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Is the Lemon Law Limited by Mileage?

  Norman Taylor & Associates
  October 31, 2022

When you lease or purchase a new vehicle in the state of California, you’re immediately protected by the state’s lemon law. 

This means the car you purchased is expected to be problem-free, safe, and shouldn’t put you or your passengers in any danger. If it turns out you were sold a defective vehicle, the state’s lemon law entitles you to either a replacement or a refund, depending on your situation. 

When it comes to lemon law eligibility, there are a few criteria to keep in mind. Today, we’re covering if California’s lemon law is limited by mileage. 

Luckily, there are no mileage limits when it comes to California lemon law. Here’s what you need to know. 

California’s Lemon Law Does Not Have Mileage Limits 

California’s lemon law does not have any mileage limits, despite what some manufacturers might try to say. 

So, when does lemon law apply to a vehicle?

The lemon law applies to a vehicle as long as the manufacturer’s new car warranty is still valid and, in many cases beyond the actual warranty expiration. 

In many instances, a vehicle can still qualify under lemon law even if it’s outside of the warranty period as long as the first repair attempt for the defect occurred within the warranty period.  

If a car dealership acting on behalf of the manufacturer has violated or ignored any part of your vehicle’s warranty, you might have a breach of warranty case on your hands. Of course, warranties come with their own respective mileage limits and time limits, so it all depends on your unique circumstances. 

How Long Does California’s Lemon Law Protect a Vehicle? 

There isn’t any specific time limit when it comes to lemon law protection. 

What matters for lemon law protection is: 

  • The defect repairs begin within the manufacturer’s warranty. 
  • If the car is outside of the warranty period, lemon law might still apply if the first repair attempt happened during the warranty period. 

What About The 18,000-Mile Limit? Or the 18-Month Rule? 

If you’ve been doing some research online, you might have seen something about the lemon law only applying to the first 18,000 miles or 18 months of owning a car. In short, this isn’t true. There is no 18,000-mile or 18-month limit to the lemon law. 

Then where does this notion come from? There is language in the Tanner Consumer Protection Act (part of California’s lemon law) that refers to a certain number of repairs within 18,000 miles or being in the warranty repair facility for more than 30 days within the first 18 months. However, without getting too technical, this does not define what the lemon law is nor should be mistaken for the criteria of whether a consumer qualifies.   

If a consumer has four or more repairs under warranty within the first 18,000-miles or more than 30 days in the shop within the first 18 months, and has availed themselves to the manufacturer’s mediation program, they get certain advantages if the case were to go to trial.  That’s all. 

At best, this is a red herring for consumers. It is an advantage rarely invoked by attorneys. In my 35 years and multiple trials, this “advantage” has never been used.   

The bottom line here is that as long as the defect repairs began within the manufacturer’s warranty, the lemon law applies. 

Do You Think You Have a Lemon? 

Wondering if your vehicle qualifies as a lemon? Online searches can only get you so far. It’s best to speak with an experienced lemon law attorney who can tell you if you’re dealing with a lemon and what your options might be.  

 Our California lemon law attorneys understand the laws inside and out and know exactly how to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a FREE zero-obligation consultation. 

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