The California Lemon Law provides legal recourse for drivers who buy or lease new or used vehicles that turn out to be lemons. However, your vehicle must fit the law’s criteria of a “lemon” for you to be eligible for its rewards. What criteria does a vehicle have to meet to be called a “lemon”?
Generally speaking, a vehicle is a “lemon” if it has a significant defect that went unfixed after a vehicle owner or lessee gave the auto manufacturer a reasonable number of chances to fix the vehicle.
Table of Contents
- Defects Under The California Lemon Law
- Vehicles Under California Lemon Law Protection
- Repairs Under The California Lemon Law
- Timetable Under The California Lemon Law
Vehicle problems or defects could appear in your engine, transmission, electrical system, brakes or other important vehicle parts. Some of these problems or defects could make your vehicle unsafe to drive.
The criteria for defects under the California Lemon Law are as follows:
- The defect must significantly impair your vehicle’s use, value or safety. Common defects tend to impair your vehicle’s ability to provide safe and reliable transportation.
- The defect must be covered by your auto manufacturer’s warranty. Your warranty booklet should list your vehicle components and their existing warranties.
- The defect could not be fixed within a reasonable number of repair attempts.
- The defect could not be caused by aftermarket parts or by unreasonable use after you bought or leased the vehicle.
The next question you should ask is if your vehicle type is covered by the California Lemon Law. Not all vehicles are covered by this law.
Vehicles covered by the California Lemon Law include:
- New and used vehicles
- Purchased or leased vehicles
- Vehicles used for personal, family or household purposes.
- Vehicles under 10,000 pounds used for businesses, if the business has no more than five registered vehicles
- Vehicles purchased from a dealership in California
The California Lemon Law does not protect:
- Off-road vehicles
- Vehicles purchased from a private sale or auction
- Vehicles purchased out of state, unless the owner is a Member of the Armed Forces and is stationed in California at the time a lemon law claim is filed.
The California Lemon Law requires auto manufacturers to repair the vehicles within a reasonable number of repair attempts. The law gave no specific number considered “reasonable,” as this is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Some lemon owners mistakenly believe that they qualify under the California Lemon Law only for the first 18 months or 18,000 miles. This is a misunderstanding of a specific part of the law. The first 18 months or 18,000 miles is a presumptive period, during which their vehicle may be presumed a lemon if:
- Four or more repair attempts are made on a vehicle defect
- Two or more repair attempts are made on a vehicle defect that can cause serious bodily injury or death
- The vehicle has been stuck in the repair shop for more than 30 cumulative days.
However, you can still pursue a California lemon law claim outside this period.
The true time limit for filing a California Lemon Law claim is four years from the date of the first warrantied repair for your vehicle’s defect. Check your vehicle’s warranty booklet for time or mileage limits on your vehicle’s warranty. Some auto manufacturers cover longer warranties than others, and warranties for different vehicle components also vary in length. The industry standard warranty is three years, or 36,000 miles.
Consult A California Lemon Law Attorney
If you believe your vehicle fits the criteria for a lemon, consult an experienced lemon law attorney to better understand your rights and legal options. Initial consultations are free, and hiring a lemon law attorney costs you nothing out of pocket. Call us at 877-222-2222. We are available 24/7.
Lemon Law Help by Knight Law Group is an automotive lemon law firm that exclusively practices in California. If you are a California resident who purchased or leased a defective vehicle from a licensed dealership in California, we may be able to help you get rid of your potential lemon and recover significant cash compensation. Model year restrictions apply: 2016–Present vehicle models only. However, we cannot help those who reside outside of California or purchased their vehicle outside of California unless they are active duty members of the Armed Forces, nor will we be able to refer those to a lemon law firm in their states. To learn more about the California Lemon Law and your legal rights, visit our California Lemon Law Guide for more information.