Lemon Law vs. Warranty: What’s the Difference and How Do They Work

Imagine cruising down the California coast in your new car. Suddenly, an odd sound starts humming from under the hood and a flickering dashboard light comes on. You bought a defective vehicle thanks to the manufacturer’s negligence in the factory.

What are your options?

If you’re reading this post, you’re probably trying to educate yourself on California lemon law vs warranty terms. Fortunately, you came to the right place.

In this post, we’re going to explain the details of California lemon law, how your vehicle’s written warranty comes into play, and your options to seek justice. Let’s get into it.

Understanding the Basics of California Lemon Law

California lemon law – known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act – exists to protect consumers and hold manufacturers accountable for producing, approving, and selling defective vehicles. It requires auto brands to fairly compensate affected consumers in accordance with the terms of warranty law.

Now, if your vehicle is experiencing signs of a defect, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s a lemon; it needs to meet specific criteria, including:

  • The vehicle was covered under the original warranty when the defect was first reported to the manufacturer; and
  • The defect substantially impairs the vehicle’s safety, functionality, and/or value; and
  • The defect was not caused by driver error, abuse, or neglect; and
  • The manufacturer has made a reasonable number of repair attempts to fix the defect; or
  • The vehicle was out of service for repairs for 30 or more cumulative days.

If you can prove – with valid documentation – that your vehicle meets these qualifications, you may pursue a lemon claim with the help of an experienced California lemon law lawyer.

Understanding The Warranty’s Role in California Lemon Law

When it comes to lemon law vs warranty terms – the process of seeking fair compensation starts with the warranty.

If you’re experiencing any defects with your vehicle, the first move is to check your warranty terms.

Now, there’s a common misconception out there about California lemon law. You may have read online that your vehicle’s defect must occur within the first 18 months after purchase or before 18,000 miles accrue on the odometer. This is not true. As long as the defect is reported within the warranty terms, it may be eligible for a California lemon law claim.

How Long is Warranty Law Good for?

Every auto brand has specific warranty terms for the motor vehicles they sell. For new vehicles, these are the standard warranty terms per brand:

  • Hyundai – 5 years/60K miles
  • Kia – 5 years/60K miles
  • Infiniti – 4 years/50K miles
  • Cadillac – 4 years/50K miles
  • Volkswagen – 4 years/50K miles
  • Ford – 3 years/36K miles
  • Toyota – 3 years/36K miles
  • Honda – 3 years/36K miles
  • Chevrolet – 3 years/36K miles

As long as you don’t do anything to void the warranty, any defect reported within these terms should be repaired by the manufacturer free of charge per the vehicle service contracts.

What About Warranty Law for Used Cars?

Unlike most states, California’s lemon law covers used vehicles. However, the window is significantly smaller than new vehicles.

Many used vehicles at car dealers in California are sold with dealer warranties. These are typically good for 30 days after purchase or before 1,000 miles accrue on the odometer.

These warranty terms must be spelled out in the buyer’s guide – which should be attached to the vehicle while on display. Per California’s warranty law, the buyer’s guide must indicate if there is a dealer warranty in place or if the vehicle is being sold “as is”.

“As is” means there is no warranty in place and the consumer takes full responsibility for any defects – meaning there are no lemon law rights in place.

If there is no indication of an “as is” agreement or warranty, there will be an implied warranty of merchantability. This is an unspoken warranty law that promises the vehicle is fit for its intended use. These warranties are usually good for 60 days up to a year and cover the essential components.

Pulling Together California Lemon Law Vs Warranty Law

Your ability to seek compensation under California lemon law is dependent on your vehicle’s warranty status.

To reiterate, your vehicle’s warranty MUST be valid when you formally report the defect to the manufacturer. This is why it’s extremely important to report the defect as soon as you notice something is off.

The Truth About Lemon Law and Auto Manufacturers

There’s a harsh reality about seeking compensation from a manufacturer after they sell you a defective vehicle.

These global brands have zero intention of taking responsibility for their negligence. Even if your vehicle meets the criteria of California lemon law, the manufacturer’s high-powered legal defense teams will fight tooth and nail to deny your claim.

This is another reason why it’s so important to act quickly in reporting your defect.

If you wait longer into the terms of the warranty law, the manufacturer will likely argue the defect is not “substantial” enough to warrant a claim. This is just one example.

The most important step in the process is speaking with an experienced California lemon law attorney. They will help you understand your rights and will manage all the negotiations with the manufacturer to ensure you get every dollar you are owed.

Why Hire a California Lemon Law Lawyer?

 Chances are, you’ve never dealt with the lemon law process before.

Simply put: you stand a very small chance of earning fair compensation if you try to negotiate a lemon law settlement without an attorney. Skilled lemon law lawyers know every tactic the manufacturer’s legal teams use to deny claims – and they’ll fight in your corner to earn the justice you deserve.

How much does it cost to hire a lemon law lawyer?

Hiring a lemon law lawyer costs you nothing out-of-pocket.

Per California lemon law, manufacturers are required to cover all your attorney fees and court costs as part of the settlement. For this reason, lemon attorneys work on a contingency fee agreement – meaning they won’t charge you anything upfront to take your case.

In other words, everyone can afford to hire a good lemon law lawyer.

The Next Move

Understanding the intersection of lemon law vs warranty period can feel daunting – whether it’s a new or used vehicle. The most important thing to understand is you are not alone.

Most lemon law lawyers understand you’re in this situation for the first time – and offer free consultations to learn about your situation and if you are eligible for a claim.

At Cline APC, we work with California consumers to educate them on the finer details of the state’s lemon law – and help them earn justice from manufacturers. To schedule a FREE consultation, call our office at 888-982-6915, send an email to info@clineapc.com, or fill out a free case evaluation.

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