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  • Ben Beck

What Qualifies as a Lemon Car in California?

What Qualifies as a Lemon in California?

When we set out to buy a new car or used vehicle most of us don't spare much thought to the possibility of ending up with a lemon. However, this can happen from time to time, and being aware of your lemon law rights can be invaluable. Fortunately, the car lemon law in California is one of the most comprehensive and far-reaching in the US, offering customers protection in the unfortunate event that they end up with a defective car.

California's Lemon Law Exists to Protect Consumers

California's Lemon Law, also known as the Song-Beverly Act was passed in 1970 as an important consumer protection law designed to protect customers from being sold a defective vehicle, and other faulty consumer goods. The California lemon law is a consumer-friendly statute, and it was primarily introduced because it is widely acknowledged that people purchasing vehicles seem to be at a disadvantage when it comes to convincing auto manufacturers of a vehicle defect, and this process can prove extremely time-consuming, overwhelming, and confusing.

What is a Lemon Car?

In California, a lemon vehicle is defined as any vehicle that has an issue that substantially impairs the vehicle's use, value, or safety and which cannot be fixed after a reasonable number of attempts. California lemon laws apply to new vehicles that have been purchased in California, leased in California, or sold in California with a manufacturer's certified pre-owned warranty. Occasionally, the lemon law covers used vehicles as well.

For a valid lemon law claim to apply, the car must have been purchased or leased from an automobile manufacturer or certified car dealership, and not from a private individual. There are two key phrases to look out for in car lemon law claims: "Substantially impairs", and "Reasonable number of attempts".

"Substantially Impairs" and "Reasonable Number of Attempts"

For a valid California lemon law claim to apply, the customer must prove that their new vehicle or leased car has a serious defect that substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of their vehicle. These are usually major defects covered under the manufacturer's car warranty that can cause serious injury or even death if left unfixed.

Bodywork dings, a cracked windshield, scratched alloys, or a faulty glovebox light won't pass as a substantial defect but any major structural issues such as the engine stalling, persistent oil leaks, onboard computer problems, persistent air-conditioning failure, and problems shifting into and out of gear, for instance, will almost certainly qualify. Motor vehicles modified with aftermarket parts and defects caused by driver abuse fall outside of the remit of the lemon laws.

What is the Lemon Law Statute of Limitations in California?

The statute of limitations is a time frame to proceed with a lemon law claim. In California, for consumers to qualify for lemon law buybacks, they generally need to file a lemon law claim within four years from when the vehicle qualified as a lemon which can be as early as the date of delivery. However, these time limits are open to interpretation and the plaintiffs' and defense bar often have varying views on this timeframe, one arguing that the statute of limitations runs from the car warranty expiration date, while the other argues that it runs from the date where the defect first manifested itself.

Generally speaking, this timeframe can be extended in some cases if the manufacturer has issued an extended warranty, or if a reasonable number of repair attempts have been made and the defect still persists.

Santa Barbara Courthouse, California

When Does the Lemon Law Apply in California?

The lemon law in California applies when the vehicle has a recurring and persistent defect that compromises the use, value or safety of the vehicle and it has been repaired at least twice under the warranty for the same issues, especially if on one of those visits it been out of service for repairs for more than 30 days. If your vehicle, whether it is a car, truck, SUV or motorcycle meets this criteria, then you may be eligible to have your car declared a lemon and receive compensation from the manufacturer or car dealership.

To qualify under the California lemon law, the car must have been purchased or leased new or certified pre-owned and had multiple repair attempts made by either an authorized dealer or service center.

The law applies to new and leased vehicles under 10,000 lbs which are primarily used for personal or family use.

What Should I Do if My Car Qualifies as Lemon?

If you think your car may qualify under California's Lemon Law, it is important to act quickly and make sure all of your paperwork is in order before filing a claim. Remember that the California lemon law is designed to protect customers and ensure they have fair access to justice should they find themselves in difficulty.

If your car is found to be a lemon, in order for you to submit a lemon law claim, you will need to provide proof that it was purchased from an authorized dealer or service center. As soon as you notice a substantial impairment with your vehicle, you need to immediately contact the car manufacturer, or certified dealer and give them a chance to take a look at the problem and fix it. If the vehicle can not be fixed after a reasonable number of attempts, ideally the manufacturer should offer you a lemon buyback, cash settlement, a new replacement vehicle or a full refund.

In California Lemon Law the Manufacturer's Warranty is Key

If you suspect you may have ended up with a lemon, as long as your vehicle was purchased new or certified-preowned and was still within its written warranty period when it went in for repair, you have grounds to file a legal claim. It is important not to waste time taking your vehicle to unauthorized repair shops because any repair attempts made by an unauthorized dealer or repair shop can render your warranty void.

What Can I do if the Manufacturer Refuses Compensation?

If a manufacturer or dealer goes against standard lemon law buyback procedure, make sure that you have all your documentation in order. This includes the purchase or lease date of your new vehicle, the original manufacturer's warranty, any repair and parts receipts related to the issue, as well as written complaints made to the manufacturer and the manufacturer's response.

Consult with an Experienced Lemon Law Attorney

If you have exhausted all obvious avenues to report your defective vehicle to the manufacturer, it is time to contact a lemon lawyer who specializes in California lemon law cases for a free case evaluation. Once these documents are submitted and reviewed by an expert, they can determine whether or not your vehicle qualifies as a lemon under California lemon law. If it does qualify then you may be eligible for compensation from either the manufacturer or dealer which could include lemon law buyback, a full refund, a new vehicle and reimbursement.

How Much Will it Cost to Employ a Lemon Law Lawyer?

Many consumers shy away from pursuing lemon law claims because they are worried about the legal fees they might incur in the process. Sadly, car manufacturers and dealers are aware of this ambiguity around lemon laws and they often capitalize on this fear, when in reality, an experienced attorney can provide invaluable advice and assistance throughout the lemon law claims process.

The truth is that your lemon law case shouldn't cost you anything. California lemon laws are designed to protect customers and an experienced lemon law lawyer can help protect your rights and ensure that you are compensated fairly for any legal claims related to a lemon car in California.

The Significance of a Consumer-Friendly Statute

Most lemon law attorneys in California offer a free case evaluation to establish whether you have a lemon law case. Once you hire a lemon law attorney, their fees and costs will be recouped in your final settlement figure.

If your lemon law case goes to court and you get a good settlement, the manufacturer will be obliged to pay your attorney's fees and costs. In the unlikely event that your lemon law case does not succeed, you won't be expected to pay the manufacturer's attorney's fees because the California Lemon Law is a consumer-friendly statute.

Why Choose The Beck Lemon Office to Represent You?

If you think you may have purchased a lemon car in California, we recommend getting in touch with an experienced attorney who specializes in lemon law claims. They can provide advice on your lemon law legal rights in California and help guide you through the process of filing a claim against the manufacturer, and put your mind at ease.

Our skilled lawyers at The Beck Lemon Office have the experience and competence to represent you against vehicle manufacturers and dealerships and you can have full confidence in our expertise to succeed in your lemon law claim and represent you to the best of our ability.

Our reputable lemon law attorney firm has more than a decade of experience in successfully applying lemon law protection to hundreds of claims in and around Los Angeles and the state of California. The individualized and personalized approach used by our experienced law attorneys makes the legal process less intimidating for our customers. Our carefully crafted process helps our customers to get to know their lemon law attorney and learn about our extensive experience and common sense approach. We pride ourselves on going the extra mile for all our clients, ensuring that they receive the best outcome and the compensation they deserve.

Contact Us Today

If you think your new car may be a lemon, don't hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. We will readily review your case and advise you of your legal options and discuss with you where California lemon law applies.

Let us help you get the justice you deserve in a quick, friendly, and efficient manner.


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