Understanding California Lemon Laws


A car is one of the most expensive items people buy. When you purchase a new, or even used car, you expect it to run properly and not have any functional issues that weren’t previously disclosed to the car buyer. But what if there are mechanical problems or safety issues? If your brand-new car breaks down, is there any way to get your money back?

California Lemon Law, introduced in 1970 with the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, protects anyone who buys or leases a motor vehicle if a serious defect cannot be repaired by the dealer or manufacturer. Under California lemon law, the manufacturer must replace or repurchase a vehicle after a reasonable number of attempts to repair it are made. It applies to cars, vans, SUVs, pickup trucks, motorhomes, and vehicles intended for business or family, personal, or household use.

For the duration of the warranty period, California Lemon Law guidelines apply to any issue that impairs the value, use, or safety of a vehicle. The problem must be discovered within 18 months or 18,000 miles of a purchase/lease. In addition, the law applies to used cars that are still covered under the original warranty.

How Do California Lemon Laws Work?

Some of the basics of California Lemon Law include:

  • Replacement: A manufacturer must replace the vehicle or refund your money. The choice is yours, although the car manufacturer can charge you for the mileage you accrued. For example, 5% can be deducted from the original price if you drove the defective car 6,000 miles.
  • Repair: A “reasonable” number of repair attempts are allowed. An exact number isn’t defined, but the general assumption is that four attempts are reasonable. However, in the case of faulty brakes and other potentially life-threatening issues, this goes down to two attempts.
  • Arbitration: Many manufacturers participate in the Arbitration Certification Program, run by the California Department of Consumer Affairs. A consumer can elect to choose arbitration, in which a neutral third-party decides if a reasonable number of repair attempts have been made. The arbitrator can also determine the type of award to grant them.

What Kinds of Damages Can Be Awarded if You Buy a Lemon?

Awards are generally determined by an arbitrator and considered on a case-by-case basis. The award granted may be a replacement vehicle, additional repair attempt, or refund of the price of the car. You may also be reimbursed for towing, rental cars, and other incidental expenses. In some cases, a manufacturer may award an extended service contract or reimburse attorney fees.

Can Manufacturers Fight Lemon Laws?

Manufacturers have a say in whether a consumer can invoke California Lemon Law. They can claim the vehicle problem was caused by abuse or other consumer actions. The law doesn’t apply here—only to pre-existing defects in the vehicle itself. Also, the dealer can claim the vehicle’s warranty doesn’t cover the problem. Therefore, it’s wise to have a complete copy of the warranty and read and understand it. The manufacturer/dealer can also say there weren’t enough opportunities to resolve the issue. To deal with this, keep all records of service and repairs performed on the vehicle.

Find Low-Mileage, Trouble-Free Used Cars at CarWorld

At CarWorld, we offer a large selection of high-quality pre-owned vehicles, each which undergoes a multi-point inspection by our master service technicians. Our buy here, pay here dealership offers some of the best prices in the area and sells only showroom-ready models. Working with various lenders and banks, we can finance your vehicle whether you have bad credit or no credit at all.

Buying a lemon can really sour your year. Luckily CarWorld has the largest selection of luxury used cars that are in tip-top shape and in perfect condition. 

Call us today: (833) 219-9951

Author: CarWorld