what may be wrong with the vehicle. Words such as “my car is making a funny noise or it does not shift right” are sufficient.

If a vehicle has no more than 18,000 miles or is no more than 18 months old there may be a favorable legal presumption in your case. If these vehicles with 18 months and no more than 18,000 miles have been in the shop for an aggregate total of 30 days, then a presumption is applied under the law that the repair attempts so far are reasonable. Also, in this case, if you have brought the car in for two or more repair attempts for a safety issue and at least four attempts for something that affects use or value, the presumption that repair attempts are reasonable applies. Even if you don’t meet the presumption, the lemon law still applies. Vehicles with high mileage may qualify as lemons.

Does California’s Lemon Law Cover Used Vehicles?

Yes. The California Lemon Law applies to used and leased vehicles purchased while under manufacturer or dealer warranties. This can also include warranty extensions due to recalls or other safety issues.

Does the Lemon Law Apply to Business Vehicles?

Yes. The California Lemon Law covers vehicles used for business purposes, but there are several caveats. The business may not have more than five vehicles registered to it, and the vehicle cannot weigh more than 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.

What Other Products Are Covered Under the Lemon Law?

Although many consumers think of both new and used vehicles when they think of the Lemon Law, it actually covers Motorized Boats and RV’s as well. However, in the case of an RV, to be treated the same as a motorized vehicle the defect has to involve a part found on a motorized vehicle.

What if I Purchased My Vehicle Outside of California?

The Lemon Law only applies to vehicles bought or leased in California, with one exception. Military members who are stationed at a base in California, or who are California residents stationed elsewhere, are protected by the Lemon Law, even if they purchased their vehicles outside of California. Federal laws may apply to your case, and Lemon Law Associates also handles claims under the Magnuson-Moss Federal Warranty Act.

How Much Do Attorney Fees Generally Cost for a Lemon Law Claim?

There is absolutely no out of pocket cost or attorneys fees required to retain Lemon Law Associates. Our firm is paid by the manufacturer. California lemon law requires the manufacturer to pay all attorneys fees and costs upon settlement or a successful outcome. Even if you are not successful, you are not required to pay any money for attorneys fees or costs to Lemon Law Associates.

Does the California Lemon Law Cover Old Vehicles With High Miles?

Yes and no. Coverage under the Lemon Law hinges on whether a vehicle is under warranty. A car must have had issues during its warranty period. Oftentimes this will be the manufacturer’s original warranty, but cars sold by used car dealerships with the original manufacturer warranty remaining can also qualify under California law as a lemon. Ultimately, if a vehicle has undergone the necessary repair attempts, the age or mileage of the vehicle doesn’t prevent you from filing a Lemon Law claim. Vehicles with expired warranties might be eligible, as long as issues arose during the warranty period and the owner notified an authorized dealership.

Certified Pre Owned Vehicles can also qualify as lemons and even “as is” vehicles may qualify as lemons.

What Types of Damages Do I Get in a Lemon law Case?

The consumer may elect a repurchase or replacement of the vehicle. Generally speaking, the repurchase is most beneficial. In this instance, the California Lemon Law entitles you to a refund for your down payment, taxes, and fees, any monthly payments that you made towards the vehicle, and trade-in credit, if applicable. In some cases, you may also receive incidental or consequential losses that can include reimbursement for a rental car, towing, unreimbursed warranty repairs, tires, etc., that you purchased while you owned the vehicle. The process typically involves you returning the vehicle, the manufacturer paying the balance of the loan, and you receiving a Lemon Law refund check. .The manufacturer is allowed to take a deduction based on a legal formula for use of the vehicle before the defect was first reported or the dealer first took action to repair the defect that is the subject of the lemon law case.

You also have the option to choose a replacement vehicle instead of accepting a refund. The manufacturer must replace your vehicle with a like cost vehicle as close as the vehicle that is being surrendered or turned in to the manufacturer. If you choose options that weren’t part of the previous vehicle, you may have to pay for those extra features. Generally speaking, the repurchase option is the best financial option for the consumer because you can surrender the lemon and use your money to buy another vehicle at a better price.

Why You Need to Hire an Attorney

Some people may be fooled by the manufacturer to participate in a “certified” arbitration program. You are not required to arbitrate your claim or give the manufacturer notice of your claim before you file a lawsuit under California lemon law asking for repurchase or replacement damages. All of these arbitration programs are in fact controlled by the manufacturers and are biased against the consumer. These arbitrations do not need to follow the law and are something a consumer should NEVER do. There is no reason to go it alone, because the law requires the manufacturer to pay the consumer’s attorney fee. California’s Lemon Law is in place to protect consumers. That is because manufacturers and dealerships will not automatically agree to offer you a refund or replacement. In many cases, they will push back and claim the owner caused the issues in the vehicle, or that the issue is not covered under warranty.

Hiring an experienced attorney who understands the ins and outs of California’s Lemon Law can save you the time and stress of dealing with a manufacturer or dealership. In addition, the threat of a lawsuit entices manufacturers to settle Lemon Law claims. The owner of a lemon has the right to seek a civil penalty in court if the manufacturer knowingly violates the Lemon Law. Furthermore, a California court may order a civil penalty that equals two times the cost of your damages, making violation of the law a costly proposition for manufacturers. A skilled attorney can navigate all of the complexities involved with the Lemon Law and fight to make sure that you get the best outcome for your case.

Call Us if You Think You Purchased a Lemon

If you think that you own a lemon, we help consumers statewide. Call Lemon Law Associates of California at (877) 955-3666, or contact us online, to schedule a free consultation and to discuss your case.

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