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?

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 concern for having invested in a dud but also questions the safety of you and your family. There’s a sense of helplessness that can be quite unnerving.

Fortunately, the state of California has your back. The California lemon law exists to protect consumers who have purchased or leased defective vehicles. In this post, we’ll take a look at the basics of the lemon law in California, including what it covers, who’s eligible to file a claim, and how to go about filing one.

1. What is the California Lemon Law?

A vehicle may be a “lemon” if, according to the Lemon Law in California, your vehicle:

  • Has a defect that 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 dealership 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, that the repair facility is unable to repair within 2 to 4 visits or prior to 30 cumulative total days in the repair facility, the consumer is entitled to a complete refund of the original purchase price. This includes all finance payments, down payments, and vehicle loan payoffs. 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 that you may request a replacement vehicle under the lemon law in California. However, 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. Their experience and knowledge of lemon law in California can help you get the best possible outcome.

5. What is the Duration of the Lemon Law in California?

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 Problems are Covered by the California Lemon Law?

The lemon law in California is inclusive of vehicle defects or malfunctions that are covered by the manufacturer’s written new vehicle warranty. However, CA lemon law may not cover problems caused due to unauthorized or unreasonable use of the vehicle after the sale. Because of this caveat, it is important to ensure the repair facility properly documents your complaints and concerns.

Remember the three C’s when dropping your car off for repair: Concern, Cause, and Correction.

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 the loss of its repair facility license. For more information on your rights and the dealership’s responsibilities, please visit the California Bureau of Automotive Repair, or BAR, publication on writing repair orders, Write It Right, a guide to automotive repair, and the Documentation Requirements section.

7. How Do I Start Asking for CA 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 choosing the law firm you feel the most comfortable with.

Do not fall victim to paying extra so-called contingency fees from your California lemon law recovery. There should be no reason for your attorney to charge the consumer an extra fee. The lemon law in California requires the manufacturer to pay ALL 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 an express warranty, which you get upon purchasing it from a dealer. This usually includes bumper to bumper warranty and a longer drivetrain warranty.

9. Who Pays for the California Lemon Law Attorney?

Under California lemon law, if your case is successful, the manufacturer or dealer must pay for all attorney’s fees. This includes all reasonable costs and expenses, as well as any court costs. Therefore, you should not have to pay anything out of pocket in order to pursue a CA lemon law claim.

Need a California Lemon Law Attorney?

If you feel that you have a lemon law claim in California, then it is essential that you contact an experienced California lemon law attorney. A good lawyer can help ensure that your rights are protected and can provide the guidance and advice needed to get a successful result for your CA lemon law case.

At Cline APC, our attorneys are dedicated to helping consumers who have purchased a lemon vehicle in California. We will work diligently to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve for your California lemon law claim.

Our team of experienced lawyers is available to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about the CA Lemon Law and how it applies to your case. Contact us today for more information. We look forward to assisting you!

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