Updated: Aug 30, 2018
You've purchased a new car, but something isn't right? You think you’ve a lemon? Here are key things to know about the California Lemon Law.
What is the California Lemon Law?
The California Lemon Law is designed to protect consumers from being stuck with a defective vehicle if, under the original warranty, a manufacturer extended warranty or a dealer warranty, the manufacturer or dealership cannot repair a defect or malfunction that substantially affects the vehicle's use, value or safety within a reasonable number of repair attempts.
According to the law the manufacturer is entitled to either repurchase or replace the vehicle. You may also be entitled for a reimbursement of all other out-of-pocket vehicle expenses, repairs, license fees, DMV fees, tow fees, car rental fees, loan interest, attorney's fees and all other related expenses.
Who and what does the California Lemon Law apply to?
California's lemon law applies to individuals who purchase or lease vehicles primarily for personal, family or household purposes from a person or business engaged in the business of manufacturing, distributing, or selling vehicles at retail.
It also applies to businesses as long as the business does not have more than 5 vehicles registered in California and the vehicle's gross vehicle weight is under 10,000 pounds.
The law also regulates the problems with used vehicles as long as the used vehicle is still under the factory warranty.
The vehicle must have been purchased or leased in California, unless you are active duty military. For the military exception to apply, you must have been active duty and either stationed in California or have been a resident of California (1) at the time you purchased the vehicle or (2) at the time you file your lawsuit.
What is implied warranty and how long does it last?
There are 2 types of implied warranties - implied warranty of merchantability and implied warranty of fitness.
California's lemon law says that vehicles must be merchantable. This means that the vehicles must:
Pass without objection in the trade
Be fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used.
Be adequately contained, packaged, and labeled.
Conform to the promises made.
However, you must have purchased the vehicle at retail in the State of California. If you buy or lease your vehicle from a private seller, there is no implied warranty of merchantability. The same applies to the case when you purchase or lease your vehicle from a dealer in another state.
California's lemon law says that if the retailer, distributor or manufacturer has reason to know that you require the vehicle for a specific purpose and that you are relying on their skill and judgment to select the appropriate vehicle for your specific purpose, then there is an implied warranty that the vehicle will meet that specific purpose. Still, you must have purchased the vehicle at retail in the State of California.
For new vehicles, the implied warranty lasts for no more than 1 year from the day you purchase your vehicle. For used vehicles, the implied warranty lasts for no more than 90 days from the day you purchase your vehicle.
What if the manufacturer/dealer cannot fix your car?
If your vehicle has a defect that substantially impairs the use, value or safety of your vehicle and the manufacturer's repair facility (i.e. the dealer) cannot repair your vehicle after a reasonable number of attempts within the warranty period, the manufacturer must either replace your vehicle or refund your money. The manufacturer cannot make you accept a replacement vehicle.
What is a reasonable number of repair visits?
California's lemon law says that we can presume there has been a reasonable number of attempts in the following circumstances:
if, within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles, whichever occurs first, one or more of the following happens:
the vehicle has a defect that poses a safety concern -- results in a condition that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury -- and the dealer has had at least 2 chances to repair the defect
the vehicle has a defect and the dealer has had at least 4 chances to repair the defect
the vehicle has been in the shop for repairs for more than 30 cumulative days
How much money can you get?
Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, along with other factors, your recovery could range from (1) $0.00; (2) a certain amount of cash and you can keep the vehicle; (3) the manufacturer could replace your vehicle with a substantially similar vehicle; or (4) the manufacturer could give you a refund minus an amount for your use and non-manufacturer installed items.