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8 Things You Should Know About California Lemon Law

Jul 5, 2022

Lemon laws are state consumer protection laws that apply when you find out that your recently purchased (or sometimes leased) vehicle is defective. Each state’s lemon laws are slightly different, so what do you need to know if you have a lemon vehicle in California?

1. CA lemon law can apply to new and used vehicles

Many state lemon laws restrict lemon laws based on whether the vehicle is purchased new or used. In California, lemon law looks at the vehicle warranty. If a new or used vehicle is still within the original or extended warranty period, it may be eligible for a lemon law claim. This would include certified pre-owned vehicles that are still covered by the vehicle warranty. It does not cover breaches of service warranties.

2. What types of vehicles are covered by CA lemon law?

California lemon law covers vehicles used for primarily personal, family or household purposes, and many vehicles bought by smaller businesses (owning 1-5 vehicles in the state.) It applies to:

  • Cars
  • Pickup trucks
  • Vans
  • SUVs
  • The chassis cab of a motor home
  • Dealer-owned vehicles
  • Demonstrator vehicles

3. What problems are covered by CA lemon law?

Lemon law claims can be brought in California for “nonconformities” in vehicles, which are any defects in the vehicle that:

  • Are covered by the manufacturer’s new-vehicle warranty;

AND

  • Substantially impair the use, value, or safety of the vehicle;

AND

  • Are not caused by unauthorized or unreasonable use of the vehicle.

California differs from some other states in that it specifically requires the defect to be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. However, in practice, most defects that are substantial enough to bring a lemon law claim would be within the scope of a manufacturer’s warranty anyway.

4. How soon can you bring a lemon law claim in California?

Technically, a lemon law claim can be started in California as soon as you discover a non-conformity in the vehicle. However, this is typically not the best approach because the law makes it easier to prove that a vehicle is a lemon if there has been an unreasonable attempt to repair the vehicle. It is presumed that an unreasonable number of repair attempts have been made if any of the following happen within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles (whichever is earlier,) and if the manufacturer has been notified of the defect (if required by the vehicle warranty):

  • The manufacturer has had 4 unsuccessful repair attempts for the nonconformity;

OR

  • The manufacturer has had 2 unsuccessful repair attempts for a nonconformity that could cause death or serious bodily injury if driven;

OR

  • The vehicle has been out of service for repair of one or more nonconformities for 30 days or more (cumulatively.)

The deadline for bringing a lemon law claim is 4 years from discovery of the defect, however, it is not advisable to wait this long to bring a claim. As more time passes, it will be much more difficult to prove that the vehicle was a lemon when it was new.

5. How long does a lemon law claim take in California?

There is no one answer to this question. Every case is different, and the timing can be affected by various factors such as the nature of the problem, the manufacturer, and the attorney that you hire. We have found that we have been able to settle the majority of our California lemon law cases within 30-90 days, but we recommend that before you hire a lemon law attorney, you ask them about their typical time to settlement and their fee policy.

6. A successful CA lemon law case should be free to you.

Like other states, California lemon law contains a fee-shifting provision which makes manufacturers pay all legal fees in a successful lemon law claim. That means that it should not cost you a cent to bring a lemon law claim. However, you should ask an attorney what their fee policy is before you hire them to ensure that you will not be charged legal fees if your claim is unsuccessful. At Timothy Abeel & Associates, we guarantee that, win or lose, we will never you send you a bill for fees, ever.

7. You can get cashback or a replacement vehicle

If you succeed in your lemon law claim, you are entitled to choose either a replacement vehicle or reimbursement of your purchase price. If you choose a replacement vehicle, the manufacturer must give you a comparable vehicle, which means the same make, model, and trim as your previous vehicle. If your lemon vehicle was financed or leased, your loan or lease will continue on the same terms. If you choose to repurchase of your lemon vehicle, you are entitled to reimbursement of the full price that you paid, including any sales tax, registration fees, and finance charges. Whichever option you choose, you are also entitled to be reimbursed for any rental car expenses and repair costs, and to have your attorney fees paid.

8. If lemon laws don’t apply, you still have options

If you are having problems with your vehicle but think you might be outside the time limits or other requirements for a lemon law claim, you should ask an experienced lemon law attorney for advice. Lemon laws are technical, and you may be protected by them even when you do not realize it. Also, there are other federal and state consumer protection laws that can often be relied on by owners who are unable to bring a lemon law claim.

Timothy Abeel & Associates has an experienced lemon law team with offices in California to answer your lemon law questions, and, if you choose, pursue a lemon law claim for you. For more information or a free case review, call us at 888.611.5481 or contact us online today.

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