California Lemon Law
A new vehicle should mean you don’t have to worry about breakdowns, mechanical problems, or safety. What if it’s giving you a headache with repeated visits to the dealer for service? California’s Lemon Law protects buyers and lessees from serious warranty defects that the dealer or manufacturer can’t repair. In some cases, you may be entitled to a replacement or refund for your vehicle. This website answers questions about the Lemon Law and provides information about the process, record-keeping suggestions, and sources of advice and assistance as it pertains to the process.
California Lemon Law requires a vehicle manufacturer that is unable to repair a vehicle to conform to the manufacturer’s express warranty after a reasonable number of repair attempts to replace or repurchase the vehicle. Although there is no set number for “reasonable repair attempts,” California’s Lemon Law Presumption contains guidelines for determining when a “reasonable number” of repair attempts have been made. The California Lemon Law covers the following new and used vehicles sold or leased in California that come with the manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty:
- Cars, pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs.
- The chassis, chassis cab, and drivetrain of a motorhome.
- Dealer-owned vehicles and demonstrators.
- Many vehicles purchased or leased primarily for business use.
- Vehicles purchased or leased for personal, family, or household purposes.
California Lemon Law applies throughout the duration of the vehicle manufacturer’s original warranty period. Consult your vehicle manufacturer’s warranty manual for warranty periods pertaining to your vehicle.
Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act
In 1970, California enacted the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act requiring all manufacturers to repurchase or replace faulty products they failed to fix after a “reasonable number” of repair attempts. The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act applies to many consumer transactions, not just vehicle purchases. In 2007, the Act was amended to allow members of the Armed Forces, who are stationed in or are residents of California, to exercise their rights under the Act regardless of where their vehicles were purchased or registered.
Lemon Law Presumption
Within the Song-Beverly Act, there is a presumption guideline wherein it is presumed that a vehicle is a “lemon” if the following criteria are met within 18 months of delivery to the buyer or lessee or 18,000 miles on the vehicle’s odometer, whichever comes first:
• The manufacturer or its agents have made two or more attempts to repair a warranty problem that results in a condition that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if the vehicle is driven;
• The manufacturer or its agents have made four or more attempts to repair the same warranty problem; or
• The vehicle has been out of service for more than 30 days (not necessarily all at the same time) while being repaired for any number of warranty problems; or
• The problems are covered by the warranty, substantially reduce the vehicle’s use, value, or safety to the consumer and are not caused by abuse of the vehicle;
• If required by the warranty materials or by the owner’s manual, the consumer has to directly notify the manufacturer about the problem(s), preferably in writing. The notice must be sent to the address shown in the warranty or owner’s manual (for bullets 1 and 2). If these criteria are met, the Lemon Law presumes that the buyer or lessee is entitled to a replacement vehicle or a refund of the purchase price. However, this presumption is rebuttable. The manufacturer may show that the criteria has not been met (for example, because the problems are minor) and therefore, the buyer or lessee is not entitled to a replacement vehicle or refund.
Source: California Civil Code Section 1793.22(b) and www.dca.ca.gov.