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Replacing a Vehicle (Lemon) in California

  Norman Taylor & Associates
  May 9, 2017

In California, consumers who purchase or lease vehicles have certain rights when it comes to these large purchases. Essentially, manufacturers are expected to provide safe, good quality products to the public. If a consumer purchases a vehicle (with a manufacturer’s warranty) that turns out to be a “lemon,” the manufacturer is legally required to correct the problem under California’s Lemon Law.

Suppose that through driving the vehicle, the consumer becomes aware of a manufacturer’s defect, so they bring their car to the dealer to be fixed, not once, but five times and the problem has not been fixed. Or, suppose the problem has been consistent to the point it’s been in the shop for more than 30 days (total), and now the consumer is getting very angry because they don’t have a vehicle to drive and meanwhile, they’re still paying payments on a car they cannot use.

At this point, the consumer is very frustrated with the situation and is tired of trying to fix a problem with their vehicle that won’t go away. More importantly, the consumer is a mother of three small children and she doesn’t feel safe driving with her children in the unsafe vehicle. All she wants to do now is give the car back to the manufacturer and get into a vehicle that does not have a history of manufacturer’s defects. Is this possible?

Can the Manufacturer Take My Car Back?

Under California’s Lemon Law, if the manufacturer cannot repair a vehicle so it conforms to the manufacturer’s warranty after a reasonable number of attempts, the manufacturer is obligated to replace or repurchase the consumer’s vehicle.

What counts as a reasonable number of attempts?

Within 18 months or 18,000 miles, any of the following has occurred:

  • The vehicle has been repaired at least four times, and the consumer notified the manufacturer about the need for repair at least once.
  • The defect is serious and life-threatening, and has been repaired at least two times, and at least once, the consumer notified the manufacturer of the need for repair.
  • Since the consumer drove it off the lot (date of delivery), the vehicle has been “out of service” for at least 30 days combined (they don’t have to be consecutive).

If any of the above applies to you and your situation, you may be able to have your lemon repurchased or replaced by the manufacturer – it is the consumer’s choice. Manufacturers cannot force consumers to accept a replacement vehicle.

Need a California lemon law attorney? Contact our firm today for a free case evaluation.

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