The California Lemon Law Process

A lemon is any consumer good with a warranty that doesn’t work after you buy it. California’s Lemon Law is most often applied to motor vehicles, but can also be applied to recreational vehicles (RVs), boats, motorcycles, appliances, and electronics. The law treats your vehicle as a lemon when an authorized dealership has had at least two repair attempts for something that is a substantial impairment to the use, value and or safety of the vehicle. A presumption can apply that the repair attempts are reasonable if the vehicle has had 30 or more days in the shop or two repair attempts for a safety issue and at least 4 repair attempts for any other type of issue within the first 18,000 miles or 18 months after your purchase. Also at any time, if the vehicle has been in the shop for 30 consecutive days or more your vehicle may also qualify for a repurchase or replacement.

If you suspect your vehicle is a lemon, you might be curious about the process. After a more in-depth explanation of what constitutes a lemon, this guide will provide you an overview of each step of the process of dealing with a California Lemon Law claim.

What Is a Lemon?


An express warranty is when auto manufacturers provide a written warranty that the vehicle will be free from defects in workmanship or materials during a certain period of time. This may be known as a “bumper to bumper” warranty. Most vehicle warranties include a mileage and time threshold. For example, a warranty on a new vehicle might cover all repairs for three years or 36,000 miles, whichever occurs first. Powertrain warranties which cover the major components of the vehicle usually are for longer periods such as 5 years 60,000 miles.

If the manufacturer cannot repair the vehicle to conform to the written warranty this is a breach of the express warranty on the vehicle.


Apart from the express warranty a vehicle must operate in the way and for the purpose intended. When a vehicle does not work as intended, the manufacturer has breached the implied warranty. This is a warranty created by law and usually has a duration of one year. Usually to show a breach of implied warranty there must be evidence that the vehicle was made with a defective part and therefore the vehicle was defective on purchase to the original owner. Subsequent owners can also claim a breach of implied warranty if they can show the defect occurred within the first year the car was put in service.

As mentioned above, when the manufacturer cannot fix a problem after a reasonable number of attempts, California law entitles you to make a claim under the Lemon Law. You usually need at least two repair attempts. Even if the dealer does not find a problem or cannot duplicate the problem this may still count as a repair attempt. The main thing is that you need to document each and every repair attempt by making sure that you get a written repair or service record every time you visit the dealer. Even when the warranty period has expired, manufacturers are usually still liable if you brought the problem with the vehicle to their attention during the warranty period. The warranty does not expire until the defect is fixed. Most of the time the defect can never be repaired.

Once you decide to initiate a Lemon Law claim, you must go through the following process:


Contact a California Lemon Law attorney with all receipts and documentation from your attempted repairs on the vehicle. You will also need your current license and registration, purchase contract, or lease contract for your vehicle. Your attorney will review the information and determine if your circumstances qualify you to file a Lemon Law claim. Some of the things your attorney will verify include checking to make sure you brought your vehicle to an authorized repair facility, checking the number of repair attempts, and making sure your claim falls within the legal times limit you have to file a claim. You may need to have additional repair attempts if you are still experiencing the problems.

Settlement Negotiations and Litigation

Once you initiate your lemon law claim, a lawsuit will probably be filed asking the manufacturer to repurchase or replace your vehicle. The vast majority of Lemon Law claims settle before going to trial. Yet, when settlement isn’t an option, your attorney may advise you to take the case to court. If you reach a settlement agreement or the court rules in your favor, then you may have a number of outcomes depending on your situation. In very rare cases, the manufacturer might offer you a cash settlement for problems with your vehicle and let you keep your vehicle. Here are the most common remedies if you prevail in your Lemon Law case:


If you purchased your vehicle and the manufacturer buys back your lemon, your refund may include:

  • Your down payment and any monthly payments including interest you made on the vehicle
  • Taxes and fees including sales tax, finance charges, registration, and licensing fees
  • Expenses caused by mechanical failure such as rental vehicles or towing
  • Payment for the remainder of your car loan

If you leased your vehicle, then your refund will be similar. Instead of paying you the balance of your car loan, the manufacturer will buy out the rest of your lease, releasing you from your lease contract. You will also get a return of any downpayment and payments made on the lease including interest. You may be entitled to reimbursement for other incidental or consequential damages.

Vehicle Replacement

In some cases, the remedy for a Lemon Law claim includes a replacement vehicle. In the event you get a replacement vehicle, certain conditions must be met:

  • The replacement vehicle must be almost identical to your vehicle at the time of purchase or lease.
  • The replacement vehicle should include the same factory options you had on your original vehicle.
  • The manufacturer must also reimburse you for expenses related to mechanical failure such as towing or the cost of a rental car.

Manufacturer Deduction for Mileage

In the event that the manufacturer refunds or replaces your vehicle, California law entitles them to deduct mileage from the time you took possession of the vehicle and when you reported the problem which gave rise to the defect. Manufacturers calculate this deduction by taking the mileage at the time of the first repair and dividing it by 120,000 (the useful life of a vehicle under lemon law) and multiplying that by the purchase price.

Contact Lemon Law Associates of California Today

If you suspect or know your vehicle is a lemon,contact Lemon Law Associates of Californiatoday at (877) 955-3666 for a free consultation. Our experienced Lemon Law attorneys will evaluate your case and guide you through the Lemon Law claims process so you get the compensation you deserve. We represent consumers statewide.


You pay nothing out of pocket. Our fees and costs are paid by the manufacturer.

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Lemon Law Associates Of California represents consumers who have California consumer vehicle claims regarding lemon law and auto fraud.

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Lemon Law Articles

Click below where you can find articles that can provide solutions to many of the questions you might have regarding California Lemon Law or if you might have a legitimate lemon law claim.

California Lemon Law FAQs


Q. My car is out of warranty now. Can I
still have a lemon law claim?

Ans: Yes. If you can establish the defect or nonconformity occurred during the original manufacturer’s warranty period your claim may still be valid.