On the surface, lemon law appears to have very strict guidelines. While the numbers and stipulations vary from state-to-state, many assume that if their vehicle doesn’t meet every single bit of the criteria, they are out of luck and don’t have a valid case. The good news is, lemon law is not always black and white.
For reference, let’s go over the basic requirements of one aspect of the lemon law in California.
- Your vehicle must demonstrate a “defect” covered by a warranty, which substantially impairs its use, value or safety.
- The defect must occur within the warranty period, not within the first 18 months of the purchase date or before 18,000 miles accrue on the odometer.
- The vehicle manufacturer has made at least two attempts to repair the warranty-covered defect, or the vehicle has been out of service for more than 30 total days for repairs on any defect covered by the warranty.
- The warranty-covered defect must not be a result of driver abuse.
If you have a faulty vehicle and it does not happen within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles of use, you are not out of luck. These criteria simply make up lemon law presumption. Depending on the details, your case could still result in a buyback, refund, or a cash settlement.
What if the Defective Vehicle Has More Than 18,000 miles or 18 months of Use?
The mileage and duration of ownership
Generally speaking, it is tough for a consumer to meet the short time and mileage requirements of lemon law presumption. As a Los Angeles lemon lawyer, I see this issue all the time. The good news is you can still qualify for benefits under lemon law throughout the entire span of the warranty period, and sometimes even after the warranty expires. More specifically if the defect first occurred at any point within the warranty period, the California lemon law still applies.
Manufacturer warranties can vary.
Most are referred to as “bumper-to-bumper” warranties – or basic warranties. These cover repairs and maintenance for every component of the vehicle. The majority of manufacturer warranties do not cover replacement items due to normal wear and tear (like tires and windshield wipers). Most bumper-to-bumper warranties typically offer coverage for three years/36,000 miles.
However, the warranty will likely extend to the powertrain, which includes coverage for crucial mechanical issues like the engine, transmission, and driveshaft. This coverage normally lasts up to five years/60,000 miles, or even up to 10 years/100,000 miles. Here is an example of what most warranties look like from brand-to-brand, although some brands have made recent changes, such as Volkswagen’s 6 year/72,000 mile warranty:
Keep in mind, the fact that your vehicle doesn’t meet the requirements of lemon law presumption will not complicate the process. That being said, the auto manufacturers have cultivated legal teams and tactics over many years which are designed to combat these claims, minimize your rights, and save the corporation countless dollars over time. It is very difficult to receive full value for your claim without professional guidance.
What if the Warranty is Expired?
Now, this is where things can get tricky. The simple notion that the warranty is expired would likely cause many people to assume they are toast. However, under California lemon law, you still may have a valid claim.
Most importantly, there needs to be evidence that the defect was present while the warranty was still in effect. For example, if your vehicle has a recurring defect that started during the warranty period, was fixed, then resurfaced after the warranty is up, you still might be able to receive benefits under lemon law.
Another scenario might involve you buying a vehicle with no warranty or an unreasonably short one. In this case, your vehicle might still be covered under the implied warranty of merchantability – which can be good for up to a year. The only scenario where you may be out of luck would be if you bought the vehicle “as is.”
There are also instances in which a product recall can validate your case beyond the warranty period. If the defect causes a widespread safety issue and all vehicles made with that element are recalled, the warranty, mileage, and duration of ownership will not factor in. You will likely get the issue resolved free of charge.
Getting the terms of your vehicle’s warranty honored can definitely be tough, especially if the coverage period has expired. This is where a skilled lemon law attorney will make all the difference.
Is Two Repair Attempts Enough?
Repair attempts in the eyes of lemon law can be a little ambiguous. We often see the line that the manufacturer must have a “reasonable” number of repair attempts to fix a given defect.
But how many is a “reasonable” number of repair attempts?
Well, this depends on the nature of the defect.
If the defect represents a “condition that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury,” two repair attempts can be enough. Otherwise, you may need more repair visits. However, the law is clear, two repair attempts is all that is required for compensation from the manufacturer.
If the defect is related to the engine, transmission, steering, or brakes, making a case that the defect presents a risk of death or serious bodily injury may be pretty clear cut. On the other hand, there are certain issues that might require you to make a strong, well-planned case for the vehicle to be deemed a lemon after two repair attempts.
For example, a non-safety defect could potentially be ruled a lemon after two repair attempts if there is a good case that the number of days the vehicle is out of service for repair on those two visits was unreasonable.
The number of repair attempts can certainly be a gray area of lemon law. If it takes the manufacturer’s authorized repair facility multiple attempts to repair ANY warranty-covered issue, you need a seasoned professional to make your case that two repair attempts are enough to deem your faulty vehicle a lemon.
Lemon cases aren’t always cut and dry. So, if you have a defective vehicle that doesn’t meet the requirements of lemon law presumption, don’t go out and spend your hard earned money on repairs just yet. With the right help, you may still recover benefits and get compensation from the manufacturer.
To reiterate, automakers spend a lot of money on legal defense for lemons. Regardless of whether or not you meet the requirements of presumption, you need a specialized lawyer in your corner to go up against the giants. And best of all, the California lemon law requires the manufacturer to pay all legal fees. There is no reason to not have a skilled lemon law attorney on your side. If you have any questions about your situation or need any assistance in getting the justice you deserve, please reach out to us right away!