Lemon Law and Frequently Asked Questions

The California Lemon Law is rarely mentioned in the news. As a result, not much about it is common knowledge among California consumers. We have answered the most frequently asked questions about the California Lemon Law and your consumer rights.

If you have any other questions or would like a free case analysis, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. A lemon law attorney can advise you about your legal options and, should you agree to pursue a case, ardently defend your rights as a consumer.

What is the California Lemon Law?

The California Lemon Law, also known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, was enacted to protect California residents who ended up with defective vehicles that seemingly can’t be fixed after a reasonable number of repair attempts.

Before lemon laws existed, manufacturers could sell defective vehicles and reasonably get away with it. Consumers with defective vehicles didn’t have many options, and if they attempted to take legal action, manufacturers had considerable advantage.

The California Lemon Law levels the playing field. If your vehicle has defects that won’t go away even after you take it in for repairs at a licensed repair shop or dealership in California, you can file a lemon law claim against the manufacturer. However, you must have bought or leased the vehicle from a licensed dealership in California, and that vehicle has to have come with a warranty. The warranty ensures that you can protect your lemon law rights.

What is a warranty?

A warranty represents a manufacturer or seller’s promise to stand behind the quality and function of a product. Often, manufacturer warranties come with promises to repair a product if faults are revealed within a certain time period.

These repairs are given at no charge to the owner. However, warranties often have time limits. If the vehicle has problems after the warranty expires, the owner of the car often has to pay for the repair out of pocket.

Under the California Lemon Law, there are two types of warranties.

Vehicles sold with an “implied warranty” are expected to be fit for their intended use. In other words, vehicles are expected to provide safe, reliable transportation. To sell a vehicle without an implied warranty, the seller has to explicitly state that the vehicle is being sold “as-is,” which is common to see in used vehicles.

An “express warranty” is a written document that describes the terms of the warranty. It will state who issued the warranty, what the warranty covers and how long the warranty lasts. Most lemon law cases are filed for vehicles that had express warranties.

If I have an expired warranty, do I still have a lemon law case?

It depends. Your vehicle may be considered a lemon if it has a non-conformity, manufacturing defect or multiple defects that impair the vehicle’s use, safety or value. If you took the vehicle in for at least one repair during the warranty period, you may still have a lemon law claim. If you have an expired warranty and would like to know more about your case, call us today at 877-222-2222 or write to us via our contact page.

How does a car qualify for the lemon law?

The California Lemon Law says that your vehicle is a lemon if it has recurring problems that have not been fixed within a reasonable number of repair attempts.

Those recurring problems can negatively affect your vehicle’s use, safety or value.

If you think your vehicle is a lemon, take action now. Call us at 877-222-2222 or write to us via our contact page and send us any questions you have about your situation. We have helped thousands of California owners and lessees obtain their best results.

How many repairs do I need on my vehicle to file a lemon law claim?

The California Lemon Law does not give a specific number of repairs you need to get before you file a claim. All the lemon law says is that you need to give the manufacturer a “reasonable number of attempts” before your vehicle is considered a lemon.

The number of repairs considered “reasonable” will depend on the situation. Each case is different. If you have questions on whether you have enough repairs to file a claim, feel free to reach out to us via our contact page.

What do I get if I win a lemon law case?

The three rewards you can get under the California Lemon Law are 1) cash compensation 2) vehicle replacement and 3) lemon law buyback. If you get cash compensation, you get a sum of money and keep the vehicle. If you choose to get your vehicle replaced, the manufacturer takes your old vehicle and gives you a new, similar one. If you get a lemon law buyback, the manufacturer takes your old vehicle and gives you a refund.

To learn how Knight Law Group can help you, call us at 877-222-2222.

What is a vehicle replacement?

If you win your California lemon law case and choose to get your vehicle replaced, the manufacturer will take back your defective vehicle and give you a new one.

The vehicle has to come with implied and express warranties that the vehicle model would typically have. The manufacturer has to cover any fees that typically come with buying a new vehicle, such as sales tax, license fees and registration fees.

Typically, the new vehicle is “substantially identical” to the one you had, meaning it will be a similar model with a similar purchase price. However, the consumer may end up requesting a pricier model as a replacement and, as a result, pay for the difference in price.

What is a lemon law buyback?

If you win your lemon law case and choose a lemon law buyback, the manufacturer has to take back your defective vehicle and refund you. How much the manufacturer refunds you is determined by a formula in the California Lemon Law. It will include all monies paid toward the price of the vehicle, including down payments, tax, monthly payments, interest payments and registration fees (if these were on the face of the sales contract).

An amount called the “mileage offset” will be taken off the amount of money that the manufacturer refunds you. The mileage offset is determined by the number of “good miles” you got out of your vehicle. “Good miles” refers to the miles you drove before the defect was first documented.

Can I file a lemon law claim if I leased my vehicle?

Yes! People who leased their vehicles can file lemon law claims. As long as that leased vehicle was acquired from a licensed dealership in California, you can file a California lemon law claim.

Does the Lemon Law protect me if I use my vehicle for business?

It depends. The California Lemon Law mostly protects those who use their vehicles for personal, family or household use. However, it does have some protections for those who have vehicles set aside for business use.

If the vehicle is used for business, the vehicle cannot be more than 10,000 pounds in curb weight to qualify for the California Lemon Law. Additionally, the owner of the vehicle can have, at most, five vehicles used primarily for business. If the owner has six or more vehicles used for business, they do not qualify.

I’m a member of the military. How can the lemon law help me?

The California Lemon Law generally requires that the individual reside in California and buy or lease the vehicle from a California licensed dealership to be eligible for lemon law protections.

We may be able to help members of the military who bought their vehicles outside of California. Please call us at 877-222-2222 to learn more.

The California Lemon Law defines “member of the armed forces” as those serving full-time active duty members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, National Guard, or Coast Guard, or at a military service school designated by law or the Adjutant General of the Military Department.

Can I file a lemon law claim if I no longer have the car?

Yes! What matters is that 1) you bought or leased the vehicle with warranty 2) from a licensed dealership in California, 3) that vehicle had recurring defects that make it less valuable, less useful or even less safe and 4) you took it to a California manufacturer-authorized dealership for repairs.

What are the California Lemon Law presumptions?

The Tanner Consumer Protection Act states the circumstances in which your vehicle is presumed to be a lemon.

When you file a lemon law claim, you (and your attorney) have to prove that your vehicle is a lemon to win the case. However, if your vehicle is presumed to be a lemon, then the burden of proof is shifted onto the manufacturer to prove that your vehicle is not a lemon.

Your vehicle can be presumed to be a lemon if after the vehicle’s first 18,000 miles, or the first 18 months after the vehicle was first sold new, whichever comes first, one of the following happens:

  • A defect that can cause injury or death appears in a vehicle, and the vehicle has been taken in for repairs for that defect at least twice.
  • A defect appears in a vehicle, and the vehicle has been taken in for repairs for that defect at least four times.
  • A defect appears in a vehicle, and the vehicle is in the repair shop for that defect for more than 30 cumulative days.

In order for the presumptions to kick in, you have to have gone through arbitration and received an unfavorable outcome.

My vehicle is older than 18 months, or has more than 18,000 miles. Can I still file a lemon law claim?

Of course! Those time and mile limits only apply to the presumptions under the Tanner Consumer Protection Act. They don’t determine when you can file a lemon law claim under the Song Beverly Act.

If you have a vehicle that is older than 18 months, or has more than 18,000 miles, or both, you can still file a lemon law claim against your manufacturer. The California Lemon Law requires that the vehicle problems or first repair visit occur while the vehicle is still under warranty, and that the automaker or authorized repair shop could not fix those problems within a reasonable number of repair attempts.

How much does it cost to hire a lemon law attorney?

You do not pay any upfront or out-of-pocket costs for our services.

Our law firm operates on a contingency basis, which means we only get paid if you win your case. If you win, the manufacturer is responsible for covering your attorneys’ fees and costs. If you lose, we do not earn any money from your case.

How long do I have to file a lemon law claim?

The time limit you have to file a claim is called the “statute of limitations.” Under the California Lemon Law, the statute of limitations is four years after you first discover your vehicle to be a lemon. Once those four years are up, you can no longer file a claim.

I don’t live near your offices. Can Knight Law Group’s lemon law attorneys still help me?

Yes! We can help any California resident remotely and work with the court system wherever you live. We handle cases all across California. Any documents we made need for your case can be sent to us by mail, email, text message or fax. Any case we file on your behalf may be filed where you live. If you want to learn more about how we can help you, call us at 877-222-2222 for a free consultation.