Lemon Law Basics

Helping You Navigate the Legal Aspects of Your “Lemon” Vehicle

When you purchase a new vehicle under warranty, there is an expectation of quality and that the vehicle will run just as it’s supposed to. But sometimes there are defective vehicles that slip through the cracks and are sold to the public.

When a buyer ends up with one of these vehicles, called a “lemon,” under California state law he or she has certain rights regarding a replacement or refund. Some of these laws are quite complex and have many procedural requirements that we at Lemon Law Partners, LLP can help you navigate, but for quick reference we’ve outlined some of the basics.

Basics of California Lemon Laws

Cars, trucks, vans, RVs, travel trailers, motorcycles and any vehicle that is designed to be driven on regular roads are typically covered under California lemon laws. When a new vehicle or a used vehicle that is still under the manufacturer’s warranty is purchased and later shows signs of significant mechanical or functional issues, that vehicle may be considered a lemon, and thereby eligible for protection under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. Below are some general guidelines that constitute qualifications for protection under California lemon laws.

1. The Manufacturer’s Warranty

To qualify for protection under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, the purchased vehicle must have come with a valid warranty from the manufacturer. Even if it was bought used, some used cars may still have time left on the original warranty. If a problem was noted on either a new or used car and wasn’t properly fixed by the time the warranty expired, the vehicle may still fall under lemon law protection.

2. Defects that Affect Use, Value or Safety

To be eligible for a lemon law claim, your vehicle must have (or have had) a defect that impairs its use, value, or safety. An impairment of use means the vehicle isn’t able to perform a function it was purchased for, such as commuting long distances. An impairment of value is when the vehicle’s defect causes it to be worth less than a similar vehicle without the defect. An impairment of safety is a defect that makes the vehicle so dangerous to operate that it may pose a threat to you or to others. Safety impairments are the most critical, and should be addressed immediately.

3. Defects Aren’t Repaired After a Reasonable Number of Attempts

If the problem persists despite the manufacturer’s attempts to repair it, or if the manufacturer has repeatedly tried to fix the same issue without success, you may have grounds for a lemon case. Sometimes you may have a case without even having any repair attempts – If, for example, there is a severe problem with the vehicle within the first year of ownership.

What is considered a “reasonable” number of attempts to fix a defect is a flexible concept and depends on the situation and the seriousness of the issue. If the defect is safety related – i.e. dangerous and potentially life-threatening – the manufacturer must fix the problem quickly. Generally, more than two repair attempts for a recurring use or value defect is considered reasonable. Every situation is different, however, and should be discussed with a qualified California lemon law lawyer.

Legal Remedies for California Consumers

For qualifying lemon cases, if the manufacturer or its authorized dealer was unable to properly fix the vehicle within a reasonable number of attempts, the consumer is entitled to a full refund or a defect-free replacement vehicle. He or she is also entitled to a full refund of any expenses incurred related to the purchase, such as sales tax, license and registration fees, finance charges, repair, towing or rental charges, consequential expenses and any other official fees that may have come about as a result of the defective vehicle. Some cases have even been awarded civil penalties of up to twice the damages in addition to the incurred expenses.

Don’t Fret About Attorney Fees

Under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, buyers who successfully prove that they were victims of a lemon purchase are entitled to have all attorney fees accumulated from the case paid for by the manufacturer.

Do I Have a Lemon Law Case?

We’ve provided the information on this page to help you decide whether or not you have a lemon on your hands. Still confused? Let’s review:

You May Have a Lemon If:
  1. Your 2012-2019 new or used vehicle purchased under the manufacturer’s warranty is having significant problems affecting its use, value or safety AND you gave the manufacturer or its dealers reasonable opportunity to fix the defect, but the problem was not fixed despite a reasonable number of attempts
  2. OR Your vehicle has been in the shop for at least 30 days in a row, rendering it useless to you while you wait for repairs
Still Have Questions? Call Us
Again, these are general guidelines to what constitutes a lemon vehicle in California. If you still have questions, feel free to call our experienced lemon law lawyers at Lemon Law Partners, LLP. Attorneys Anthony J. Sperber and Arthur J. Obolsky have been helping clients solve their lemon-buying problems for years, going up against the largest manufacturing corporations worldwide with successful results. We offer free case evaluations, and we’ll help you decide if you have a viable lemon law case.

Do I Have A Lemon?

— Carrie —

My experience with the Lemon Law Partners was excellent! The outcome of my case was better than I expected. Arthur (my attorney) explained what I should expect during the process and things went pretty much as he stated. It took a little longer than I had hoped but was worth the wait. I would recommend this firm.

Does Your Vehicle Qualify as a Lemon?