There’s a certain sense of joy and satisfaction in driving a new automobile off the dealership lot, whether it’s your first car or your fifth. It’s pristine inside and out, smells new, handles like a top. Everything is great. Until it isn’t.

When you experience a significant issue with your warrantied car that persists after multiple repair attempts by the dealer or manufacturer, your new vehicle could very well be a lemon.

Understanding the California Lemon Law

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, commonly known as California’s Lemon Law, was designed to protect consumers who buy or lease a new or used vehicle that comes with the manufacturer’s original warranty. Under this law, you may be entitled to relief in the form of a refund or replacement car if your vehicle is deemed a lemon. This law applies throughout the duration of the vehicle manufacturer’s original warranty period.

Meeting the criteria for a lemon

While all 50 states have some form of a new car lemon law, the California Lemon Law presumes that a vehicle is a lemon if it meets any of the following criteria within 18 months of the purchase or 18,000 miles on the odometer, whichever comes first:

  • You purchased or leased a new or used car from a dealer in California.
  • During the factory warranty period, you took the car in several times for the same problem.
  • The dealer has made multiple attempts to repair the vehicle, but the problem still exists.
  • The problem is so significant that it impacts the vehicle’s use, value, or safety.

Making repair attempts

With the California Lemon Law, the manufacturer is allowed a reasonable number of repair attempts to fix the problem. What is considered “reasonable” will depend on the circumstances, but in all cases at least two repair attempts are required before a claim can be made.

Taking action if you think your car is a lemon

There are certain steps you should take to protect your rights under California’s Lemon Law:

  • Notify the manufacturer or dealer about the problems you are experiencing with the vehicle.
  • Document the nature of the problems, including when they started.
  • Take your vehicle to the dealer or manufacturer for repairs as soon as possible.
  • Save all documents that are related to the repair; don’t rely on the dealer or manufacturer to keep these for you.
  • If the problem persists after multiple repair attempts, contact an attorney as soon as possible. Many manufacturers aggressively defend against lemon law claims and retaining experienced legal counsel early in the process will help maximize your chances of a satisfactory settlement.

It is important to note that there are deadlines for filing a lemon law claim. If the deadlines pass, you could lose out on the opportunity to exercise your rights under the California Lemon Law.

Considering your settlement options

The manufacturer, not the dealership, is responsible for the warranty and would be responsible for covering the refund or replacement of your automobile. As the consumer, you are entitled to receive all the monies paid for the vehicle, which may include a deduction for mileage offset. Or, if you choose to receive a replacement car, the manufacturer must replace your vehicle with a substantially identical vehicle. If you want additional options or after-market items, you may have to pay for those items out-of-pocket.

So, if that new car smell is starting to turn sour with unfixable defects, turn to the California Lemon Law to protect your rights as a consumer and put your hands on the wheel of a reliable automobile at no cost to you.

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.