Understanding Lemon Law Qualifications in California

February 14, 2024 Lemon Law

California’s Lemon Law under California Civil Code Section 1793.2, 1793.22, 1794 protects consumers against powerful motor vehicle manufacturers that fail to live up to their written warranties. Vehicle warranties promise repairs for defects and malfunctions, but vehicle owners should not have to live with a car, truck, or RV that spends more time in the repair shop than on the road and still has a persistent problem or significant safety defect.

Not every vehicle that goes back to the dealership for repairs qualifies as a lemon under the state’s Lemon Law. Originally, the terms of the law only stipulated “multiple repeated repair attempts” leading to confusion. Now, California has a specific set of guidelines for vehicle owners to determine if their vehicle is a lemon under the law.

car broken down

What Makes a Car a Lemon in California?

A defective vehicle is unsafe and inconvenient. California has consumer protection laws in place to hold motor vehicle manufacturers responsible when they produce a defective vehicle that results in a consumer stuck with a “lemon,” or a car or truck that spends more time in the repair shop than on on the road. The following guidelines help consumers determine if their faulty vehicle qualifies for a Lemon Law replacement, buyback, or refund:

  • The vehicle is still under its original manufacturer’s warranty
  • The defect or malfunction appeared within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles of ownership
  • The vehicle has had four or more failed repair attempts for the same defect or malfunction, or
  • It’s had two or more failed repair attempts for a defect that poses a significant safety hazard
  • The vehicle has spent 30 or more (not necessarily consecutive) days in the dealership repair shop

The Lemon Law in California protects consumers so they aren’t stuck paying for a vehicle with substantial defects. A vehicle that meets the above qualifications is a lemon under the law as long as the owner didn’t abuse or misuse the vehicle.

What Types of Vehicles Qualify for a Lemon Law Refund, Buyback, or Replacement?

California’s Lemon Law applies to most vehicles that have undergone repeated failed repair attempts, as long as they are still under their original factory warranty. This includes:

  • Cars
  • Trucks
  • RVs
  • Boats/watercraft
  • Motorcycles

If the defect or malfunction poses a safety hazard or lowers the vehicle’s value or usability, it qualifies for a Lemon Law buyback, refund, or replacement.

Used and Leased Vehicles May Also Qualify for the California Lemon Law

The Lemon Law not only applies to new vehicles but also to used vehicles as long as they are still under the original factory warranty. Used cars purchased “as is” typically do not qualify for the Lemon Law since the as-is qualifier infers that the purchaser is responsible for all repairs.

Leased vehicles also apply under California’s Lemon Law. A successful Lemon Law claim for a leased vehicle refunds the amount paid toward the vehicle’s lease and replaces the Lemon car with a vehicle of similar make and value.

Understanding Lemon Law Qualifications

Before filing a Lemon Law claim, it’s beneficial to hire an Encino Lemon Law lawyer. Even if your vehicle qualifies as a lemon, the manufacturer may dispute the claim and assert that the vehicle requires another repair attempt. An attorney then shows evidence that no further repair attempts are necessary to prove the car or truck’s status as a lemon. California’s Lemon Law also compels vehicle manufacturers to pay for the consumer’s attorney fees.

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