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Lemon Law FAQ

What is California’s lemon law?

California new car buyers are protected under the state’s consumer protection law called the Song-Beverly Warranty Consumer Protection Act. For many new car and some used car owners experiencing repair problems, here are some answers to some commonly asked questions about California’s lemon law.

What Vehicles are Included in the Act?

Any new car covered under an express written warranty that is used primarily for personal, family or household use is included. It protects new car owners in situations where a defect or flaw renders the car unsafe or significantly impairs its use or value and after a reasonable number of repair attempts have failed to fix the problem.

A used car is included under the law if it was being repaired within the original warranty period.

Does the Lemon Law Apply if I Bought the Car in Another State?

Song-Beverly only applies to cars bought, registered and repaired in California under the original warranty unless you are on active military duty and bought the car anywhere in the US from a manufacturer who also sells cars in California. If in the military, you must have been stationed in California when you bought the car, or when the repairs began, or you are a California resident.

What is a Reasonable Number of Repair Attempts?

The law does not specify a number of attempts. You may have to look at the industry standard to determine how many attempts are reasonable depending on the specific problem. If the car is out of service while being repaired for at least 30-days, it is presumed to be a lemon and qualifies for a remedy under the act. For serious safety defects or a flaw that substantially impairs its use or value, it may only be 2 repair attempts. For other problems, it may be at least 4 failed attempts. This just means that your car is presumed to be a lemon but the manufacturer may challenge the presumption in court or arbitration.

What Happens if the Defect Occurred After More than 18-Months of Use?

Your repair attempts can occur more than 18-months after its use or if it was used more than 18,000 miles if it is still under warranty.

What are My Remedies?

If your car cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts, you are entitled to a replacement vehicle or reimbursement of the purchase price or your down payment minus an offset for use, and a payoff of the loan balance. Incidental expenses including towing, car rental, taxes and repair costs are also reimbursable.

How Much is Offset from My Reimbursement?

If you choose a refund, it can be offset by your use of it. This is determined by an equation where the mileage generated before the first repair attempt is divided by 120,000 and then multiplied by the purchase price.

Is My Car a Lemon?

A car is presumed to be a lemon for legal purposes and which entitles you to certain remedies if the defect substantially impairs the value or use of your car or poses a risk of death or serious bodily injury and is not repaired after 2 or more attempts, or after a reasonable number of attempts for other defects, which may be at least 4.

What if the Manufacturer Believes My Car is Not a Lemon?

You can negotiate with the manufacturer in cases where the manufacturer does not believe the defect is as serious as you contend. In many cases, the manufacturer may offer you compensation or reimbursement for your incidental expenses such as towing, repairs and rental. You should consult with a California consumer law attorney before accepting any settlement.

What if My Car is Not Covered by Song-Beverly?

Your car might be covered under the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act if there is no written warranty but there is a breach of an implied warranty. You also have protection under federal consumer law protection pursuant to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, if your car is still under warranty. Contact a consumer law attorney to see if your situation applies under any of these laws.

How Can I Afford an Attorney?

In cases where you have a meritorious claim, the manufacturer will pay your attorney’s fees. You do not have to pay the attorney’s fees for the manufacturer if you lose.

Consult with a California lemon or consumer law attorney if you have any questions or issues regarding the lemon law.