What Are Lemon Laws in California?

February 1, 2024 Lemon Law

California’s Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act—widely known as the Lemon Law—gives consumers broad protection against powerful manufacturers. Under California Civil Code Section 1793.2, 1793.22, 1794, the Lemon Law holds vehicle manufacturers accountable for not living up to the terms of the vehicle’s warranty. This commonly occurs when a particular vehicle or line of vehicles contains one or more defects that persist despite multiple repair attempts. The Lemon Law recognizes that it’s impractical and unsafe for a consumer to endure repeated failed repair attempts on a vehicle they purchased in good faith. When a manufacturer is unable to repair a defect or malfunction in a car, truck, RV, or motorcycle, the California Lemon Law compels the manufacturer to buy back the vehicle, replace it, or offer the purchaser a full refund.

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How Do I Know If My Car Qualifies For the Lemon Law?

Having a vehicle that spends more time in the repair shop than in your garage or on the road is frustrating and impacts your ability to transport your family safely and earn a living. Many car owners who experience a recurrent malfunction or faulty system in their car or truck wonder if it qualifies for a Lemon Law buyback. Your vehicle qualifies as a Lemon under the following circumstances:

  • It’s still covered under the original factory warranty
  • The defect occurred within 18 months or 18,000 miles after you took ownership
  • You informed the manufacturer of the defect if it’s required under your warranty
  • The vehicle has had four or more failed repair attempts addressing the defect or malfunction
  • The vehicle has had two or more failed repair attempts if the defect presents a safety hazard
  • The vehicle has spent 30 or more days in repair attempts (days do not have to be consecutive)

If you think your car meets the above standards, you shouldn’t have to live with a lemon. The manufacturer must replace the vehicle with one of a similar type and value, refund what you’ve paid toward the vehicle, or buy the vehicle back.

Does the Lemon Law Apply to Used Vehicles?

The Lemon Law applies to vehicles with persistent malfunctions that impact the safety and/or value of the vehicle. Many consumers falsely believe that the California Lemon Law refers only to new vehicles. If you purchased a used vehicle, it also qualifies for a Lemon Law buyback as long as it’s still under its original factory warranty and meets the above qualifications for the Lemon Law. The only exceptions are used vehicles purchased with the qualifier “As Is,” which stipulates that the purchaser is responsible for any repair problems.

Leased Vehicles Also Qualify as Lemons Under the Lemon Law

If your lemon car is a leased vehicle, you may still qualify for a Lemon Law buyback for a full refund of the amount you’ve paid toward the lease and a replacement vehicle of similar type and value.

What is Lemon Law Arbitration?

Vehicle manufacturers commonly respond to Lemon Law claims by offering arbitration to unhappy consumers. Arbitration is a type of mediation that attempts to negotiate a solution to the problem between vehicle owners and manufacturers. Unfortunately, arbitrators typically work in conjunction with the manufacturers so the outcome of arbitration protects the manufacturer’s interests more than those of the consumer. If a vehicle manufacturer tries to compel the owner of a lemon to attend arbitration, the vehicle owner should speak to an Encino Lemon Law attorney about their options. Under the Lemon Law terms, the manufacturer must pay the attorney’s fees for the consumer.

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