California Lemon Law Guide

Lemon laws exist to ensure that auto manufacturers abide by the promises made in their warranties. According to these lemon laws, vehicles should provide safe, reliable transportation and auto manufacturers should resolve any problems that occur during the warranty period.

However, auto manufacturers sell thousands of defective motor vehicles each year. A vehicle are considered defective if a manufacturer or authorized repair shop cannot fix the vehicle within a reasonable number of attempts. If this happens to you, the California Lemon Law can help you recover significant cash compensation.

Our California Lemon Law Guide will explain federal and state lemon laws, lemon law recovery, vehicle criteria, military exceptions, and lemon law buybacks.

If you would like a summary, watch our lemon law video. If you want to know whether you qualify, take our lemon law questionnaire or call us at 877-222-2222 for a free consultation.


Many drivers are saddled with faulty vehicles that may have lost value or are unsafe to drive. To find out if we can help, take our lemon law questionnaire.

Otherwise, continue to read our California Lemon Law Guide.


Lemon laws exist on two levels. There is a federal lemon law, which holds manufacturers to the terms of their own warranties. This lemon law is enforceable nationwide. This lemon law also allows states to create their own lemon laws with stronger protections. California has established one of the strongest lemon laws in the nation. Our lemon law firm helps California residents pursue lemon law claims against auto manufacturers and recover awards to which they are entitled by the California Lemon Law.

Watch our California lemon law summary to learn more about your rights, or skip to the descriptions of federal and state lemon laws.


Every year, auto manufacturers produce millions of cars. Along with those cars, they produce hundreds of thousands of defective vehicles, otherwise known as “lemons.”

These lemons have issues with different systems, including engine, transmission, electrical and more.

You might end up with one of these lemons and bring it in for repairs over and over again, costing you time and money, and it could even risk your safety.

For this reason, the California Lemon Law was created to protect consumers and hold manufacturers accountable to the terms of their own warranties. Under this lemon law, your vehicle may be a lemon if it has recurring problems that affect its use, value or safety, and a dealership or authorized repair shop cannot fix those problems within a reasonable number of repair attempts during the warranty period.

If your vehicle is a lemon, Knight Law may be able to recover substantial cash compensation.

At Knight Law Group, our team of attorneys have a 99% success rate in representing car owners and lessees in lemon law cases against major auto manufacturers, achieving record breaking results for our clients. More importantly, we only get paid if you win.

Get the compensation you deserve. Call us any time at 877-222-2222 for a free consultation.

Federal Lemon Law

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (15 U.S.C. ch. 50 § 2301 et seq) is a federal lemon law that applies to consumer products. If an auto manufacturer issues a warranty on a vehicle, the warranty must comply with this federal law. If a manufacturer sells a defective vehicle, then the consumer can get a refund or a replacement vehicle. This lemon law exists as a minimum standard, and state lemon laws can expand consumer protections.

California Lemon Law

California’s lemon law is known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (Civ. Code § 1793.22). When it comes to defective vehicles, the California Lemon Law greatly expands consumer protections.

The California Lemon Law protects anyone who owns or leases a car, truck, SUV or other motor vehicle from an authorized dealership in California. You are protected if you purchased a new motor vehicle with a manufacturer’s warranty, or if you purchased a used motor vehicle that still has a manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty. If your motor vehicle is facing a repeated problem that affects its use, safety or value, the automaker or authorized repair shop has to fix the problem with a “reasonable number of repair attempts.”

Those who file lemon law claims against auto manufacturers do not have to pay any costs out of pocket for legal representation. If the vehicle owner or lessee wins a lemon law claim, the auto manufacturer has to pay the attorneys’ fees and costs.


If your vehicle is found to be defective, the California Lemon Law allows you to recover:

  • Cash compensation
  • A vehicle replacement
  • A full refund, or a “lemon law buyback”

If a consumer chooses a vehicle replacement, the replacement must be “substantially identical” to the defective model. This usually means that the consumer will receive a similar make and model, and it would have a similar purchase price to the original vehicle. The replacement must have all of the warranties that typically apply to the vehicle.

A full refund, or a “lemon law buyback,” will include the full purchase price of the vehicle. However, an amount called the “mileage offset” will be taken off the refund. The “mileage offset” is determined by the number of “good miles” you got out of your vehicle before the defect appeared.

If you win a California lemon law claim, you may be able to recover up to three times the vehicle’s purchase price.


The California Lemon Law protects those who bought or leased a vehicle with a manufacturer’s warranty. The vehicle has to be purchased from a licensed dealership in California. Additionally, the vehicle must abide by one of these qualifications:

  • The vehicle is set aside for personal, family or household use.
  • The vehicle is set aside for business use, the business has no more than five vehicles registered in California, and each vehicle has a curb weight that is no more than 10,000 pounds.

The recurring problems have to affect the vehicle’s use, value or safety. The automaker or authorized repair shop has to be given a “reasonable number” of chances to fix the problem. The California Lemon Law does not pick a specific number considered “reasonable.” Instead, that benchmark is determined on a case-by-case basis.

California Lemon Law And The Military

Members of the Armed Forces may be protected by specific provisions of the California Lemon Law. The lemon law defines “Members of the Armed Forces” as those who are on full-time active duty in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, National Guard or Coast Guard, or in active military service at a military service school.

The California Lemon Law protects members of the Armed Forces if the vehicle is purchased with a manufacturer’s warranty, regardless of the state where the vehicle was originally purchased or registered. However, a member of the Armed Forces has to fit these criteria:

  • The auto manufacturer sells vehicles in California, and;
  • The member of the Armed Forces was stationed in California either at the time of the vehicle purchase or at the time the lemon law claim is filed.

If you are unsure whether you qualify for a California lemon law claim, discuss your situation with an attorney. Lemon law firms offer free consultations for anyone who suspects that they are stuck with a defective vehicle, or simply anyone who wants to discuss their legal options.


If your vehicle is determined to be defective under the California Lemon Law, the auto manufacturer may be required to offer you a lemon law buyback. This amount is a full refund for your vehicle, minus the “mileage offset.”

To calculate a California lemon law buyback, subtract the mileage offset from the total amount paid or payable to your vehicle. This total amount may include taxes, registration and other expenses, along with the vehicle’s cash price. To calculate the mileage offset, take your vehicle’s cash price, multiply it by the number of “good miles” you had before your vehicle experienced the defect, and then divide that by 120,000 miles (the vehicle lifetime under the California Lemon Law).

Automakers may try to reduce your buyback amount by disputing your mileage offset. They do this by claiming that the first defect-related repair took place at a later date and earlier repairs were for unrelated issues.


If your vehicle has one or more recurring problems that cannot be resolved within a reasonable number of attempts, Knight Law Group can help you.

Our California lemon law attorneys have won record settlements for California residents saddled with defective vehicles. If your vehicle is a lemon, we can help you win a significant cash settlement. We have won large settlements for vehicles facing engine problems, malfunctioning transmissions, brake issues and other nonconformities that can make a vehicle unreliable or unsafe.

We operate on a contingency basis. That means you pay no upfront costs for the help of our lemon law attorneys. If you win, the automaker is required by law to pay for your attorneys’ fees and costs. Our lemon law attorneys only get paid if you win. You pay nothing if we lose your lemon law case.

If you want to learn more about your lemon law rights, call us at 877-222-2222 for a free consultation.