Yellow lemon car with green and black wheels with single, broken wheel that fell off isolated on white

Understanding Your Legal Rights

You save money to purchase a vehicle, only to find it is unreliable. Despite numerous attempts to repair the vehicle under the manufacturer or dealer warranty, your new or used vehicle remains unsafe for you and your family. Not having a vehicle you can trust is especially frustrating. Fortunately, California protects consumers from keeping vehicles with unfixable issues. The California Lemon Law helps consumers get back on the road and holds automakers responsible for vehicles that are defective, and therefore, lemons.

Lemon Law History

Today’s lemon law is the result of the 1970 Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. The act requires all manufacturers to replace faulty products they failed to fix after a “reasonable number” of repair attempts. There is an enhancement for vehicles under California Lemon Law for protection against defective vehicles. The enhancement is called the Tanner Protection Act. It allows the consumer to request a repurchase or replacement and the consumer can elect which remedy to choose from. The act was amended in 2007 to allow members of the Armed Forces who are stationed in or who are residents of California to exercise their rights under the act. It does not matter where the service members bought their vehicle or where it is registered.

Using the term lemon as a metaphor for a defective vehicle is thought to have originated from American-English slang of 1900 to 1910. The metaphor derived from the British English expression “to hand someone a lemon,” which, at the time, meant to pass off a substandard item as a good one.

Ways to qualify your vehicle under California Law Lemon Law

The Presumption

The Tanner Act contains added protection by creating a “presumption” concerning whether or not the repair attempts on the vehicle are reasonable and therefore the car can be treated as a “lemon”. A presumption guideline also helps to identify if your car is a lemon. If the following criteria are met within the first 18,000 miles or 18 months of delivery to the buyer or the lessee, then under California law, the car is presumed to be a lemon:

  • The manufacturer or its agents have made two or more attempts to repair a warranty problem that results in a condition that is likely to cause serious injury or death if the vehicle is driven.
  • The manufacturer or its agents have made four or more attempts to fix the same warranty problem.
  • The vehicle has been out of service for more than 30 days for repair due to a variety of warranty problems. The thirty days is total and not necessarily concurrent.
  • The warranty covers the problems and the problems are not the result of abuse of the vehicle. The problems substantially reduce the vehicle’s use, safety, and value to the consumer.
  • If the warranty or owner’s manual requires the owner to notify the manufacturer of problems, the owner must do so, preferably in writing.

What if your vehicle falls outside of the 18,000 mile or 18-month window?

Lemon law issues occur when you have a substantial impairment to the use, value or safety of the vehicle. Even a “fit and finish” problem can constitute a defect and may qualify your vehicle for treatment as a lemon. So if your car has had problems during the warranty period (and even if your car is now out of warranty), your vehicle will most likely qualify as a lemon. Used cars can also qualify as lemon vehicles. All you need is a minimum of two repair attempts (unless two repair attempts are not possible since the vehicle is destroyed or the manufacturer cannot provide a potential fix for the vehicle.

Understanding Warranties

California lemon laws apply to manufacturer warranties. New cars come with manufacturer warranties that are transferred with ownership to another driver. These types of warranties typically cover a specific time frame and mileage, like three years, 36,000 miles. New vehicles usually come with either a basic (bumper-to-bumper) warranty, and a longer drivetrain warranty.

A drivetrain warranty covers just about everything that makes the vehicle move. This includes the engine, transmission, drive axles, and driveshaft.

Warranty coverage continues to evolve with the growing electric vehicle (EV) and hybrid market. A standard EV or hybrid battery costs an average of $5,000. While not covered under a basic warranty, federal emissions regulations require that the batteries have a warranty of at least eight years or 100,000 miles.

If you purchase a used vehicle that still has part of the manufacturer warranty remaining, or that comes with a dealer warranty—and the problems meet one or more of the criteria listed above—then the lemon law applies to your case.

Beware of Extended Warranties

You may think you that purchasing an extended warranty from a third party is a good idea. Be aware that California lemon laws only protect you from problems under the original manufacturer warranty. Third party extended warranties do not apply to the state’s lemon law. A manufacturer’s own extended warranty or a Certified Pre-owned Vehicle “CPO” extended warranty will most likely qualify to extend the original warranty for lemon law purposes.

In fact, many states regard extended warranties as service contracts and not actual warranties. Warranties only originate from the automaker (the manufacturer)—and in the case of CPO “Certified Pre Owned Vehicles” used cars, the dealership—something else worth noting.

Do your homework before you invest extra money into questionable warranties. Understand that the California lemon laws are in place to protect you from large auto manufacturers who fail to deliver a quality product, and not from substandard third-party warranty issuers.

Lemon Law Associates of California

Taking on car manufacturers and large automakers requires focus and dedication. That’s why at Lemon Law Associates of California, our practice is limited to lemon law cases and auto fraud.

A typical lemon law case takes approximately three to six months. Automakers will attempt to delay the process, but we do everthing we can at Lemon Law Associates to speed things up and get you back on the road in a different vehicle. It is very important that throughout the process, you continue to make your vehicle payments. However, it is not necessary for you to still possess the vehicle in order to make a lemon law claim.

California lemon laws protect consumers from becoming stuck with an unreliable and possibly unsafe vehicle. When a vehicle is simply not fixable despite at least 2 attempts at repair, then it’s time to call (877) 751-0765 or to contact us online.

Our highly experienced legal team understands the complex nature of lemon law cases and we’re not afraid to fight for your rights. You’ve worked too hard and invested your hard-earned money into purchasing a reliable vehicle. When the manufacturer warranty fails to fix the serious issues that have you concerned, call the Lemon Law Associates of California.

Located in San Diego, our firm handles lemon law cases throughout the state. Contact us today to set up a free evaluation of your case with a member of our team.

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