If you ever had a car break down often or have the same problem over and over again, you may have come across the term “lemon.” Colloquially, “lemon” is a term for a car, truck, motorcycle or other motor vehicle with manufacturing defects that affect its value, drivability and safety. Problems in lemon vehicles may affect engines, transmissions, brakes, electrical systems or other essential parts.
Federal and state laws exist to help consumers that were sold “lemon” vehicles. These are referred to as “lemon laws.” These lemon laws ensure that auto manufacturers abide by the terms of their own warranties and, should those terms be broken, vehicle owners can get recovery for their defective vehicles.
Table of Contents
- Lemon Vehicles In California
- What Can I Get If My Vehicle Is A Lemon?
- How Do I Know My Vehicle Is A Lemon?
- What is a Lemon Law Buyback Vehicle?
- How Do I Make Sure I Don’t Buy A Lemon Vehicle?
- What Do I Do If My Vehicle Is A Lemon?
Each state has its own lemon law that bolsters the protections of the federal lemon law. California’s Lemon Law is called the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. According to California’s lemon law, a vehicle is considered a “lemon” if it has a nonconformity that substantially impairs the vehicle’s use, value or safety, and that nonconformity has not been repaired within a “reasonable” number of repair attempts.
Over 150,000 vehicles sold in California are lemon vehicles, which means they have serious manufacturing defects in their engines, transmissions, electrical systems and other vital components of the vehicle. Luckily, the California protects both new and used vehicles, whether they were bought or leased from authorized dealerships in California, albeit with some exceptions.
The California Lemon Law protects vehicles primarily set aside for personal, family or household use. Business vehicles may be protected if the business has no more than five vehicles registered to the business and the vehicles do not weigh more than 10,000 pounds.
The California Lemon Law does not protect vehicles purchased from private sales, purchased as-is, purchased from auctions, or purchased out of state. However, out-of-state vehicles may be protected if purchased by members of the Armed Forces who have since been stationed in California.
If you file a lemon law claim in California and win your case, you may be eligible for a vehicle replacement or for a full refund for your lemon vehicle, minus a mileage offset.
If you decide on a vehicle replacement, the auto manufacturer must replace your lemon vehicle with a “new motor vehicle substantially identical to the vehicle replaced.” The vehicle must come with the usual warranties that the vehicle model typically has, and the usual taxes and fees that come with purchasing a vehicle must be covered by the auto manufacturer.
If you decide on a refund for your lemon vehicle, the refund will be determined by the total amount paid or payable to your vehicle, as well as the “good miles” you were able to drive on your vehicle before the defects appeared. Learn more about the lemon law buyback calculation.
Some owners of lemon vehicles may receive what’s called a “cash and keep” settlement. These settlements are not always equal to the total amount paid or payable to the vehicle. Instead, this settlement serves as compensation for the owner’s troubles, and the owner keeps the lemon vehicle.
If your vehicle breaks down often or has the same problem repeatedly, you may have a “lemon” vehicle. If you have taken your vehicle to the repair shop multiple times and the problem has not been resolved, your vehicle may be defective. For your vehicle to qualify as a “lemon,” the vehicle problems have to impair your vehicle’s use, value or safety and be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
The California Lemon Law does not specify when you meet the benchmark of “reasonable” number of repair attempts. Whether your repair attempts are “reasonable” will depend on the facts of your lemon law case. If you have questions about your eligibility under the California Lemon Law, call a lemon law attorney for a free consultation.
If you win your lemon law claim and opt for a refund for your vehicle, the auto manufacturer will take back your vehicle and brand it a “lemon law buyback.”
Any auto manufacturer that repurchased a vehicle as part of a lemon law claim is required by law to brand the repurchased vehicle with this title. The auto manufacturer is then required to repair the vehicle so that it conforms to warranty before reselling it. When the auto manufacturer resells the lemon vehicle, it is required to notify the potential buyer of its lemon law buyback status.
If you are in the market for a new or used vehicle, make sure that you do your research.
If you are unsure what make or model you want to buy, research a specific make or model alongside the terms “lawsuit,” “problems,” “recalls” or “defects.” Some vehicles may be included in prominent class action lawsuits for a common defect, be subject to widespread recalls, or generally be prone to a particular vehicle problem.
If you have a specific vehicle that you want, make sure to research its vehicle history. Look out for any titles indicating defects or major damage to the vehicle. You may be able to view its repair and/or maintenance history. It’s not a surefire way to avoid buying a lemon, but it can help uncover a lot of red flags.
If you think you might have a lemon vehicle, it’s important to keep detailed records of all repair attempts and to contact a lemon law attorney as soon as possible. Lemon law claims can be complex, but with the help of an experienced attorney, you may be able to get the compensation you deserve.
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.