The Lemon Law In California

The California Lemon Law protects you when you buy or lease a vehicle with problems that are covered by warranty and are seemingly unfixable. Overall, lemon laws exist to ensure that auto manufacturers abide by the promises made in their warranties. The key promise: vehicles should provide safe and reliable transportation.

If an issue in your car, truck or SUV is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, first appears during the warranty period and seemingly can’t be fixed, then your vehicle may be considered defective.

Under the California Lemon Law, auto manufacturers have an affirmative duty to repurchase or replace defective vehicles. If your vehicle is found to be a lemon, you may be entitled to a vehicle replacement or to a full refund, minus a mileage-based offset.

What Makes a Car a Lemon in California?

A car, truck or SUV may be a “lemon” in California if it has a significant defect that impairs use, safety or value, occurs during the warranty period and cannot be fixed within a reasonable number of repair attempts.

If you want to know whether your car, truck or SUV is defective under the lemon law, ask yourself these questions:

1. Does your vehicle have recurring problems?
2. Are these problems covered by your manufacturer’s warranty?
3. Do these problems affect your vehicle’s use, safety or value?
4. Have you given your local dealership or auto repair shop a reasonable number of chances to repair your vehicle?

If you answered YES to these questions, you may have a lemon. However, do not take this as legal advice. To explore your options, consult a lemon law attorney and get a thorough review of your repair orders.

Vehicles Covered by the California Lemon Law

The California Lemon Law covers new or used vehicles with a valid warranty from the auto manufacturer. The lemon law sets specific criteria for vehicles to be considered defective.

The California Lemon Law covers these vehicles:

• Cars, trucks, vans, SUVs and other motor vehicles
• New, used or Certified Pre-Owned vehicles
• Dealer-owned vehicles or “demonstrators”

In addition, the vehicle must be:

• Registered for personal, family or household use, or
• Registered to businesses with no more than five registered vehicles, each under a curb weight of 10,000 pounds; and,
• Bought or leased from a licensed dealership in California, or
• Bought or leased at a licensed dealership within the United States, by a full-time active duty member of the Armed Forces who was stationed in California either during the purchase or at the time of filing a lemon law claim.

These vehicles are not covered under the lemon law:

• Vehicles that are not registered under the California Vehicle Code
• Vehicles purchased outside of California (unless serving in Armed Forces)
• Vehicles purchased from private sales or auctions
• Vehicles that were sold “as-is”
• Vehicles purchased after the manufacturer warranty has expired
• Vehicles with problems caused by abuse or lack of maintenance

When the California Lemon Law is Applied

The California Lemon Law can be applied to a vehicle when a dealership or auto repair shop has failed to repair it within a reasonable number of attempts.

There is no set number of attempts considered “reasonable” under the California Lemon Law. This number will instead depend on the facts of the case. However, part of the lemon law offers a guideline. This guideline is known as the lemon law presumptions. If a vehicle meets these presumptions, it is likely to be a lemon.

Lemon Law Presumptions

Under the Tanner Consumer Protection Act, a vehicle is presumed to be a lemon if, within 18,000 miles or 18 months (whichever is first):

• A vehicle defect impairs use, safety or value and couldn’t be fixed within four repair attempts.
• A vehicle defect could cause injury or death and couldn’t be fixed within two repair attempts.
• A vehicle defect results in the vehicle being kept at the repair shop for more than 30 cumulative days.

A legal presumption is a fact assumed true by the court, unless there is sufficient evidence to rebut this fact. If your vehicle fits the criteria under the Tanner Act, your vehicle is assumed to be a lemon unless the auto manufacturer puts forward sufficient evidence to prove otherwise.

The presumptions only apply if you went through arbitration first and received an unfavorable outcome.

Arbitration is a process in which a third party (arbitrator) decides if your vehicle is defective and what should be done. The process of arbitration can sometimes be stacked against the lemon owner, as some arbitration programs are sponsored by the auto manufacturer.

You do not have to go through arbitration to pursue a lemon law claim in California.

Lemon Law Rewards

If your vehicle is a lemon, the auto manufacturer has to repurchase your vehicle or replace it with a substantially identical vehicle. If you win your lemon law claim, the auto manufacturer has to pay your attorney’s fees and costs.

Defective vehicles repurchased by the auto manufacturer have to be titled “Lemon Law Buyback.” The auto manufacturer may attempt to repair this vehicle before putting it back on the market. The “lemon law buyback” title will appear on the vehicle record.

Two things determine the amount you are given for your vehicle: the total amount paid or payable to your vehicle, and a mileage offset based on the mileage at which the defect first appeared.

The total amount paid or payable includes the vehicle’s purchase price, along with other expenses. The mileage offset is the amount taken off what the auto manufacturer owes you. The higher the mileage was on your vehicle when the defect appeared, the less the auto manufacturer pays you for your vehicle.

The formula for the mileage offset is this: take the total amount paid or payable, multiply it by the mileage you had when the defect first appeared, and then divide that result by 120,000 (the life expectancy of a vehicle in California by miles).

To estimate how much you might be paid for your vehicle, subtract that offset from the total amount paid or payable to your vehicle.

Keep in mind that every lemon law case is different, and in some cases, you may be eligible for additional penalties alongside your lemon law buyback.

How to File a Lemon Law Claim in California

If you suspect that your car, truck or SUV is a lemon, take your vehicle in for repairs and get all of your repair orders. These repair orders should document the concerns you reported and the repairs performed on your vehicle. If you do not have documentation of your past repairs, contact the dealership where the repairs had taken place.

These repair orders are essential to any lemon law claim. Other important documents include sales or lease contracts, warranty information, any financing documents (if you financed the car), proof of insurance and documents related to other expenses for your vehicle.

Contact a lemon law attorney for a free consultation. During this initial conversation, you will be asked about your vehicle defects, repair visits, warranty information and length of ownership or lease of the vehicle. After the first consultation, you will be asked to submit documents for review. If you’re not sure which documents are needed, contact the firm that provided your initial consultation.

The lemon law firm will review your documents to determine if they can help you with your potential lemon. You can ask any questions you may have about the lemon law process.

Our California Lemon Law Attorneys Can Help You

If your vehicle has recurring problems that seemingly can’t be fixed, Knight Law Group can help you get rid of your lemon and recover significant cash compensation.

Our California lemon law attorneys have won record settlements for those saddled with defective vehicles. We have won the top verdicts in California Lemon Law in 2017 and 2018, and we continue to recover large settlements for our lemon law clients. If your vehicle is facing engine problems, transmission issues, faulty braking or other unsafe vehicle nonconformities, we can help you recover significant cash settlements.

We operate on a contingency basis. That means you don’t pay any upfront costs for our lemon law services. If you win your lemon law claim, the auto manufacturer is legally required to pay your attorneys’ fees and costs. Our lemon law attorneys only get paid if you win. If we lose your case, you pay nothing.

Call us at 877-222-2222 for a free consultation. Our lemon law team is ready to assist you 24/7 and answer any questions you may have about the lemon law process. Alternatively, you may complete our consultation form below and get pre-qualified for a lemon law claim.