How does a vehicle qualify for protection under the California Lemon Law?
When you buy a new car, truck, or motorcycle, you usually go into the transaction with an assumption that the vehicle will operate in a safe and reliable manner. Unless you’ve purchased an antique vehicle or one that is clearly in need of repair or restoration, you expect your purchase to produce safe transportation that gets you where you need to go when you need to get there.
Buying a vehicle is a major investment. In many cases, consumers spend weeks or months researching, test driving, and planning how to finance their new vehicle. Receiving a car, truck, or motorcycle that functions as intended should be the expected outcome.
Unfortunately, these simple expectations are not always met. That’s why California enacted the California Lemon Law, a bill that provides consumers a degree of protection when they purchase a new or used vehicle that is still covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. Understanding how this law works is key to ensuring your rights are protected. If you encounter problems with your vehicle, working with an attorney who has experience with lemon law claims can help you find relief.
What is the California Lemon Law?
The California Lemon Law states that vehicle manufacturers must stand behind their products for the entire duration of the manufacturer’s warranty period. If a vehicle needs significant repair work, the manufacturer has several options for how to respond.
The vehicle manufacturer can choose to repair the vehicle and correct the problem. However, there are limitations to the number of repair attempts allowed under the law.
The manufacturer can also choose to replace the vehicle with another one of the same type and value. Finally, the manufacturer can choose to simply repurchase the vehicle from the consumer for a fair price. This allows the consumer to take those funds and use them to find another vehicle. If you’d prefer a refund rather than a replacement, the manufacturer has to honor those wishes.
Members of the American Armed Forces who are stationed in California and reside in the state at the time of vehicle purchase are protected by the California Lemon Law even if they purchased their vehicle in another state. As long as the vehicle is covered by the manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty, it doesn’t even matter if the car, truck, or motorcycle is registered in another state.
How do I know if my vehicle qualifies for coverage under the California Lemon Law?
The most important place to begin is with your warranty information. Check to determine if your vehicle is still under the manufacturer’s warranty, which is a requirement for coverage under the law. It’s important to note that the law also applies to leased vehicles.
Next, look at the full scope of repairs your vehicle has needed since you’ve owned it. To qualify, the repairs must have focused on things that directly impaired the value of the vehicle, safe operation, or the ability to use the vehicle. Repairs that are cosmetic or minor will not qualify. The problems must arise within the first 18,000 miles or 18 months after you receive the vehicle.
It’s also imperative that you notify the manufacturer about the problem and bring your car in for repair. If the issue is serious enough that it prevents the vehicle from being safely driven, the manufacturer or its agents have two chances to fix the problem before the Lemon Law protections kick in. If the issue is not a serious safety risk, they have four attempts to repair the problem.
The California Lemon Law also looks at how many days your vehicle has been unavailable for use while the manufacturer attempts repairs. If your car, truck, or motorcycle has been in the shop for 30 days, you have the right to ask for a replacement or repurchase. It’s important to note that this means 30 days in total, not necessarily 30 consecutive days.
What should I do if I suspect my vehicle is a “lemon?”
If you’re having trouble with a new vehicle or a used vehicle that is still covered under the manufacturer’s warranty, your first step should be to sit down and carefully chart out all of the problems that have arisen during the time you’ve had the vehicle in your possession.
Be sure to locate any documentation you have regarding repair work done on the car. Invoices, estimates, and even emails from the repair shop can all be used to demonstrate a history of repair work.
If you suspect your vehicle is in fact a “lemon” as defined under the California Lemon Law, you may want to speak with an attorney who has experience with lemon law claims. Keep in mind that most vehicles are manufactured by the same few companies, and attorneys who specialize in this area of law know exactly how those companies respond to Lemon Law claims. They can prepare the required paperwork and handle interactions with the manufacturer on your behalf.
No one should be stuck with a new or used car, truck, or motorcycle that doesn’t meet the basic expectations of safe and reliable transportation. California residents have a degree of protection not available in many other states and can pursue a fair and favorable outcome if a vehicle purchase turns into a disappointment or significant source of stress.