Options for Those Who Purchase Cars that Continuously Break
Norman Taylor & Associates
May 12, 2020
It happens more often than you think. Someone buys a new or used car, and it breaks down within a few weeks. They take it into the shop, are told it’s repaired, but the car breaks down again the next month. Before long, the owner spends thousands of dollars on ineffective repairs. The owner thought they made a good purchase, but they ended up with a lemon.
Thankfully, there are options for those who purchase cars that continuously break. Here’s what every car owner should know about California’s lemon law.
Lemon Law Explained
Lemon laws are a combination of federal and state laws designed to protect car owners from defective vehicles. The law most usually applies to cases where either the defective vehicle poses a serious safety risk or when a “reasonable” number of repairs is ineffective at fixing the problem.
Both new and used vehicles are protected under the law so long as they have a warranty, and they meet the attempted repair guidelines. A successful claim could even require that the manufacturer or the dealer refund or replace the defective vehicle.
Lemon Law Requirements
Lemon law protections apply when a defective vehicle car under warranty was purchased or leased in California and has any of the following issues:
· If the manufacturer has had a reasonable opportunity to repair a safety defect that is life-threatening and failed to do so.
· The manufacturer or dealer has had a reasonable opportunity to repair the same defects or defects covered by warranty. Your attorney can help in determining if a reasonable opportunity has taken place.
(Note: If this happens, owners should contact the manufacturer directly and report the issue. If the defect is reported frequently, it could be grounds for a safety recall.)
· As a result of continuous repairs, the owner has lost the use of their vehicle for a total of 30 days within 18 months.
If you bring your car into the shop for any maintenance issue, make sure you get documentation explaining why you came in. Even if mechanics can’t identify a problem, the documentation demonstrates that an attempt was made to fix the issue. If your car is a lemon, those reports will become the evidence you need to show a repeated pattern of maintenance issues.
Used Car Eligibility
Even used cars are eligible so long as they have a warranty. Depending on the age of the vehicle, a used car may still qualify under the manufacturer’s warranty. If not, you may be able to get an extended warranty or mechanical breakdown insurance for your used car. For that reason, it’s always a good idea to get a warranty for a used car and inquire about its service history.
It’s worth noting that this eligibility does not apply to every vehicle. Most personal cars are covered, as are RVs and mobile homes. Even vehicles purchased by small businesses are covered, so long as they weigh less than 10,000lbs.
However, motorcycles and off-road vehicles are typically not covered by the lemon law. If you’re unsure whether your vehicle is eligible, you should contact an attorney for more information.
Lemon Law Benefits
If your arbitration with the manufacturer determines that a “reasonable” number of repair attempts had been made, the manufacturer or the dealer will be required to either issue 1.) a replacement or 2.) a refund.
If refunded, the manufacturer or dealership will take the defective vehicle and return your down payment and paid monthly payments. They will also cover the loan, if there was one, ensuring that the driver isn’t left to pay off a vehicle they no longer own. If you purchased the car in cash, you might receive the total value with adjustments for the diminished value, depending on the mileage.
If replaced, the manufacturer or dealership will take the vehicle and replace it with a similar non-defective model. The loan will remain the same, even if the replaced version is a newer, more expensive model.
Whether you receive a refund or replacement, you should also receive compensation for the defective vehicle’s costs. That includes costs for repairs, towing, rental cars, attorney fees, and even taxes and registration. When you have a certified lemon, the goal is to make it seem as though the purchase and all its costs never happened.
Lemon Law Costs
Making a lemon law claim is a free process. The manufacturers fund arbitration, and there’s no filing fee. This is to encourage anyone wronged by a lemon to get the refund or replacement they deserve.
Although the process itself is free, it’s often wise to come prepared with an experienced lemon law attorney.
Contact a Lemon Law Attorney
While lemon law allows any defective car owner with a valid warranty to go to arbitration, having an attorney present can be the difference between making a successful claim and being stuck with a lemon. An attorney can review all the evidence and help you gather the documents and proof you need to show that a “reasonable” amount of warranty-covered maintenance was performed within the correct time limit.
Additionally, hiring a lemon lawyer is often free. The law requires that the manufacturer cover reasonable attorney fees. With an attorney at your side, you have the best chance of arguing your case, presenting the evidence, and getting the refund or replacement you deserve.
If you suspect your car is a lemon, you might have a case. If you’d like an experienced California lemon law attorney from Norman Taylor & Associates to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (888) 449-7639.