Last Updated on November 1, 2023 by Team Spinfuel

How to Know if Your Vehicle Qualifies as a 'Lemon' in California

Buying a new car is an exciting experience, but what happens when the vehicle you just purchased turns out to be problematic and constantly in need of repairs? In California, you might have protection under the state’s Lemon Law. This law is designed to help consumers who find themselves stuck with defective vehicles, often referred to as “lemons.” In this blog post, we will explore how to determine if your vehicle qualifies as a ‘lemon’ in California and the steps you can take to seek relief.

Understanding California’s Lemon Law

California’s Lemon Law, officially known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, provides consumers with legal protection when they purchase or lease new or used vehicles that turn out to have persistent, unfixable defects. The law covers cars, trucks, motorcycles, and motorhomes, as long as they are still under warranty.

To qualify for protection under the Lemon Law, the vehicle must meet the following criteria:

1. New or Used Vehicle: The Lemon Law applies to new or used vehicles purchased or leased for personal, family, or household use.

2. Still Under Warranty: The vehicle must be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty during the Lemon Law rights period. This is typically 18 months from the date of delivery or 18,000 miles on the odometer, whichever occurs first.

3. Substantial Defects: The vehicle must have a substantial defect or recurring problem that affects its use, value, or safety. These defects should persist even after a reasonable number of repair attempts.

Identifying a Lemon: When Should You Be Concerned?

If you experience persistent problems with your vehicle that fall under warranty and substantially affect its safety or usability, you may have a potential lemon on your hands. Here are some signs that should raise concerns:

1. Frequent Repairs: If you’ve had to take your vehicle to the dealership or an authorized repair facility multiple times for the same issue, it’s a red flag. Repairs that require multiple attempts can indicate a substantial defect.

2. Safety Hazards: Defects that affect the safety of your vehicle, such as braking, steering, or airbag problems, should be taken very seriously.

3. Long Repair Durations: If your vehicle has spent a significant amount of time in the shop for repairs, it could indicate a substantial defect. California’s Lemon Law considers a vehicle a potential lemon if it has been out of service for 30 or more days during the warranty period.

4. Warranty Expiration: Keep a close eye on the expiration of your manufacturer’s warranty. If you experience issues close to the end of the warranty period, it’s essential to document them promptly.

Steps to Take if You Suspect Your Vehicle Is a Lemon

If you believe your vehicle may qualify as a ‘lemon’ under California’s Lemon Law, here are the steps to follow:

1. Document Everything: Keep detailed records of all repair visits, including dates, descriptions of the problems, repair orders, and any communication with the dealership or manufacturer.

2. Give the Manufacturer a Chance to Fix It: You must provide the manufacturer (or authorized dealer) with a reasonable number of opportunities to repair the defect. California’s Lemon Law defines this as at least two attempts to repair a problem that poses a serious safety risk or four attempts for other issues.

3. Notify the Manufacturer: If the defect persists after a reasonable number of repair attempts or if your vehicle has been out of service for an extended period, you must formally notify the manufacturer in writing about the problem and your intention to pursue a Lemon Law claim.

4. Consult an Attorney: It is advisable to consult with an experienced lemon law attorney. An attorney can guide you through the process, ensure you meet all the necessary requirements, and help negotiate a resolution with the manufacturer.

5. Seek a Replacement or Refund: If your vehicle qualifies as a ‘lemon,’ you have the right to request a replacement vehicle or a refund of the purchase price, minus a reasonable allowance for vehicle use.

6. Pursue Arbitration: If the manufacturer has a certified arbitration program, you may be required to participate. Arbitration can be an alternative way to resolve your lemon law claim.

7. File a Lawsuit: If arbitration doesn’t result in a satisfactory outcome, you may need to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer. An experienced California lemon law lawyer can assist you with this process.

Lemon Law Conclusion

California’s Lemon Law provides important protections for consumers who find themselves with vehicles that have persistent, unfixable defects. If you suspect your vehicle may qualify as a ‘lemon,’ it’s crucial to take prompt and documented action. Keep records of all repair attempts, notify the manufacturer, and consult with an attorney who specializes in lemon law cases. By following these steps, you can assert your rights and work towards a resolution that provides you with a vehicle that meets safety and performance standards or a refund for your defective purchase.