So you think your car is a lemon? Defective. A bad deal. A pile of junk. The good news is, there are laws like the California Lemon Law to protect consumers and provide a settlement when a car has gone sour.

But why is it called a “lemon.” What is the origin of the term attributed to a defective car?

Goods gone sour

The word “lemon” has been used for more than 100 years to describe a defective product or an item that has a lower value than meets the eye. Most likely, the word was used because of its connotation to something that’s sour and decidedly distasteful. It was only a matter of time before this word was ascribed to automobiles.

According to, the term became firmly attached to cars as the country became more aware of automobiles quality and safety right around the same time Volkswagen came out with its notorious “lemon” ad in 1960.

Laws for flaws

In 1975, the federal government enacted the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act to protect consumers who purchased defective vehicles. It quickly became known as the lemon law. Prior to passage of this act, consumers had very little protection when they experienced repeated problems or defects with their newly purchased vehicle. The law in most states, including California, also covers leased vehicles and some protections for used vehicles still under warranty.

According to the California State Attorney General website, the California Lemon Law (Civ. Code, § 1793.22) protects you when your vehicle is defective and cannot be repaired after a “reasonable” number of attempts. In such instances, the manufacturer must either replace or repurchase the vehicle—whichever you prefer.

The California Lemon Law can protect your rights as an automobile owner. But navigating the process can be tricky to the untrained claim applicant. If you are experiencing repeated problems with your new vehicle, contact an attorney specializing in California Lemon Law to learn about filing a claim and maximizing your settlement.

Think you have a claim? Take this quick free quiz here or 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.