Leased Car Lemon Law: 5 Things to Know Before Leasing a Car to Avoid a Lemon

Leasing a vehicle is generally believed to be a safer option compared to buying. You get to drive newer vehicle models and don’t have to worry about depreciation. But unfortunately, no vehicle – leased or not – is immune to mechanical defects. The good news is leased car lemon law is on your side.

California has some of the most consumer-friendly lemon laws in the country. Consumers of both purchased and leased vehicles may be entitled to benefits if the vehicle has warranty-covered defects. In this post, we want to explain how the leased car lemon law works in the state of California, and the steps to seeking justice.

1. Which Vehicles Are Most Susceptive to Defects?

You may have a make and model in mind you’d like to lease. While leasing a vehicle is less of a commitment than purchasing one, it’s a good idea to research the model you’ll potentially be driving. Before you make any decisions, look into the car models that get the most safety complaints.

To give you an idea, researched nearly half a million safety-related complaints reported to the National Highway Transportation Administration across 400 vehicle models. Here were the findings starting with models having the highest number of safety complaints:

  1. Chrysler 300
  2. Jeep Grand Cherokee
  3. Chrysler Town & Country
  4. Jeep Wrangler
  5. Toyota Prius
  6. Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan
  7. Ford Edge
  8. Dodge Charger
  9. Ford Fusion
  10. Nissan Murano

On the flip side, here are the models they found with the least number of safety complaints:

  1. Kia Forte
  2. Kia Soul
  3. Chevrolet Silverado 1500
  4. GMC Sierra 1500
  5. Nissan Sentra
  6. Ford F-150
  7. Subaru Forester
  8. Lexus RX
  9. Toyota 4Runner
  10. Nissan Rogue

Generally speaking, ending up with a defective vehicle is pretty rare. You are wise to reduce the risk however you can.

2. How Are Leased Vehicles Covered by California Lemon Law?

Leased vehicles are covered under California lemon law the same as purchased vehicles are – both for personal or business use. Leased car lemon law covers cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, recreational vehicles, all the way to motorcycles and scooters.

If the vehicle is covered under the original warranty and is showing signs of being defective, you have the right to seek compensation. However, just because the vehicle is showing signs of defectiveness does not automatically qualify it as a lemon. The vehicle must meet certain criteria under the state’s law.

3. When is a Leased Vehicle Deemed a Lemon in California?

The criteria of a lemon differ from state to state. In California, the general qualifications include:

  • The vehicle has one or more substantial defects that impair the safety, functionality, or value of the vehicle.
  • The vehicle is covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.
  • The manufacturer has been given a reasonable number of repair attempts (usually at least two) to fix the defect(s).
  • The vehicle has been out of service for repairs for 30 or more days – consecutive or not.
  • The defect was not caused by driver abuse.

The leased car lemon law process is pretty straightforward. The key is having clear documentation that the vehicle meets the qualifications above.

4. Steps to Earning Compensation Under Leased Car Lemon Law

The process of seeking justice via leased car lemon law must be followed very carefully. Now, most people faced with lemon are experiencing it for the first time. Fortunately, the first couple of steps is relatively common knowledge.

Let’s discuss.

  1. Notify the Manufacturer

As soon as you start to notice signs that something seems off, get in touch with the vehicle’s manufacturer – or whoever leased it to you. Be ready to tell them the nature of the defect, as well as the warranty terms (and that the vehicle is still covered). They will point you in the right direction to begin the repair process.

  1. Repair Attempts

The representative from the auto manufacturer will direct you to a manufacturer-certified repair facility. The most important thing to remember in the repair process is to keep all invoices. If the vehicle requires multiple repairs, you’ll need a paper trail of invoices to prove it’s a lemon. The invoices should include:

  • The date/mileage the vehicle was brought in.
  • Name and badge number of the repair technician.
  • The defect(s) identified by the technician.
  • The effort to repair the defect(s)
  • The result of the repair.
  • Indication the repair order has been closed.

The repair invoices are the most crucial piece of the puzzle in leased car lemon law. Be sure to keep them organized.

  1. Hiring a California Lemon Law Attorney

As soon as your vehicle meets the criteria of leased car lemon law in California, your immediate next step is hiring an attorney.

We advise you to stop speaking with the manufacturer altogether at this point. Manufacturers know that you’re probably facing this situation for the first time. They have all sorts of tricks and tactics to avoid taking responsibility for leasing you a lemon.

A skilled California lemon law attorney will handle all the communication from this point on.

Now, many people mistakenly believe a lemon lawyer is too expensive. The best lemon attorneys work on a contingency fee agreement. This means you don’t pay anything out of pocket for their services. The attorney will collect a percentage of the settlement AFTER the case is won. In other words, anyone can hire an attorney to seek justice for a lemon.

  1. Gathering Documentation

At this point, the manufacturer has made multiple unsuccessful attempts to fix the defect. You’re ready to begin the claim process under leased car lemon law. As a common theme in this article; documentation is everything.

In addition to the repair invoices, you need receipts for:

Lease and Official Costs

  • Total lease payments made to-date (cost per month/X number of months)
  • Acquisition fee (not included in lease payments)
  • Amount paid at the lease signing to reduce capitalized costs (down payment, balloon payments)
  • Trade-in allowance
  • The security deposit
  • Sales tax
  • Registration fees

Incidental Costs (if applicable)

  • Towing charges
  • Rental car costs
  • Hotel stays
  • Meals
  • Etc.

Your goal in a lemon claim is to get reimbursed for every single penny you had to spend on account of the lemon. The more documentation you have, the stronger your claim will be.

5. How Quickly Will You Get a Refund?

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this. Lemon law for leased cars is different case by case. The good news is most lemon attorneys prioritize speedy resolutions. To reiterate, they don’t get paid until the case is won.

Another bit of good news is lemon cases very rarely go to trial, which means the process of earning a refund doesn’t usually drag out. As a seasoned lemon law firm in California, our goal is to earn refunds in roughly one month. However, there is no telling how long it will end up taking.

If an attorney promises a timeline in the consultation, this is a big red flag.

The Next Step

Leased car lemon law in California may seem confusing – especially if you’ve never had a lemon before. The most important thing to keep in mind is the attorney you hire is the only party truly on your side. Moreover, most attorneys are happy to answer any questions you might have, even if you don’t have a valid claim.

If your leased vehicle is giving you issues, don’t hesitate to reach out to Cline APC. Call our office at 888-982-6915, send an email to, or schedule a FREE case evaluation.

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