CA lemon law is a state law that defends consumers against the buying or leasing of non-conforming vehicles.

CA lemon law (officially known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, found in California Civil Code sections 1790 et seq.) is designed to protect consumers who purchase or lease warranted motor vehicles. It states that if a vehicle maker is unable to repair a sold or leased vehicle to match its written warranty after a reasonable number of attempts, the maker must promptly replace or repurchase it.

Cases Covered by CA Lemon Law

CA lemon law covers vehicles, that meet the following conditions;

  • The vehicle must be used some of the time for personal, family or household purposes. If a vehicle is used exclusively for business purposes, CA Lemon Law may not apply, but other laws may provide certain remedies.
  • CA Lemon Law applies to those vehicle non-conformities which essentially impair the safety of a vehicle for a consumer and are covered by a warranty. There is a simple rule: no warranty means no Lemon Law case.
  • According to CA Lemon Law the warrantor must be unable to repair the defective vehicle after a reasonable number or 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 concerns will require fewer repair attempts than those that are not safety-related. However, the reasonable number of repair attempts may be determined by these simple guidelines;
    • At least 2 repair attempts in case of a defect that may cause serious injury or death.
    • More than 4 unsuccessful repair attempts, which is an average for most of the lemon law cases.
    • If the vehicle has been in shop for more than 30 days (cumulative, not necessarily in a row) for repair of any problems covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

CA Lemon Law Does NOT Apply To

  • Vehicles that have been abused,
  • After-market parts such as those found in van conversions, or
  • Vehicles that are not registered under California Vehicle code because they are driven off-road.

Warranty issues and CA Lemon Law

As we already know the basis for California Lemon Law is the breach of warranty. A warranty is the manufacturer’s legal obligation to take care of certain types of problems with the vehicle. It may also be referred to as the manufacturer’s quality guarantee. There are a few types of warranties, but California Lemon Law generally deals with express warranties, which are typically written ones.

Implied warranty is not necessarily written, though in some cases CA Lemon Law may apply to the implied warranty of merchantability as well. Besides implied and express warranties consumers may be offered to buy “extended warranties” which are actually “service contracts”. But be careful as any repair attempts made under non-warranty service contracts are not counted under a reasonable number of repair attempts.

CA Lemon Law Compensation

CA Lemon Law gives major rights to the vehicle owners. The law helps consumers to get a compensation for the trouble and inconvenience caused by a defective vehicle. In case the manufacturer fails to repair the vehicle after a reasonable number of attempts, consumers are eligible to demand restitution under CA Lemon Law.

CA lemon law considers the following types of restitution to lemon car owners;

  • Refund of the purchase
  • Replacement of a defective vehicle
  • Cash settlement

When you qualify under CA lemon law, you are entitled to receive a refund or a replacement vehicle, plus vehicle registration fees, rental car costs and towing charges. The choice of the refund or replacement vehicle is the consumer’s, not the manufacturer’s. The manufacturer is only permitted to deduct money for the miles the vehicle was driven before it was taken to the garage because of the defect.

Another less common case could involve a “lemon law buyback”. Under the CA lemon law, if a vehicle was once proclaimed a “lemon” it must have one-year factory warranty to cover car defects and cannot lawfully be sold “as is.” The law requires that the vehicle’s papers declare that it is a “lemon law buyback” and the car must have a “LEMON” sticker affixed to the door jamb.

Leased cars covered by a service contract, motorcycles, boats, and recreational vehicles also make the grade under the CA lemon law. The vehicle warranty law that is mandated by the federal government states that no dealership or person can represent that the vehicle has warranty when in fact it does not. Also, the dealership or the person selling the vehicle cannot in any way misrepresent the condition of it. This protects the consumers from purchasing a vehicle and not being told for example that the clutch will need replacement in the next couple of weeks.

If you are still unsure about your car case, try to find answers in California Lemon Law FAQ.