California Lemon Law New Car Q&A

The California lemon law new car process may sound straightforward on the surface – but many, many minute details can muddle the answers you might be looking for. To make things even more complicated, the internet is full of conflicting information on the subject.

Why is this?

Lemon law exists to help consumers earn compensation for being sold a defective product – primarily vehicles. Automakers have no interest in refunding their hard-earned money and owning up to their mistakes. Not only is it a big loss for them to buy back a faulty vehicle, but agreeing to refund a customer for producing/selling a defective vehicle is a strike against their global brand image.

Manufacturers have access to the best legal defense money can buy. The most important thing customers need to understand if they have a lemon is it’s near impossible to get full compensation without a professional attorney.

With this in mind, manufacturers put out a lot of information online deterring consumers from seeking a lemon law attorney. They have no problem steering customers in the wrong direction to avoid a buyback.

That’s why we wanted to create a new car lemon law California Q&A to clear up some of the misinformation out there.

Let’s get into it.

Q 1: What is the Purpose of California Lemon Law New Car Regulations?

Lemon law – known as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act – was enacted in 1975 to hold manufacturers accountable for selling defective products. Technically, the lemon law applies to all consumer products sold with a warranty, but automobiles are the primary products disputed.

Unfortunately, returning a defective vehicle is not as easy as returning something to Walmart. There is a process and list of requirements the situation must meet.

If the new vehicle you purchased has a defective part – and is still covered under the warranty – the manufacturer has a reasonable number of attempts to repair it. If they are unable to fix the defect, consumers can seek a buyback or replacement under California lemon law’s new car regulations.

Buyers should never be left on the hook when they are sold a defective vehicle. The new car lemon law in California exists so they don’t have to.

Q 2: What Qualifies a Vehicle under California Lemon Law New Car Guidelines?

Lemon law exists across the country. But the requirements for lemons are a bit different in each state. For a claim to be valid under the new car lemon law in California, it must meet these qualifications:

  • The vehicle must have at least one substantial defect that impairs the safety, functionality, or value.
  • The manufacturer must be given a reasonable number of attempts to repair the warranty-covered defect(s).
  • The vehicle has been out of service for at least 30 total days due to repairs.
  • The defect was not caused by driver abuse.

Q 3: What Does Primarily Used “for Personal, Family, or Household Purposes” Mean?

This is one of the most common lemon law California new car FAQs we see.

Per California lemon law, a vehicle is covered if its main use is for “personal, family, or household purposes.” This includes using the vehicle for household errands, driving to work, school, or day-to-day life.

Q 4: How Do You Prove You Have a Lemon?

To prove your new car is a lemon, you need to have documentation that the defect is substantial enough to impair the safety, functionality, or value. Additionally, you need to prove that the defect was reported to the manufacturer while the warranty was in effect. You will need:

  • A copy of the original warranty terms.
  • Records of communication with the manufacturer.
  • Signed, dated, and closed repair invoices from the manufacturer’s certified repair facility.

Q 5: What Are the First Steps to Take with a Faulty Car Under Lemon Law California New Car Regulations?

When you notice something is off with your new vehicle – like making weird noises – you need to contact the manufacturer you purchased/leased it from ASAP. If you wait until after the warranty runs out to report the issue, you won’t likely be eligible for benefits.

The manufacturer will direct you to a certified repair facility after you describe the defect and verify the warranty. They will then begin the repair process.

DO NOT take the vehicle to your trusted mechanic. This can void your lemon claim.

Q 6: Does the New Car Lemon Law California Cover More than Cars?

Yes. To reiterate, lemon law covers all consumer products sold with a warranty. Vehicles are the primary item in lemon law cases due to the high price tag. New car lemon law in California covers the following vehicle types:

  • Cars
  • Vans
  • Trucks
  • SUVs
  • Motorhomes
  • Recreational vehicles
  • Scooter
  • Motorcycles

Q 7: Are Leased Cars Covered under New Car Lemon Law California Regulations?

Yes. Leased vehicles are covered under the new car lemon law in California in the same way purchased vehicles are. If you leased your vehicle, you will need to provide the terms of the lease with your claim.

Q 8: Are Business Vehicles Covered Under New Car Lemon Law California?

The new car lemon law makes it sound like vehicles used for personal, family, or household purposes are the only ones that apply. This is in accordance with Civil Code Section 1793.22.

However, the California legislature has considered how warranties apply to business vehicles as well. Owners of business vehicles may seek benefits under CA lemon law if:

  • The business that owns the lemon has up to five vehicles registered.
  • The gross weight of the vehicle is under 10K lbs.
  • The vehicle was purchased and registered in the state of California.

Q 9: Are There Any Exceptions in the Lemon Law California New Car Guidelines?

Yes. There are several exceptions that may invalidate your new car lemon law claim. For one, the defect is not “substantial” enough to warrant a case. For instance, a faulty radio knob or CD player may not be severe enough to legitimize a claim.

One of the most important pieces of information we can give in this new car lemon law Q&A is to make sure the repair invoices are closed. This indicates the repair attempt made by the manufacturer has been officially completed.

If the repair invoice is not closed, it technically means the manufacturer is still in the process of completing the repair. Your lemon law claim is not valid unless the repair invoices have been closed.

Q 10: Is Arbitration a Quicker, Cheaper Option than Court for New Car Lemon Law?


Of all the answers we provide in this new car lemon law Q&A, this is one of the most important.

If the manufacturer is unable to repair your vehicle’s defect, it’s a common tactic to encourage arbitration. This would be instead of hiring a lemon law California attorney.

They will tell you it’s a much easier and cheaper alternative than going to court. What they don’t tell you is it’s only “easier and cheaper” for them.

Arbitration is paid for by the manufacturer. This means arbitrators may or may not be biased.

Think about it like this:

Not hiring a lemon law attorney means you’re facing the manufacturer’s high-powered legal team on your own. It would be like playing a basketball game against a fully professional team singlehandedly – and you’ve never touched a basketball in your life. Now, if you opt for arbitration, you’re playing that same basketball game, only now the referees are on their side.

Arbitration almost always ends with the consumer getting a low-ball cash settlement.

If your vehicle qualifies under the new car lemon law, hire an attorney. Lemon law lawyers make a percentage of the compensation after you win the case. This means it’s in their best interests to fight for the maximum amount as quickly as possible.

Is it Time to Hire a Lemon Law Attorney in California?

If your vehicle is experiencing recurring issues – and the manufacturer is not able to repair it – it’s time to seek out an attorney. At this point, you should stop communicating with the manufacturer. Like we mentioned, they have no problem steering you in the wrong direction.

Your lemon law attorney in California will gather all the materials needed to build your case and manage all communication with the automaker. This is the key to earning maximum compensation.

Now, this new car lemon law Q&A only touches the surface of the subject. If you have any further questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to Cline APC. No matter what the situation is, we’re happy to help. Call our office at 888-982-6915, send an email to, or fill out a FREE case evaluation.

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