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What Is The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act?

  Norman Taylor & Associates
  September 27, 2022

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act is a powerful California law that protects consumers of many different types of goods. 

If you’re a resident of California, you should consider yourself lucky — we have some of the strongest consumer protection laws in the entire United States! Especially when it comes to lemons (or defective vehicles). 

Purchasing a car, whether it’s new or used, is a huge financial decision. Unfortunately, cars are prone to manufacturer defects, faulty parts, and serious issues that aren’t the vehicle owner’s fault. But they could leave you not having a new car experience, stranded on the side of the road or without a functioning vehicle. 

So what happens if you just spent tens of thousands of dollars (or more!) on a vehicle that has defects? You invoke your rights outlined in the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act AKA California’s Lemon Law. 

WHAT IS THE SONG-BEVERLY CONSUMER WARRANTY ACT? 

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act was created in 1970. It’s a California state statute designed to protect buyers of new or used consumer goods.

Whether it’s a product from a retailer, like a blender you bought at a department store, or a vehicle purchased at a car dealership, this law establishes your right to purchase a product that works as intended. 

While this law extends to virtually all non-consumable consumer goods that come with warranties, we’re focused on one: vehicles. 

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act states that if a vehicle manufacturer has not fixed a new vehicle to meet the terms of an express written warranty after “a reasonable number of repairs”, the manufacturer shall either replace or refund the purchase price and attendant costs.   

A WAY TO HOLD MANUFACTURERS RESPONSIBLE 

In most cases, the manufacturer of the lemon vehicle has the ultimate responsibility to: 

  • Replace your vehicle
  • Refund the purchase price of the vehicle 

HOW LONG DOES THE SONG-BEVERLY CONSUMER WARRANTY ACT APPLY TO A VEHICLE? 

A long time! Consumers protected by the Song-Beverly Act have a four-year statute of limitations from when they are convinced the manufacturer cannot conform the vehicle to the warranty i.e., really fix the problem.  

As an example, if your warranty is 5 years, and you had repairs up through year 5 and you believed all along they could actually fix the defect(s), the statute of limitations would not begin to run until you thought they could not.  You might have a 9-year-old car where you still have a right to bring an action against the manufacturer.    

WHAT DOES THE SONG-BEVERLY CONSUMER WARRANTY ACT COVER? 

This act applies to vehicles with inherent problems, not problems resulting from abuse or improper maintenance after the vehicle was purchased or leased.

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty act covers: 

  • A purchased new car
  • A leased new car
  • A purchased used car (at this writing – a Certified Pre-owned – on appeal) 

However, for a car to be protected under this Act, it has to meet a few specific criteria. Mainly: 

  • The car was purchased in California. You can’t invoke California lemon law if you bought a car in another state and now reside in California (unless you took delivery in CA). 
  • The vehicle suffers from substantial defects that impact the use, value, or safety of the vehicle. Some top vehicle defects include transmission, engine, check-engine warning lights, steering, and suspension problems. 
  • The vehicle does not meet the standards outlined in the expressed warranty. Whether you purchased a new vehicle or a certified pre-owned one, if your vehicle is not up to par with any guarantee or warranty and the dealership has been unable to fix it, you might have a lemon on your hands. 

DOES THE SONG-BEVERLY CONSUMER WARRANTY ACT APPLY TO USED CARS? 

This aspect of the Act is up for review before the CA Supreme Court.  If you purchased a certified pre-owned vehicle, and you qualify for a lemon in any respect discussed above, you have the potential of a buyback. 

If you purchased the vehicle “as is” or in a private sale, California lemon law doesn’t apply. 

THE SONG-BEVERLY CONSUMER WARRANTY ACT: IN SIMPLE TERMS  

We know there’s a lot of legal speak when it comes to this topic. We believe an educated consumer is an empowered one, so we want to make these important concepts approachable. 

To better understand what the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act provides, it may be helpful to give some definitions.

EXPRESS WRITTEN WARRANTY

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act applies to lessees and buyers for the duration of their warranty. If at any point during their warranty the vehicle continues to have issues after a reasonable number of attempts to fix them, this could be considered a violation of the express written warranty. The manufacturer must replace or refund the vehicle. 

REASONABLE NUMBER OF REPAIR ATTEMPTS 

Lemon law basics dictate that a case can be pursued only after a “reasonable number of repairs” has been made, yet the defect still exists – or you’ve given a unreasonable number of opportunities to repair one’s vehicle during your ownership whether “repaired” or not.    

But how many repair attempts are considered “reasonable”? California law doesn’t state the exact number of repairs.  Let your attorney decide given your circumstance.  It is a case-by-case situation.  

We recommend consulting with an experienced lemon law attorney to determine whether or not your vehicle meets this threshold. 

PURCHASE PRICE REFUND

A consumer cannot force a manufacturer to replace their vehicle and a manufacturer cannot force a consumer to accept a replacement. While this is something to explore on a case by case, a refund (called restitution in the law) is the typical remedy for a consumer.   

A refund typically includes

  • What you have paid into the vehicle
  • What you still owe on the vehicle to your lender
  • Price of manufacturer-installed items
  • Sales/use tax
  • License
  • Registration
  • Other “incidental” damages the owner incurred as a result of the defective vehicle, such as repair, towing, and rental costs.
  • Consequential damages like insurance and all DMV charges – complicated issue a qualified lemon law attorney can help one sort out.

MILEAGE OFFSET

The Act allows a manufacturer to deduct the value of the “trouble-free miles” from the refund by determining what the mileage was at the time the vehicle was first return for repair of whichever defect is forcing the refund. 

That mileage is plugged into a formula provided by the Act and this amount is subtracted from one’s refund.  If your troubles started early, the deduction is minimal. If it started later in the life of the vehicle, the deduction could be large.   

HOW CAN I INVOKE MY RIGHTS FROM THE SONG-BEVERLY CONSUMER WARRANTY ACT?

The best way to invoke your rights if you believe you’re dealing with a lemon is to contact an experienced lemon law attorney. 

To learn more about the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and if you qualify for a refund or vehicle replacement, contact Norman Taylor & Associates today for a FREE consultation! 

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