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What You Need to Know About California Lemon Law

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, also known as the California Lemon Law, is a California state law that governs warranties relating to consumer goods. The Act is found in California Civil Code Sections 1790 to 1795.8.

The Song-Beverly Act gives consumers in California the protection of:

  1. implied warranties by manufacturers and retailers that cannot be easily disclaimed;
  2. a mechanism to enforce express warranties given by manufacturers and retailers; and
  3. if the law Act is not followed, access to remedies such as damages, civil penalties; and recovery of litigation costs and expenses (including attorneys’ fees.)

Express Warranties

An express warranty under California lemon law means either a:

  1. written statement by the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of a vehicle promising to maintain the utility or performance ofthe vehicle or provide compensation if the vehicle fails in its utility or performance; or
  2. if a sample or model is used, that the vehicle conforms to the sample or model.

It is not necessary to use formal words such as “warrant” or “guarantee” to create an express warranty.

Implied Warranties

Implied warranties are unspoken and unwritten promises created by law. There are two types of implied warranties in the Song-Beverly Act: the implied warranty of merchantability and the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose.

The implied warranty of merchantability is a basic promise made by the manufacturer and retailerwhen consumer goods are sold that the goods

  1. Pass without objection in the trade under the contract description.
  2. Are fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used.
  3. Are adequately contained, packaged, and labeled.
  4. Conform to the promises or affirmations of fact made on the container or label.

This promise is automatically made every time a retailer sells a product in California, unless the sale is made with specific disclaimers required by law.

The implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose is created when a retailer, distributor, or manufacturer knows that a buyer has particular purpose for the goods bought, and that the buyer is relying on the skill and judgment of the seller to select which goods to purchase.

What Vehicle Sales are Covered by the Song Beverly Act?

The Song-Beverly Act applies to the following vehicles:

  • New motor vehicles bought or used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.
  • New motor vehicles with a gross weight under 10,000 pounds bought or used primarily for business purposes (if the buyer has no more than 5 registered motor vehicles in the state.)
  • Dealer-owned vehicles, “demonstrators,” or other vehicles sold with a manufacturer’s new car warranty.
  • Chassis cab of a motor home.

The Song-Beverly Act does NOT apply to sales of motorcycles, any portion of a motor home designed or primarily used for habitation, or any vehicle not registered under the California Vehicle Code because it has to be operated or used exclusively off the highways.

The vehicle must have been purchased or leased for a term greater than 4 months at retail by an individual from a person whose business is the manufacturing, distributing, selling or leasing of new motor vehicles. The purchase or lease transaction must have taken place in California or by a full-time active duty member of the Armed forces stationed or residing in California at the time of the purchase or lease or at the time the claim is filed.

The Song-Beverly Act does not apply to private sales of motor vehicles, however, there are other consumer protections available in this situation.

What Issues are Covered?

California Lemon Law covers any defects or malfunctions in a vehicle that are both covered by the manufacturer’s express warranty and which substantially affects the use, value or safety of the vehicle. Defects caused by unauthorized or unreasonable use of the vehicle after sale are not covered by the Song-Beverly Act. If you have purchased a vehicle “as-is,” it is unlikely that the vehicle is covered.

Repair Attempts

A manufacturer is required to have service and repair facilities close to all areas where its goods are sold to carry out the terms of its warranties. These can can authorized independent service and repair facilities. If you vehicle has a defect covered by the manufacturer’s express warranty, the Act requires you to bring the vehicle to one of these service facilities. Repairs completed at unauthorized facilities may invalidate the warranty.

The manufacturer must be given a reasonable number of attempts to repair the defect in the vehicle. The Act does not tell us what is considered reasonable, however, if any of the below happen within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles of ownership of the vehicle, then it is presumed that a reasonable number of repair attempts have been made:

  1. the defect is likely to cause death or serious injury, there have been at least 2 repair attempts and the buyer has notified the manufacturer of the defect;
  2. there have been at least 4 repair attempts and the buyer has notified the manufacturer of the defect; or
  3. the vehicle is out of service for more than 30 calendar days since purchase due to repairs.

Remedies

California lemon law requires the manufacturer to replace the defective vehicle or refund the buyer the purchase price, plus any fees (e.g. sales tax, license fees, registration fees), and any reasonable expenses incident to the vehicle defect (e.g. repair, towing, rental car costs, prepayment penalties, early termination charges). A manufacturer does not have to refund the buyer for any non-manufacturer items installed by the dealer or the buyer. Any refund will also be reduced by an amount for the use of the vehicle by the owner before the defect was discovered.

If a replacement vehicle is offered, the replacement vehicle must be new and substantially identical to the vehicle replaced. A buyer cannot be forced to take a replacement vehicle and can always choose a refund instead. If a buyer does choose to take a replacement vehicle, they may be liable to the manufacturer for an amount to cover the use of the vehicle by the buyer before the defect was discovered.

In addition to a replacement vehicle or refund, a consumer who suffers injury or loss because another person has not met its obligations under the Song-Beverly Act can bring legal action against that person and may be entitled to recover damages for their loss, including the costs of litigation.

If you are experiencing substantial issues with your vehicle such as water leaks, brake problems, or engine issues, while under warranty, please feel free to call our office for a free case evaluation. Even if we can’t help you under lemon law, repair attempts made while under warranty may allow us to still assist with a claim under other consumer protection laws.

Experiencing Similar Issues?

If your car was manufactured between 2015 and 2020 we may be able to help. Contact us for more information.