Lemon Law for Leased Cars in California
A version of the lemon law exists in all 50 US states but California's Lemon Law is one of the most comprehensive and favorable to vehicle purchase customers. In California, the lemon law is called the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, and it permits consumers to seek a replacement or reimbursement for vehicles that are defective and can not be repaired within a reasonable number of attempts.
What Are My Options If I Have a Lemon Vehicle?
If you have a lemon vehicle, you have two options available to you: you can either ask the manufacturer for a replacement vehicle, or you can request a refund for the purchase price of your vehicle. In either situation, you must return the vehicle to the manufacturer. This means that you can keep the vehicle, sue for a refund or replacement and continue to drive your car until the manufacturer agrees to buy it back.
What Are the Criteria for a Refund or Replacement?
In order for your vehicle to qualify as a lemon under California's Lemon Law, it must meet the following criteria:
The vehicle must have a serious defect that affects its use, value, or safety.
The defect must occur during the manufacturers original warranty.
The defect must not have been caused by the consumer's modifications, misuse, abuse or neglect.
The vehicle must have been brought in for repair at least 2 times for the same or similar problem, or the car must have been out of service for more than 30 days due to repairs.
The Original Manufacturer's Warranty is Key
The California lemon law applies to new vehicles or certified pre-owned vehicles that are purchased or leased in the state of California and as long as they are still within the manufacturer's new-vehicle, certified pre-owned warranty period or dealership warranty.
What If I Have a Leased Vehicle?
If you have leased a vehicle that turns out to be a lemon, you can either ask the manufacturer for a refund of your down payment, all monthly lease payments, and the remaining lease payments, or you can ask the manufacturer to replace the vehicle with a comparable one. If the manufacturer refuses, you can sue for damages and keep the vehicle until the manufacturer repurchases it. You can also request a cash settlement and keep the vehicle. Keep in mind that if you do choose to keep the vehicle, you will be responsible for making all future monthly payments on the lease.
Does the Lemon Law Apply to Leased Vehicles too?
A common lemon law misconception is that legal protection is only available for consumers of newly purchased vehicles. However, the good news is that California's lemon law doesn't only apply to brand-new vehicle purchases but it also covers leased vehicles, pickup trucks, SUVs, vans used for personal purposes, and even some used cars. The only major difference is that in the case of a leased vehicle, the damages are calculated according to the lease obligations rather than the purchase contract obligations.
Are Leased Business Vehicles also Covered under California Lemon Law?
California lemon law also covers small business leased vehicles under the following three criteria:
The leased business vehicle must have a serious defect that impairs its use, value or safety that is not repaired within a reasonable number of attempts.
The vehicle must weigh less than 10,000 pounds.
The business must have five or fewer cars registered to it.
What Constitutes a Serious Defect in Lemon Vehicles?
Before pursuing a lemon law claim, it is wise to research what constitutes a defective car and where the lemon law can be applied. Minor inconveniences such as cosmetic bumps and dinks, cracked windshields or scratched alloys due to driver abuse do not qualify as a safety hazard because the defect is not “substantial.” For example, if your car's analog clock runs slow, chances are the manufacturer won't have much sympathy for you.
A serious defect can be described as a persistent problem that compromises the use of the vehicle such as a malfunction with the transmission, the engine, the brakes, onboard computer malfunctions, or the air conditioning for instance. These are all real-world examples where damages have successfully been awarded to the plaintiffs by the jury.
What is a Reasonable Number of Repair Attempts?
A reasonable number of repair attempts constitutes two to four attempts where a serious vehicle defect has been detected, which substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of the vehicle, and it can not be fixed within the given timeframe.
What is the Lemon Law Presumption
The lemon law presumption is a legal concept that applies in certain circumstances and states that if your vehicle has been out of service for 30 or more cumulative days for a substantial defect within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles; 2 or more times for a substantial safety defect within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles; or 4 or more times for a substantial non-safety defect within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles then it is presumed that it was not repaired within a reasonable number of attempts (a big step toward the vehicle qualifying as a lemon). This means that if your vehicle meets the above criteria and has been out of service for 30 or more days for a substantial defect, 2 times for a substantial safety defect or 4 times for a substantial non-safety defect within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles of ownership then you may be entitled to a replacement or reimbursement from the manufacturer without having to prove that the defect(s) could not be repaired in a reasonable number of attempts.
In reality, a large number of lemon law cases are resolved without implying the lemon law presumption. The only requirement that falls on the customer is that they give the manufacturer or dealer a reasonable number of attempts to fix the problem within the warranty period. If there is still no resolution after this period, the consumer can file a lemon law case.
What if my Warranty Expires Before My Car is Fixed?
There is a lot of misleading information in circulation regarding the lemon law, which can be off putting for customers seeking a resolution. The reality is that the automotive industry is well aware of this confusion and readily capitalizes on it.
In essence, you may still have a claim if the manufacturer or licensed dealer cannot fix the vehicle defect within the timeframe described in the vehicle's warranty booklet, as long as the customer began bringing the vehicle to the manufacturer or dealership for repair during the written warranty period. In the case of the implied warranty (the unwritten warranty that accompanies the sale of all new consumer products) so long as you brought it in 2 or more times within the first year (for new vehicles) or within the first 60 days (for used vehicles) and you notify the manufacturer or dealership in writing within 60 days after the last unsuccessful repair attempt, the warranty is still valid until the defect is repaired.
What is Lease Fraud?
It is a matter of fact that dealers can often make more profit on leased vehicles than on new car sales. From the initial lease inception payments to lease-end penalties such as vehicle condition and mileage penalties, which are not present for sales, there are a number of different ways in which leased vehicles can cost more to the consumer and be open for fraud.
How do I Know if My Lased Car Qualifies as a Lemon?
There are a few key things to keep in mind when determining whether or not your leased car qualifies as a lemon under California law:
The car must have been purchased or leased new (or certified pre-owned) with a valid manufacturer's warranty or dealership warranty.
The car must have a serious defect that compromises the use, value, or safety of the vehicle.
The problem must persist despite a reasonable number of attempts by the manufacturer or dealership to repair the issue.
What Can I Do if My Leased Car is a Lemon?
If you think your leased car may be a lemon, you should:
Keep track of all problems, repairs, and service records. This includes taking note of dates, what was done to try to fix the problem, and how long the problem persisted.
Consult with an experienced lemon law attorney. An attorney can tell you whether or not you have a case and what your next steps should be.
Be prepared to provide documentation to support your claim, including the original manufacturer's warranty. This may include repair orders, receipts, and more.
What are my rights under California's Lemon Law?
Under California's Lemon Law, you may be entitled to a replacement vehicle or a refund if your car is found to be significantly defective and cannot be repaired within a reasonable number of attempts. Vehicles leased on monthly payments or purchased new or certified pre-owned with a valid manufacturer's warranty or dealership warranty stand the best chance of full compensation under California lemon law.
What if the Dealership won't Buy Back my Lemon Car?
If the dealership refuses to buy back your lemon car, you may be able to file a claim with the manufacturer or take legal action and pursue a lemon law case.
Tips for Avoiding Lemons When Leasing a Car in California
There are a few things you can do to avoid getting stuck with a lemon when leasing a car in California:
Always do your research before choosing a car to lease. Read reviews and compare different models to find the one that best suits your needs.
Make sure you understand the terms of your lease agreement before signing anything. Be sure to ask about early termination fees, mileage limits, and other important details.
Have the car inspected by a qualified mechanic before you drive it off the lot. This can help identify any potential problems that may arise down the road.
What is the Lemon Law Statute of Limitations in California?
Generally speaking, California Lemon Law imposes a four-year deadline to file a lemon claim. This four-year timeframe starts when the consumer experienced substantial problems during the vehicle's warranty that could not be repaired. You should always read the small print before purchasing or leasing a vehicle so you are aware of what your rights are.
If You Are Unsure Contact a California Lemon Law Attorney
An experienced lemon law attorney can tell you whether or not you have grounds for a lemon law claim and what your next steps should be. The lemon law for leased cars in California is complex, so it is essential to consult with an expert who specializes in lemon law and who can offer you a free case evaluation and discuss your next steps.
Why Choose The Beck Law Office to Represent You?
Our lawyers at The Beck Law Office have the experience and competence to represent you against vehicle manufacturers and dealerships and you can have full confidence in their expertise to succeed in your lemon law claim.
Our firm has a decade of experience in successfully applying lemon law protection to hundreds of claims in and around Los Angeles and the Golden State. The individualized and personalized approach makes the process less intimidating and helps you get to know your lemon law attorney and learn about our experience and common sense approach. We pride ourselves on going the extra mile and ensuring that our clients receive the compensation they deserve.
Contact Us Today
If you think your leased 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.