California Lemon Law Statute
The California Lemon Law (officially known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty act, found in California Civil Code sections 1790 et seq.) is a law designed to protect consumers who purchase or lease warranted motor vehicles. If it is determined that a motor vehicle is a “lemon”, the motor vehicle’s warrantor must repurchase or replace the motor vehicle from the buyer.
In order to have a valid Lemon Law claim, the following elements must be met:
1.) The vehicle must be used some of the time for personal, family or household purposes. If a vehicle is used exclusively for business purposes, the Lemon Law will not apply, but other laws may provide certain remedies.
2.) The vehicle must have problems covered by a warranty. There is a simple rule: no warranty means no Lemon Law case.
3.) The warrantor must be unable to repair the vehicle’s warranty problems after a reasonable number of repair attempts. What constitutes a reasonable number of repair attempts will vary depending on the problem. For example, if a vehicle’s brakes fail, two repair attempts may be enough to establish a reasonable number. Generally, safety-related or drivability concerns will require fewer repair attempts than those which are not safety-related or affect drivability. However, only one unsuccessful repair attempt is never sufficient to establish a lemon law claim.
Also relevant to determining whether there has been a reasonable number of repair attempts is the number of days the vehicle is out-of-service due to warranty repairs. The more days out-of-service, the better the chance of establishing a reasonable number of repair attempts.
There is a common misconception concerning the Lemon Law, that it only applies to vehicles that are less than 18 months old or have less than 18,000 miles. This belief is not true! The Lemon Law will apply to a vehicle regardless of how old it is or how many miles is has, so long as the vehicle is having problems that are under warranty.
Even if the warranty has expired, the Lemon Law may apply. If the vehicle is still having problems that were complained about and never properly repaired during the warranty period, a valid Lemon Law claim may exist.
4.) The vehicle must contain a problem covered by the warranty that substantially impairs the vehicle’s use, value or safety to a reasonable person in the position as the Buyer. The Lemon Law, generally, will not apply to vehicles with trivial or minor defects. Nevertheless, each case must be judged independently taking into account the particular needs and expectations of the particular vehicle’s owner/lessee.
If the above mentioned elements are met, the vehicle is a lemon. The vehicle’s owner/lessee will be entitled to a replacement vehicle or a refund of the vehicle’s purchase/lease price.
Vehicle Warranties: California has very specific rules on what defines a warranty. A factory warranty is something that is given to the consumer at the time of sale. The warranty can be a “new car warranty”, a “used car warranty”, or a “certified pre-owned” warranty. What all of these warranties is that they are provided and administered by the automobile manufacturer.
The next category of vehicle warranties are “dealer warranties”. These “warranties” have no connection or affiliation with the “factory warranty”, and are between the BUYER and the SELLING DEALER. The manufacturer has no liability for the selling dealer internal warranties.
The final category of vehicle warranties are “extended warranties”. These “warranties” are valid in many other states, but NOT in California. California has its own rules that govern these “warranties”. In fact, these are not warranties at all. In California, these must be called “mechanical breakdown policies”, “service contracts” or other titles that do NOT use the word “warranty”, as you cannot purchase a warranty in California on a motor vehicle. Many automobile dealerships mislead consumers by calling these contracts “warranties”, but they are not, and have no applicability to California Lemon Law. So, it does not matter what a dealer calls it – if the word “warranty” is not on the face of the application form, then it is NOT a warranty.
Consumer rights in the California Lemon Law: All consumers have the same rights under our California lemon law, whether the vehicle was purchased or leased, is new or used, as long as it’s covered by a warranty. Consumers should realize that automobile manufacturers, though they will often make gestures of goodwill in an attempt to bolster customer loyalty, are at heart still businesses. They are there to make money – not give it back. Though automobile manufacturer’s should buy back offending vehicles that meet lemon law state statute guidelines automatically by reviewing the dealer-submitted warranty repair claims, most of the time they do not. In most all cases, application of the California lemon law is a consumer-driven event. Consumers will hire lemon law attorneys to ensure that the manufacturer conforms to their legal duties.
“Lemon Law Bytes” is Copyright 2/1/2019 The Law Offices of William R. McGee, APLC
Disclaimer: all Lemon Law Bytes articles are for informational purposes only. None of the content should be construed or assumed to be legal advice. If you desire legal advice on your 2014 or newer vehicle, please call us to speak with one of our attorneys.