Not long ago, a friend contacted me about a dangerous and recurring problem she was experiencing with her car, a lemon. As a professional photographer, she travels all over for photoshoots, often driving on the characteristic hills and curves of Southern California roads. She discovered the hard way that her vehicle had a defective transmission and she was often at risk of her car rolling downhill on these winding, elevated roads.

After many repair attempts by the manufacturer, she realized the issue was unfixable. Her car was a lemon. As a California Lemon Law attorney, I was able to negotiate a settlement on her behalf so that she could replace the defective car with a more reliable vehicle. She is now able to focus on professional images instead of potential damages to her car (or herself).

What is the California Lemon Law?

In 1970, the State of California passed the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, more commonly known as the California Lemon Law. This law requires all consumer product manufacturers to buy back or replace defective or faulty products after a “reasonable number” of repair attempts. It protects buyers from warranty defects that the dealer or manufacturer can’t repair.

What does the law cover?

The law covers newly purchased or leased vehicles, including:

  • cars, vans, SUVs, and pickup trucks
  • a motorhome’s drivetrain, chassis, and chassis cab
  • dealer-owned demonstrators and other vehicles
  • vehicles leased or purchased mainly for business purposes
  • vehicles leased or purchased for family, household, or personal reasons

In order to be covered by the California Lemon Law, the vehicle also has to be:

  • leased or purchased at retail in this state, or
  • leased or purchased by an active duty, full-time member of the Armed Forces residing or stationed in this state at the time of the lease or purchase or when a claim is filed

The law does not cover private vehicle sales, even if the vehicle is still under a manufacturer’s warranty, or used cars purchased from a dealer and out of warranty.

When is a vehicle considered a lemon?

The California Lemon Law presumes that a vehicle is a lemon if any of the following apply within 18 months of the purchase or 18,000 miles on the odometer, whichever comes first:

  • The manufacturer or dealer has made two or more efforts and has still failed to fix a warranty problem with the vehicle – a problem likely to cause accidents and injuries if the vehicle is on the road.
  • The manufacturer or dealer has made at least four efforts – and has failed – to fix the same warranty problem.
  • If the vehicle becomes inoperable for at least 30 days
  • The issues with the vehicle are covered by the warranty, considerably reduce the vehicle’s use, value, or safety, and have not been caused by an owner’s abuse or neglect of the vehicle.

But, don’t be discouraged if your vehicle’s history does not fall under one of the above scenarios.  The above scenarios just mean the law “presumes” it you’ve had enough.  You can still qualify if you don’t meet these parameters, we just have to convince the manufacturer or jury.

Additionally, any problem that affects a vehicle’s safety may fall under the jurisdiction of the state’s lemon law. An attorney well-versed in the California Lemon Law can provide further guidance on this.

Who is responsible for a lemon law settlement?

So, you find out the new vehicle you purchased is a lemon. Who is held accountable for covering your losses?

Under California law, auto manufacturers have a duty to protect the public and to produce vehicles that are reasonably safe and free of defects. Under the California Lemon Law, vehicle manufacturers – and dealers – are considered accountable when a vehicle is a lemon. Quite simply, they must refund the purchase price or replace the vehicle at their expense.

There is no cost to the owner of the lemon to obtain a settlement from the manufacturer or dealer, including attorney’s fees and costs. Like my photographer friend and client, the California Lemon Law can provide a picture-perfect ending to a distressing situation.

Think you have a claim? Get a free, no-obligation case evaluation from Sotera L. Anderson, California Lemon Law Attorney, here or call  1-855-96-LEMON, or (858) 247-0050.