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Frequently Asked California Lemon Law Questions Explained

California’s Lemon Law is a consumer protection law that helps people who buy or lease new vehicles or motor homes that have major defects that cannot be repaired during the first 18 months of ownership or the first 18,000 miles the vehicle is driven (whichever happens first). Even if you are not the original owner or lessee of a vehicle, you may still be able to bring a Lemon Law claim if you purchased a vehicle that malfunctions prior to meeting the 18-month time limit or 18,000 mileage limit.

There are a few requirements that determine whether your new vehicle is covered by California Lemon Law:

  • The vehicle must be a car, SUV, truck, passenger van, motor home (chassis cab only), or other non-commercial vehicle.
  • The vehicle must be used primarily for consumer, household or personal use (meaning, not used primarily in connection with a business).
  • The vehicle must be purchased or leased from a dealer in California.

No, motorcycles, boats, and unregistered off-road vehicles do not qualify as vehicles under California’s Lemon Law but there are other laws that can help motorcycle, boat and off-road vehicle owners if they buy or lease one that’s defective.

Not every vehicle defect or problem qualifies you for a Lemon Law claim (although there may be other laws available to make a claim and get compensation).

California’s Lemon Law requires:

  • A defect or problem that is covered by the vehicle’s written warranty.
  • A defect or problem that substantially impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle.
  • The defect or problem has not been repaired or corrected by the car dealer after a reasonable number of attempts (in other words, you need to give the car dealership at least two chances to repair or correct the defect before you file a Lemon Law claim).
  • BUT if the vehicle has been out-of-service because of the defect—or any other problem or malfunction—for a cumulative total of 30 or more calendar days you can file a Lemon Law claim EVEN IF the dealer hasn’t had four chances to fix the defect.
  • A dealer to give you a fully itemized statement of the work each time you take the vehicle in for repair or service, including information about any parts installed and labor performed.

California Lemon Law provides for two remedies – you choose the one you want:

  • A vehicle repurchase: If the owner or lessee chooses to have the vehicle repurchased, the vehicle’s manufacturer is required to pay back:
    • The vehicle’s purchase price (not the market price, or its current value, but the purchase price you paid according to the original invoice or lease contract, including any credit your received for the trade-in of your old vehicle).
    • The sales tax, license/registration fees, and finance charges you paid.
    • The down payment, loan and lease payments you’ve made.
    • The cost of any manufacturer-installed options after the date you took delivery.
    • The cost of any rental car you needed while the vehicle was being repaired.
    • Repair costs, attorneys’ fees, expert fees and court costs.


  • A replacement vehicle: If you’d rather get a brand-new vehicle that operates correctly, you have the option of receiving a comparable vehicle (same make, model and trim level) with credit for all of your payments as if you still owned the original vehicle. In other words:
    • Your loan or lease continues at its current unpaid balance and will still run for the original term (it is not extended).
    • Your prior payments are counted toward the loan or lease as if you still owned the defective vehicle.
    • In other words, if you were in month six of a four-year car loan or lease when the defective vehicle was replaced, your next payment with the new car counts as payment number seven under your loan or lease.
    • If you choose the replacement vehicle remedy, the manufacturer also pays your rental car expenses, repair costs, attorneys’ fees, expert fees and court costs.

If the problems with your new car started after 18 months or 18,000 miles, you may still have claims under other consumer protection laws, such as breach of implied product warranties or a fraud claim against the dealer.

The Lemon Law is designed so that the owner of a defective vehicle is fully reimbursed and not stuck paying additional expenses or costs. The law includes a fee-shifting provision that requires the vehicle manufacturer to pay all attorneys’ fees and other legal costs if the consumer wins the case IN ADDITION TO reimbursement for all repairs and service visits at the dealer.

All your expenses are paid whether you choose the repurchase remedy or replacement vehicle remedy.

Yes, we file Lemon Law claims for vehicle owners throughout California no matter where they live in the state. If we need to have an expert inspect your vehicle and write a report, we will send that person to you.

We work tirelessly to get our clients back on the road and with money back in their pockets as soon as possible, with a goal of settling each case within the first 30 to 60 days. If you choose to get a full refund, the Lemon Law requires payment within 30 days. We’re also not afraid to file suit against the manufacturer if they refuse to give our clients everything they're legally entitled to.

Even if the repairs and issues with your vehicle don’t fit within the parameters of Lemon Law, they may qualify as unreasonable under other state or federal consumer protection laws. Call Timothy Abell & Associates at 888.830.1474 or contact us online to find out if you have a breach of warranty or loss in value claim.

Timothy Abeel & Associates, P.C. works to get the owners of defective or malfunctioning vehicles the settlement they deserve as fast as possible. Give our firm a call at 888-830-1474 to find out what you are entitled to as a consumer.