How Does a Car Qualify for Lemon Law in California?

Understanding the Lemon Law

California has a comprehensive Lemon Law in place to protect consumers who find themselves stuck with a new car that cannot be adequately repaired. This law ensures that buyers or lessees are entitled to either a replacement or a refund in certain circumstances.

Coverage Under the Lemon Law

The Lemon Law applies to both new and used cars, as long as there is still some time remaining on the manufacturer’s warranty. This means that even if you purchase a used car, you may still be covered by the law’s provisions. The Lemon Law covers a wide range of vehicles, including cars, pickup trucks, vans, SUVs, and even the chassis, chassis cab, and drive train of motor homes. However, it’s important to note that aftermarket parts, such as van conversions, are not included.

The law also extends its protection to dealer-owned vehicles, demonstrators, and vehicles purchased or leased for personal, family, or household purposes. In many cases, it even covers vehicles primarily used for business purposes.

Exclusions from Lemon Law Coverage

While the Lemon Law is robust in its coverage, there are a few instances where it does not apply. Vehicles that are not registered under the California Vehicle Code, such as off-road vehicles, are not covered by the law. Additionally, vehicles that have been abused are also excluded from its protection. It’s essential to keep these exclusions in mind when assessing whether your vehicle qualifies for Lemon Law protection.

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Determining Lemon Law Eligibility

To qualify for Lemon Law protection in California, your vehicle must meet specific criteria. The law assumes that a reasonable number of repair attempts have been made to fix the car if the following conditions are met:

  • The problems your car experiences are covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.
  • The issues first occurred within 18 months of delivery or within 18,000 miles, whichever came first. (For major defects that arise after this timeframe, it is advisable to consult an attorney.)
  • The problems significantly diminish the use, value, or safety of the vehicle, and they were not caused by abuse.
  • If the warranty or owner’s manual requires it, you have officially notified the manufacturer about the problems. It is best to document this notification in writing.

Furthermore, if any of the following conditions are also true, the Lemon Law presumption is further strengthened:

  1. You have taken the car in for repairs four or more times for the same problem, yet the issue persists.
  2. You have reported a severe problem to the dealer on two or more occasions that could potentially result in death or significant bodily injury, and it remains unresolved.
  3. The vehicle has been in the repair shop for more than 30 days (not necessarily consecutively) to address any problem covered by the warranty.

If your vehicle satisfies these criteria, it is presumed that a reasonable number of attempts have been made to fix the issues, and you may be eligible for a replacement or a refund.

Understanding Arbitration

Arbitration offers a free and relatively straightforward method of resolving warranty problems. It involves both you and the manufacturer agreeing to allow a neutral third party, known as an arbitrator, to decide whether a reasonable number of repair attempts have been made on your car. The arbitrator then determines the appropriate course of action, typically on a case-by-case basis. Possible outcomes may include additional repair attempts, vehicle replacement, partial or total refund of the purchase price, or reimbursement for incidental expenses like towing or car rental.

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Advantages of Arbitration

Arbitration provides several benefits for consumers dealing with Lemon Law disputes. Firstly, it is a cost-free alternative to going to court. Additionally, the process is much faster and less complicated than a legal battle. Decisions are typically rendered within 40 days of the program receiving your application.

Furthermore, you have the freedom to accept or reject the arbitrator’s decision. If you accept it, the manufacturer is legally obligated to honor and comply with the decision. However, if you reject the decision, you still retain the right to pursue legal action in court.

For more information about the arbitration process and the protection offered by the Lemon Law, please visit the Garrity Traina website.

  • County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. Last change: Apr. 14, 2011