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Your California Lemon Law


California lemon law rights are extended to consumers who purchase or lease new or used motor vehicles that are under the manufacturer’s “new vehicle limited” or “certified pre-owned” warranties in the state of California. Your legal rights under the California lemon law are extensive. The website explains those rights...

How do you define a “lemon” vehicle?

Under the California lemon law, a “lemon” vehicle has been subject to an unreasonable number of repair attempts for the same problem based upon the number of miles currently on the vehicle, and the number of months the vehicle has been in use under the manufacturer’s warranty. During our Lemon Law “presumption” period, a vehicle may also qualify by spending too many days in the dealers shop undergoing repairs, or awaiting back-ordered parts.

If I have a “lemon”, what are my legal rights?

Depending upon the repair history of your vehicle, you have the right to demand a new replacement vehicle, or a refund of your purchase price and a payoff of any existing loan or lease balance. In some cases, a vehicle has had a history of extensive repairs, but does not meet the law (statute) in our state. These cases can often be settled by an attorney for monetary relief (cash payment settlement) to the consumer for all the time spent returning to the dealer for various repairs, as well as “down time” in the shop.

If I talk to the manufacturer, do they have to comply with the lemon law?

Consumers that choose to try to facilitate a lemon law claim directly with the manufacturer need to know that in this scenario there are no rules. The manufacturer does not have to follow the lemon law statute, can make any offer they deem “reasonable”,  they can chose a “mileage offset” that is not favorable to the consumer, and the outcome can have potentially dire negative consequences for the car owner or lessee. Often a “buyback offer” by the manufacturer is a “goodwill” buyback, where the “refund” offered is far less than the law allows. Manufacturers can also “offer” a replacement vehicle as a resolution to a California lemon law claim, but charge the consumer incorrectly for usage on the lemon law vehicle, or worse yet, add hundreds or thousands of dollars to the “difference” between the old vehicle and the new replacement vehicle. Remember – there is no rule-book! Consumers must be aware that their legal rights can be partially or completely compromised. There is no reason to attempt a lemon law claim yourself, as our states lemon law pays the attorneys fees and costs for time spent working with the manufacturer to settle the case.

What documents do I need to prove my case so my legal rights are protected?

To properly pursue a lemon law case in California utilizing an attorney for proper legal representation, you will need a copy of the purchase or lease agreement, a copy of your current license registration, a copy of one of your lender payment statements (1), and a copy of all your dealership repair order invoices. If you are missing any invoices, you may be able to get duplicates from your authorized dealership. If they have already purged their computer files, they can utilize their warranty claims administration computer and access the factory warranty claims via your vehicles VIN #. The dealer has no duty to do this, but may agree to do this upon the consumer’s request.

What rights does the auto manufacturer have?

In calculating a refund under the California lemon law, the manufacturer makes deductions from the refund figures under the statute for various items that were not on the vehicle in it’s “as factory built” configuration (IE: accessories). These can include (but are not limited to): after-market service contracts, Gap insurance, accessories, after-market maintenance contracts, paint and fabric/leather “sealants”, dealer subletted interiors, lift kits, alarm systems, hi-fi systems, dvd/video system, grilles, custom painting, after-market wheels and tires, and other items. These items can be dealer installed, consumer purchased, and consumer installed. The manufacturer has the right to have the surrendered vehicle in “as-built” configuration. The manufacturer has the right to receive the vehicle back in cosmetically undamaged condition, often-times like a lease surrender. The vehicle is subject to inspection and a report is made. If the manufacturer offers a replacement vehicle to settle the claim, the manufacturer is not responsible to remove after-market or dealer added items from the old vehicle and transfer to the new vehicle. The California Lemon Law has a “mileage offset” (usage charge) provision wherein a specific dollar deduction is made according to a formula under the California Lemon Law statute.

What are my rights regarding a repurchase (buyback), vs. a replacement vehicle under the California lemon law?

For automobiles, trucks, suv’s, etc. (motor-driven vehicles) the manufacturers duty under a qualifying claim is to buyback (repurchase)your vehicle If the manufacturer chooses to offer a new replacement in lieu of the buyback, then the consumer has the option of agreeing or rejection. If rejected, then the process returns to the buyback (repurchase). The mileage offset (usage charge) applies both on repurchase or replacement.

Can I hold my dealership responsible for buying back my “lemon” vehicle?

The dealership is only the franchised authorized warranty service provider for the automobile manufacturer. The automobile manufacturer is the party responsible for repurchasing your vehicle, not the selling or servicing dealership. In limited cases of non-lemon law issues such as dealer fraud, odometer rollback and other non-disclosure issues, the consumer is free to pursue legal remedies against the dealer that are outside of the California Lemon Law.

I purchased my vehicle used? What are my lemon law rights?

That depends upon whether there was original new car factory warranty still left on the vehicle, or the vehicle was sold as a manufacturers “certified pre-owned”. New car warranties are typically 3 years/36,000 miles or 4 years/50,000 miles from date of original sale to the first owner. Some manufacturers also have extra “powertrain” warranties that may extend out to 5, 6 or even 10 years from original purchase date. Some manufacturers that use diesel engines have 100,000 mile engine warranties. The time can be as long as 5, 6 or 10 years on the powertrain warranty from the original purchase date to the first owner. All of these are “factory original” warranties and are applicable for California Lemon Law claims. “Certified Pre-Owned” are warranties given on vehicles that are sold on vehicles of the same make by the franchised dealer for that make. Factory “Certified Pre-Owned” warranties are applicable to California Lemon Law.

Your rights to a buyback (repurchase) on a qualifying case are very much like the person who purchased or leased the car brand new (see “How to Define a lemon vehicle” above), except that the vehicle is repurchased, without option of new replacement.

I purchased an “Extended Warranty” for my vehicle. Do I have rights under the California Lemon Law for repairs made under this policy?

Service Contracts are often referred to by consumers as “extended warranties”. 99% of the time they are NOT. The words “service contract” or “mechanical breakdown insurance” denote a NON-factory warranty product, and thusly not applicable to the California Lemon Law. There is one luxury European manufacturer that *does* call their “Service Contract” a “warranty” on the face of the document, which does make it applicable to California Lemon Law. Our California Lemon Law recognizes only factory warranties. Anything else by any name other than “warranty” is NOT a warranty.

I purchased and/or registered my vehicle from/in another state. Do I qualify for California Lemon Law protection?

In all but a few select exceptions, California Lemon Law does not apply to out-of-state purchases. That being said, our newly passed “military Bill” allows California Lemon Law protection for active duty armed forces personnel who purchase or lease a vehicle out-of-state, but are transferred to California for continued active duty.

What about “dealer warranties”? What are my California Lemon Law rights if the warranty I receive is from the dealer, and not the manufacturer?

A warranty that is provided for, and backed by the selling dealer is not a manufacturer’s warranty, is an agreement to repair the vehicle subject to the terms and conditions of that warranty. Rarely are dealer warranties pursed as a California Lemon Law claim, unless there was already underlying factory warranty protection still in force.  

How can a California Lemon Law attorney enforce my legal rights?

An experienced California lemon law attorney has the clout of experience in working with automobile manufacturers for many years, and the lawsuit that can be filed against the manufacturer if the case cannot be settled by the attorney in the pre-litigation. The California lemon law attorney can enforce the consumer’s legal rights by knowing what the law is, and making sure the manufacturer complies with the terms and provisions of the California Lemon Law. A consumer can utilize the service of an experienced California Lemon Law attorney typically at little or no cost to the consumer.



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