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Lemon Law Myths

There are a number of misconceptions about California’s "lemon law" and when it applies to your situation. The lemon law is consumer protection legislation designed to help car owners should their new or used vehicles be under written warranty and have to undergo repeated attempts to repair certain flaws in their cars that present potentially dangerous risks or which substantially impair its value or use.

Some of the more common myths surrounding the lemon law include:

  • I need to have the car repaired a set number of times within a certain period.

If your car cannot be repaired for the same problem after at least 4 attempts or after a reasonable time for certain problems, or if your car is out of service for 30 days due to any number of problems within the first 18 months of your purchase or 18,000 miles, there is a presumption that your car is a lemon. If the defect could cause serious bodily injury or death, the manufacturer or dealer must make at least 2 repair attempts.

Your car can still be presumed a lemon after this time if your repairs take place within the warranty period, which often extends beyond this time.

  • You cannot collect compensation because you traded in your car.

California law does permit you to collect compensation regardless if you have traded in your car. Many people with defective vehicles receive far less than the value of the car. Because you received less value for the car than you were entitled, you can recover damages.

  • My car was fixed so I do not qualify for relief.

You can still be compensated if your car fit within the legal definition of a lemon. A manufacturer or dealer must repair your car within a reasonable time and its failure to do so makes you eligible for compensation since you were exposed to danger from driving an unsafe vehicle.

  • I have to accept arbitration to settle my claim.

You do not have to agree to arbitration in a lemon law claim and can choose to file your claim in court. If you do accept arbitration, the decision of the arbitrator is binding on the manufacturer but not on you.

  • A leased vehicle is not covered under the lemon law.

False, a leased vehicle is still subject to the law.

  • The car dealership is supposed to help me.

The only party obligated to help you is the manufacturer. Most dealers may be happy to trade your car for another while you receive negative equity. Dealers have nothing to do with the lemon law other than to make repairs under the warranty. Talk to a lemon law attorney if you are having problems with your car that seem unrepairable and do not accept a “buy-back” from the dealer until you speak with a lemon law lawyer.

  • I am entitled to a loan car.

The dealer or manufacturer is not obligated to give you a free, loan car. Many dealers offer this while your car is under repair but it is not a requirement.

  • My car is for business purposes. I do not qualify for relief.

Your car may still qualify under California law if your vehicle is under 10,000 pounds and your business has no more than 5 vehicles registered in California. Otherwise, you may be able to use federal consumer protection measures.

  • I have to pay the manufacturer’s attorney’s fees if I lose.

No, but the manufacturer does have to pay your attorney’s fees if you prevail. This allows consumers to retain attorneys and even the playing field and helps enforce the consumer protection laws.