California Lemon Law faq

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Frequently Asked Questions Lemon Law California

We have handled hundreds of lemon law cases – each with their own unique set of circumstances. Over the years, we’ve learned about the most common misconceptions and queries surrounding California lemon law

For your convenience, we’ve addressed them here. 

If you’ve ever wondered how to know if a car is a lemon, take a look at the following criteria mandated by California’s lemon law.

  • The manufacturer has attempted to repair a warranty-covered defect at least twice, or
  • The vehicle was in the shop for a cumulative total of at least 30 days (non-consecutively or consecutively), or
  • The vehicle has multiple warranty-covered defects, of which were not caused by driver abuse.

With all of these conditions, the vehicle (used, leased, or new) defect usually must first occur within the manufacturer or dealer warranty to qualify as a lemon. With a few exceptions, it must also have been purchased or leased in California.

In California, the lemon law provides coverage for buyers or lessees (leased cars) who wind up with a faulty vehicle. The problem, or defect element, is usually related to a “substantial” defect or untreatable problems due to defects in manufacturing or workmanship. The California lemon law covers many defects, including but not limited to:

  • Engine failure
  • Faulty transmission
  • Braking defects
  • Broken seatbelts
  • Accelerator malfunctions
  • Safety equipment malfunctions
  • Steering problems
  • Faulty electrical systems
  • Bad airbags
  • Stalling
  • Ignition failure
  • Software issues
  • Inoperable air conditioning system
  • Malfunctioning fuel gauges or speedometers

In most cases, the manufacturer, through its local authorized repair facility, must be given at least two attempts to repair the defect before the driver may seek compensation or a new vehicle.

If your new, used, or leased vehicle is deemed a lemon, you are entitled to a full buyback (reimbursement) of the vehicle from the manufacturer. This includes the down payment, any payments made on the loan, the loan payoff amount, vehicle registration, taxes, and all other official costs. Additionally, you can recoup all incidental costs that stemmed from the lemon – including rental car expenses, towing fees, cab fares, hotel stays, etc. Just be sure to keep ALL receipts. Get in contact with our team – we’d be happy to provide an estimate for your full buyback amount.

You can also request a replacement of the defective vehicle – which may be the same model or one of similar value. However, a replacement isn’t required by California lemon law like a buyback. The manufacturer doesn’t have to agree to a replacement, instead opting for the refund, aka buyback.

Nothing. The lemon law in California requires the manufacturer to pay for all attorney fees and court costs if you prevail. Now, some lawyers will try to charge you additional contingency fees paid from your buyback, or demand payment upfront – this can be a red flag.

At Cline APC, we don’t believe in contingency fees from your buyback, or out-of-pocket costs to handle your case. You didn’t choose to buy a defective vehicle, why should you have to suffer the consequences? With us, you won’t pay a dime for our consultation, evaluations, or hours of service. We are only paid if your case is successful and only after you have obtained your recovery.

We’re often asked, “can a used car be considered a lemon?” Our answer is always, “absolutely!”

In the state of California, used cars can qualify under lemon law if they are still under the manufacturer or dealer warranty. In this scenario, they would be treated the same as a defective new vehicle.

When determining what qualifies a vehicle as a lemon, it doesn’t matter if it was bought or leased. If your vehicle is covered under warranty and meets the criteria of the California lemon law, you could be entitled to compensation.

This is a common unscrupulous tactic employed by manufacturers and dealerships. They will try to convince you your vehicle is not a lemon, then try to sell you a new one. As a result, your loan will likely go up and cost you thousands in the long run.

Keep in mind – the manufacturer, dealership, or service technician is not a lawyer or a judge – nor are they on your side when it comes to getting justice in the eyes of new or used car lemon law. They have no say in whether or not your vehicle is a lemon. Bring your evidence, such as receipts and repair invoices from the manufacturer and repair facility, to our team at Cline APC. We’ll take a look to see if you have a lemon law case, despite what you’ve been told.

Always remember: the only person on your side in a lemon law case is the lemon law lawyer you speak to.

While we are always happy to meet our clients in person, it’s not usually necessary. In most situations, we can handle your new or used car lemon case with just a few phone calls, or even emails. We’ll evaluate your situation over the phone, which means there’s no need for you to go out of your way to visit our office and waste hours of time.

Give us a call. Our California lemon law lawyers will explain the entire process and handle every facet of your case.

It depends. Every lemon law case is a little bit different and there are a number of things that are simply out of our control. At Cline APC, we are devoted to two things above all else: consumer justice and speedy resolutions. Depending on all the details and circumstances involved with your case, we will aim to force a response from the manufacturer within 30 days – but we cannot guarantee it.

Typically, we settle our California lemon law cases before they ever enter a courtroom. Should the need arise, we’ll handle the trial as a well-trained, aggressive litigation team. The lemon law attorneys at Cline APC have an extensive amount of trial experience. We’ve earned a reputation for never backing down to the big auto giants in court – no matter what.

No. In fact, we often advise against arbitration. Manufacturers and dealers typically advise this because the process does not favor consumers. If they try to convince you to do arbitration, don’t listen – talk to us first. We’ll show you how to start a lemon law claim with the best chances of receiving fair results for you, not the entity that sold you the car. Remember, the lemon law is a consumer protection law, not a manufacturer protection law.

Yes. Our team has gone up against all of the major manufacturers, including those who produce motorcycles, boats, and/or RVs. The new or used car lemon law can apply to any kind of “vehicle” that meets the qualifications.

If your question isn’t answered in this list, feel free to give us a call. The founder of Cline APC, Mr. Brian K Cline, will be happy to speak with you about California lemon law and the process of filing a claim.

You may also use the free California lemon law case evaluation.

Ready to learn more? Contact our firm today for a totally free consultation. Call 888.982.6915 or contact us at