As a lemon law lawyer in California, I get asked all sorts of questions about defective vehicles. One of the big ones I get from time-to-time involves business vehicles – and how the lemon law process differs from personal vehicles.
Lemon law generally applies to cars that were purchased or leased for personal use, but it may also apply to business use vehicles. With business vehicles, the process is similar – there are just a few extra details. In this post, I want to go over the criteria business vehicles must meet to be ruled by lemons, as well as some of the options available.
Lemon Law Qualifications for Business Vehicles
If you’re new to my blog, I want to explain what generally qualifies a vehicle as a lemon in California. A vehicle can be ruled a lemon if:
- The vehicle has one or more defects – covered under the manufacturer or dealer warranty – that impair its use, value, or safety.
- The manufacturer or dealer has made at least two or more unsuccessful attempts to repair a warranty-covered defect.
- The defective vehicle has been out of commission for 30 or more days due to any number of warranty-covered repairs.
- The defect was not a result of driver abuse.
In addition to this core list of California lemon law qualifications, there are a few extra items that come into play with business vehicles.
Now, when looking at the fine print, it may appear that lemon law only applies to personal vehicles. According to Civil Code Section 1793.22, the lemon law applies only to vehicles “bought or used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.”
This rule definitely makes it sound like business vehicles are excluded from coverage. However, the California legislature has expressly considered how vehicle warranties apply to business owners – and have included an exception to the law.
Under the exceptions listed in the Civil Code Section 1793.22, owners of business vehicles are entitled to benefits under California lemon law if:
- The gross vehicle weight is under 10,000 lbs.
- The business that owns the lemon vehicle has no more than five vehicles registered in its name.
In regards to the five-vehicle limit, this only counts for vehicles registered in the state of California. If you have a business that stretches across state lines, any other vehicle you have registered outside of California may not factor into your lemon law claim.
How Does the Weight Limit Work?
10,000 lb. The gross vehicle weight limit is big enough to cover most automobiles – from full-sized sedans, trucks, SUVs, and many commercial trucks intended for small business use. That said, a great number of business vehicles are covered.
Now, an important distinction to make is between gross vehicle weight (GVW) and gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). In the eyes of California lemon law, these metrics are very different. GVW refers to the weight of the vehicle alone, whereas GVWR involves the vehicle’s weight when it’s fully loaded (passengers, cargo, etc.) – and the weight capacity the vehicle is designed for.
So, the GVWR will be significantly greater than GVW. When vehicles are advertised or discussed at dealerships, GVWR is generally the term being talked about. The good news for the owner is lemon law only applies to the GVW.
Are You Eligible for a Civil Penalty?
Chances are, you’ve never dealt with lemon before. Manufacturers are known for exploiting this and resorting to all kinds of shady tactics to avoid providing a buyback. If you get in touch with a manufacturer requesting a buyback for your defective vehicle, they may try to tell you:
- California lemon law does not apply to your vehicle because it’s registered to a business, not you.
- The GVWR exceeds 10,000 lbs. – which means your vehicle is not eligible to receive any sort of benefit per the state’s lemon law.
These are misrepresentations, plain and simple.
Manufacturers prey on the ignorance of consumers who don’t know the law backward and forwards. And truth be told, it works on many unsuspecting consumers. This is why you MUST seek out an experienced lemon law lawyer in California to manage your claim.
If the manufacturer tries to give you any excuses – in hopes you’ll call it a loss and not seek justice – you might be able to increase your monetary return in a lawsuit.
Under Civil Code Section 1794(c), California lemon law allows consumers to recover a civil penalty, which is equal to up to two times the monetary damages incurred by the owner. This is in addition to the buyback amount the manufacturer is required to pay if they lose the claim.
The civil penalty holds manufacturers accountable for willfully violating California lemon law statutes. The purpose isn’t so much to compensate the consumer; it’s more to punish the automaker.
So how do you prove the manufacturer willfully violated the state’s lemon law?
Generally, this involves showing:
- You contacted the manufacturer.
- You displayed the unsuccessful repair history to prove CA lemon law qualifications were met
- You requested a buyback or replacement
- They refused
This is something that is best left to your chosen lemon law lawyer in California. If you’re convinced your vehicle is a lemon, get in touch with an attorney right away.
California lemon law and business vehicles can be tricky. The last thing you want to do is go into the process without expert help. If you do this, there is a good chance you will not get the compensation you deserve.
At Cline APC, we’ve settled many, many lemon law claims for businesses. If you’ve got a hunch that a business vehicle’s defect was a result of faulty manufacturing, reach out to our team today.
We’ll be happy to discuss the process of seeking justice.