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Everything You Need to Know About California Lemon Law

  Norman Taylor & Associates
  January 15, 2019

There’s nothing like that new car smell and the excitement of having a brand new vehicle to drive around in. However, if your new car has been in and out of the repair shop more often than it should, than you may have purchased a lemon. Thanks to California lemon law, consumers are protected from purchasing or leasing a motor vehicle that’s less than up to standard.

While it can be frustrating and stressful when dealing with a defective vehicle, you do have legal recourse. California lemon law can be confusing, especially without the help of a lemon law attorney. However, knowing your rights and staying educated about how California lemon law works can be a tremendous asset should you need to seek arbitration. Arm yourself with these facts.

What Qualifies as a Lemon?

Under California lemon law and the Consumer Protection Act, (also known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act), a vehicle that has a significant defect covered under the warranty that occurred within a certain period of time or number of miles after the vehicle was purchased may qualify as a lemon. The manufacturer is responsible for replacing the defective part, replacing your vehicle entirely, or refunding the vehicles purchase price.

In the State of California, if the vehicle was not fixed after a reasonable number of attempts by the manufacturer’s repairing agent — in most cases, this is the dealership — you have the right to have your lemon vehicle repurchased by the manufacturer. The repurchase amount must be an appropriate offer to the consumer.

If the manufacturer of your vehicle has failed or refuses to give you a replacement or a refund, then you have the right to file a civil action and the manufacturer may be ordered to do the following:

  • Pay consumer damages.
  • Provide the consumer with a replacement or refund.
  • Pay a civil penalty in conjunction with consumer’s damages.

What Are Your Rights as a Consumer?

Many individuals may not know their rights under the following circumstances. Here’s what you should know about each:

  • Private Sales
    Many individuals do not realize that California lemon law does not apply to private sales, regardless of if the vehicle is under the manufacturer’s warranty. However, you can do the following to protect yourself should you purchase a motor vehicle through retail.
    • Your retail vehicle purchase must include the transfer of the manufacturer’s warranty.
    • Only authorized agents can make repairs according to the warranty. If the repair does not resolve the issue, most warranties state that the consumer will receive a buyback or replacement.
    • It’s important to note that not all defects may be covered under the manufacturers’ warranty. If the vehicle purchased does not come with a written warranty, it may still be covered by the implied warranty unless the buyer and seller have agreed to an “as is” arrangement.
  • Lemon Law Buyback
    California lemon law gives consumers the right to have their vehicle replaced or repurchased if it has not been repaired after a reasonable number of attempts. Here are your options underlemon law buyback:
    • Replacement – Any defective vehicles that meet the above criteria must be replaced with either a new comparable vehicle or the same vehicle that you originally leased or purchased.
    • Warranty – The manufacturer is required to give you the same warranties that came with your original purchased vehicle.
    • Expenses – The manufacturer may be required to cover any expenses you may have incurred — for example, registration fees.

Breach of Warranty

Consumers who purchase or lease a defective vehicle that does not qualify for a buyback under lemon law may have legal recourse for violations of breach of warranty. If your vehicle is still under warranty, the manufacturer is obligated to repair all defects that are covered under the warranty. If the manufacturer has breached your warranty, you should do the following as soon as possible:

  • Contact an experienced California lemon law attorney to assist you with your claim, as you may be entitled to substantial damages.
  • Keep in mind that there is a four-year statute of limitation in which you can sue for breach of warranty.

Are Recreational Vehicles Covered Under Lemon Law?

Recreational vehicles — commonly known as RVs — are covered under California lemon law. You will have the same protections under the law as you would if you purchased or leased a motor vehicle.

If your RV or motor home has been in and out of the shop for warranty repairs, it may be time to contact a California lemon law attorney to assist you so you can rest assured that you won’t have a financial headache on your hands.

Know These Common Red Flags That Point to a Lemon

  • Getting pushback when asking for the car’s history record – If the seller is hesitant or stalls to give you the car’s history, it may be time to walk away and find another vehicle.
  • Pay attention to the operation of brakes, lights, blinkers, and windows to ensure they are all in proper operating order. If not, ask questions and find out if they are willing to make any repairs before you purchase.
  • Check the maintenance record for proper oil changes and other routine services. Any major lack of maintenance could indicate the potential for future problems.

Common Vehicle Defects

Some common defects that are covered under California lemon law are the following:

  • Defective airbags
  • Mold in air conditioner units
  • Failing antilock brake systems
  • Automatic transmission failures
  • Body complications
  • Failing brake pedals
  • Seat belt defects and failure
  • Electrical issues
  • Engine computer and cruise control malfunctions
  • Engine fires and failures
  • Fuel injection system leaks
  • Paint defects
  • Loss of power steering
  • Steering pull
  • Stalling
  • Sudden and uncontrolled acceleration

Keep in mind that not all vehicle defects have grounds to recover damages, but if you experience any of the above defects, contact a lemon law attorney to find out if you have a case.

If you’ve purchased a vehicle that has been frequently repaired and unusable during the warranty period, you could have a lemon on your hands. If the vehicle is eligible under California lemon law, you are entitled to have your car repaired or replaced if the vehicle problems persist, even after the manufacturer has made all the proper attempts to resolve the issue.

Having an experienced lemon law attorney on your side can make all the difference if the manufacturer is not living up to their obligations under California lemon law. Whether you purchased or leased a new vehicle, contact Norman Taylor & Associates today for a free case evaluation.

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