California Lemon Law 101: Brush Up Your Knowledge before Consulting a Lawyer

Got a new pickup truck at an unbelievable price but broke down on your maiden journey?

Did your brand new commuter car you leased turn out to be unreliable within weeks of buying it?

Both these scenarios sound like you ended up with a defective automobile and that doesn’t have a nice ring to it at all!

As the owner of a new vehicle, the last thing you want is frequent breakdowns that lead to several trips to the repair facility. This not only raises a concern for having invested in a dud, but also:

  • Questions the safety of you and your family.
  • May put your job in jeopardy due to tardiness or frequent days off.

If you don’t want to end up with a defective automobile or as they call it – a “Lemon”, here are some of the basics before calling a California lemon lawyer:

1. What is the California Lemon Law?

A vehicle may be a “lemon,” if according to the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, your vehicle:

  • As a defect which substantially impairs the vehicle’s use, value, or safety, to a reasonable person in the consumer (your) situation.
  • The manufacturer, through its authorized repair facility, is unable to repair the defective condition within a reasonable number of repair opportunities.

2. What vehicles are covered under Lemon law in California?

Both new and used vehicles covered by the manufacturer and/or dealerships express warranty that are either sold or leased in the state of California qualify for the protection of California’s lemon law.

These include SUVs, Cars, Vans and pickup trucks, motorhomes and RVs, various kinds of dealer-owned demonstrators or vehicles, vehicles that were purchased or leased for business purposes, vehicles purchased or leased for non-commercial purposes such as for personal use, family or household use.

That pretty much covers most of the vehicles sold or leased in the state of California.

3. What happens if my car is a lemon?

According to California Lemon Law, when a new car has a defect, which the repair facility is unable to repair within 2, 3, or 4 visits, or prior to 30 cumulative total days in the repair facility, the consumer, that is you, is entitled to a complete refund of original purchase price, including all finance payments, down payments and vehicle loan payoff. Alternatively, a replacement vehicle may be an option.

In essence, when the dealer or the manufacturer is unable to repair your vehicle problems after a “reasonable number of attempts,” they must promptly refund your money and take back the lemon, or replace the broken vehicle with one that works.

It is important to note, you may request a replacement vehicle, but the manufacturer can never force you, the consumer, to accept a replacement vehicle if you would rather have a refund.

4. How to determine the number of “reasonable repair attempts?”

There’s no fixed number for determining reasonable repair attempts. But California Lemon Law does have a presumption guideline to determine when that “reasonable number” of repair attempts have been made. It is best to contact a lemon law lawyer to help determine what is reasonable. Often, experience is the best indicator.

5. What is the duration of the law?

It is applicable throughout the duration of the vehicle manufacturer’s original warranty period, and sometimes extends beyond the original warranty deadlines. This is why, it is essential that you ask the manufacturer or the dealer about the warranty period of the vehicle at the time of purchase.

6. What are the problems covered by the law?

Lemon law in California is inclusive of vehicle defects or malfunctions that are covered by the manufacturer’s written new vehicle warranty. However, it may not cover problems caused due to unauthorized or unreasonable use of the vehicle after sale. Because of this caveat, it is very important to make sure your complaints and concerns are properly documented by the repair facility. Remember the three C’s when dropping your car off for repair; Concern, Cause, Correction. You report the concern. Make sure the repair facility accurately documents your concern. If they do not, have the service advisor change the repair order. Failure to truthfully document the customer concern is grounds for the repair facility to be sanctioned, including but not limited to loss of its repair facility license. For more information on your rights and the dealerships responsibilities, please visit the California Bureau of Automotive Repair, or BAR, publication on writing repair orders, Write It Right, a guide to automotive repair, Documentation Requirements section.

7. How do I start asking for lemon law rights?

You start by contacting an experienced California lemon law lawyer. It is not important that the lawyer you choose is local, because, remember, pursuant to California’s lemon law the manufacturer must pay your incurred attorney’s’ fees and costs. Spend time selecting an attorney and choose the law firm you feel the most comfortable with. Do not fall victim to paying extra so called contingency fees from your lemon law recovery. There should be no reason for your attorney to charge the consumer an extra fee. The lemon law requires the manufacturer to pay ALL of your attorney’s fees, court costs and expenses. You don’t have to do this alone.

8. What is meant by an express warranty and a factory warranty?

The express warranty is a written statement that you can get from the vehicle’s manufacturer or dealer. It is provided at the time of buying the vehicle and states that they repair any defect in products or workmanship at no cost.

A factory warranty is the express warranty, which you get upon purchasing it from a dealer. This usually includes bumper to bumper warranty and the longer drivetrain warranty.

9. Who pays for the attorney?

When the manufacturer repurchases or replaces a lemon vehicle, the law requires the manufacturer to pay the consumer, your, incurred attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses.

Wrap up

The lemon law differs from state to state and there are chances that your case may be unique. We hope that the aforesaid pointers have made some basics clear. For more insights on the lemon law in the state, keep a tab on this space.

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