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Does California Lemon Law apply to my vehicle?

The Lemon Law covers the following new and used vehicles sold in California that come with the manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty:

  • Cars, pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs.
  • Vehicles purchased or leased for personal, family or household purposes.
  • Many vehicles purchased or leased primarily for business use.
  • The chassis, chassis cab, and drive train of a motorhome.
  • Dealer-owned vehicles and demonstrators.

The Lemon Law DOES NOT apply to:

  • Vehicles not registered under the California Vehicle Code because they are driven off-road;
  • Vehicles that have been damaged due to unauthorized or unreasonable use; or
  • After-market parts such as those found in van conversions.
What if the manufacturer or dealer can’t fix my vehicle?
If the manufacturer or dealer can’t repair a serious warranty defect in your vehicle after a “reasonable” number of attempts, the manufacturer must either:

  • Replace the vehicle; or
  • Refund its purchase price (whichever you prefer).
What is a “reasonable” number of repair attempts?
There is no set number although there must be at least more than one. California’s Lemon Law Presumption contains these guidelines for determining when a “reasonable” number of repair attempts have been made:

  • The manufacturer or dealer hasn’t fixed the same problem after four or more attempts; or
  • Your vehicle’s problems could cause death or serious bodily injury if it is driven and the manufacturer or dealer has made at least two unsuccessful repair attempts; or
  • The vehicle has been in the shop for more than 30 days (not necessarily in a row) for repair of any problems covered by its warranty.
When does the Lemon Law Presumption apply?
Here are the cases when the lemon law presumption applies:

  • Your vehicles must be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty;
  • The problems must occur within 18 months of delivery or within 18,000 miles on the odometer (whichever comes first);
  • The problems must substantially reduce the use, value, or safety of the vehicle to you;
  • The problems were not caused by abuse, unauthorized or unreasonable use;
  • The manufacturer or dealer has not fixed the problems after a reasonable number of attempts; and
  • The warranty or owner’s manual requires you to notify the manufacturer about the problems, and you have already notified the manufacturer.

If your vehicle meets these criteria, the Lemon Law presumes a reasonable number of repair attempts have been made and you may be entitled to a replacement or refund.

Is there a need to have four or more repair attempts before I can take advantage of the Lemon Law?
No. The manufacturer is obligated to repair serious warranty problems and is allowed a “reasonable” opportunity to do so, even without regard to the Lemon Law Presumption. If the problem is very serious, a “reasonable” number of attempts will ordinarily be fewer than four, but more than one.

Do I automatically get the choice of a new vehicle or a refund if my vehicle qualifies under the Lemon Law Presumption?

No. The manufacturer can still prove in arbitration or in court that your vehicle does not qualify under the presumption, as it is a rebuttable presumption. They can make any of these arguments:

  • The manufacturer or dealer has not had a “reasonable” number of attempts to repair the problem; or
  • The problem does not substantially affect the vehicle’s use, value or safety to you; or
  • The problem was caused by abuse; or
  • The problem has been repaired; or
  • The problem never existed; or
  • The problem is not covered by the warranty.

If the problem only happens once in awhile or is difficult to diagnose, an additional repair attempt may be considered “reasonable.” However, the law places the burden of proving the need for an additional repair attempt on the manufacturer. The arbitrator, judge or jury decide whether the manufacturer has had a “reasonable” opportunity to make the needed repairs.

Do I need to go to court for the Lemon Law to help me?
Not necessarily. Lemon Law Aid tries where possible to resolve your claim without filing a lawsuit by sending your company a letter outlining the reasons why your car qualifies under the lemon law. If you car company is unwilling to negotiate or resolve your claim, then Lemon Law Aid is prepared to go to Court and file a Complaint on your behalf. Each case is different and evaluated on its own merits.

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