What Is the Lemon Law in California?
The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act was implemented by the state of California in 1970 to protect Californians in a wide variety of consumer transactions, including the purchase or lease of defective vehicles, or “lemons.” Generally, a vehicle may qualify as a “lemon” if, while under warranty, the vehicle begins experiencing defects that cannot be fixed after a “reasonable number of attempts” have been made to repair them. This “lemon law” requires manufacturers to replace or buy back vehicles with serious problems that begin while the vehicles are under warranty.
The Song-Beverly Act covers most vehicles that have been purchased or leased in California. Certain vehicles that are out-of-state purchases or are no longer under manufacturer warranty may be protected as well. If you suspect you have purchased a lemon, contact an experienced California Lemon Law attorney from The Barry Law Firm now to learn about your options.
Lemon Law Basics
The basis of vehicle manufacturer warranties is that when a manufacturer advertises that its product will include specific components or systems, those elements will be present or function as promised. Under an original express warranty, a car with any defective elements or one that fails to live up to the manufacturer’s promised standard should be repaired. The California lemon law goes one step further by requiring manufacturers who are incapable of sufficiently repairing a vehicle to replace or repurchase it.
Throughout the duration of a manufacturer’s new car warranty, any of the following types of vehicles that are leased or purchased in California are covered by the Lemon Law:
- Compact, mid-size, and full-size sedans and hatchbacks
- Light trucks, such as pickup trucks, SUVs, and vans
- Motorhome drivetrains, chassis, and chassis cabs
- Dealer “demo” cars and other dealer-owned vehicles
- Personal vehicles, including motorcycles, purchased or leased for individual, household, or family use
- Some commercial vehicles purchased or leased for business use
California Lemon Law does not cover:
- Any motorhome components intended, maintained, or used primarily for human habitation
- Any motorcycles or other vehicles intended exclusively for off-road use
- Any vehicles purchased or used primarily for business purposes with gross vehicle weight ratings exceeding 10,000 pounds
- Any business vehicles purchased or used by owners or businesses with more than five registered vehicles in the state of California
How Does a Car Qualify for Lemon Law?
California lemon law requirements offer specific guidelines to determine whether a vehicle qualifies as a lemon. If you begin experiencing problems with your new or used vehicle while it is under warranty, you must give the manufacturer a “reasonable number of attempts” to fix it. If the problems continue, your vehicle may qualify as a lemon.
In most cases, vehicle buyers may only file claims under the California lemon law if they purchased their vehicles in California. However, there are exceptions for military members. The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act was amended in 2007 to include a provision for members of the armed forces who are either stationed or residing in California. These individuals have the right to file claims regardless of where they purchase or register their vehicles.
What Are You Entitled to Under Lemon Law?
The resolution will depend on the specific details of your case. However, the types of damages commonly sought in lemon law cases include:
- First-time or additional repair attempt costs
- Refunds for any payments made toward a vehicle’s retail purchase price, including down payments and subsequent monthly payments made
- Payment for any loan balance
- Compensation for incidental costs, such as tow services and rental cars
- Replacement vehicles
- All legal fees
How Long Do You Have to Make a Lemon Law Claim?
If you decide to file a legal claim under California lemon law, your claim will be subject to a four-year statute of limitations. The best way to determine how long you may have to file your claim is to consult with a knowledgeable California lemon law attorney.
What to Do If Your Car Is a Lemon
If you are having problems with a new (or new-to-you) car, take action immediately:
- Take your car to the dealership or other authorized representative of your car’s manufacturer for inspection.
- Explain your concerns and allow the dealership or manufacturer representative the chance to fix the issue with your vehicle.
- Allow the dealership a “reasonable number of attempts” to fix the issue, as required under California lemon law. (There is not a set number of attempts defined under the law, but you must give the manufacturer at least two attempts to fix your vehicle.)
- Save all documentation related to your lemon law case, including your lease or purchase agreement, any repair orders from your dealer or mechanic, and receipts from any expenses you incurred as a result of your faulty vehicle.
- Consult with an experienced California lemon law attorney who can guide you through the lemon law process in California and help you pursue a refund or replacement vehicle.
Keep in mind that your warranty doesn’t necessarily need to be current for you to file a lemon law claim, as long as you initially attempted to have your car repaired while it was still under warranty. If your dealership or mechanic is unable to satisfactorily repair or replace your vehicle, your next step will likely be to take legal action with the help of a California lemon law attorney.
At this stage, the lemon law lawyers at The Barry Law Firm will file a complaint against your vehicle’s manufacturer. Once this official complaint has been filed, the next step includes a process called “discovery” where both sides gather information about the case. During “discovery” there are typically one or more rounds of settlement negotiations, which is how most lemon law cases are resolved. If no settlement can be reached, though, our attorneys will be prepared to take your case to trial.