Buying a new or used vehicle is an exciting experience, but what happens when the car you just purchased turns out to be a lemon? In California, consumers have legal protections under the state’s Lemon Law, officially known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. This law is designed to help individuals who find themselves with defective vehicles that seem impossible to fix. In this blog post, we will provide an overview of California Lemon Law, explaining its key provisions, who is covered, and what to do if you believe you have a lemon on your hands.
What is California Lemon Law?
The California Lemon Law, also referred to as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, is a legal framework that provides consumers with rights and remedies when they purchase or lease new or used vehicles that have persistent, unfixable defects. The primary goal of this law is to protect consumers from being stuck with vehicles that fail to meet performance, safety, or quality standards.
Key Provisions of California Lemon Law
1. New and Used Vehicles: The Lemon Law covers both new and used vehicles purchased or leased in California for personal, family, or household use. This means that not only brand-new cars but also used vehicles may qualify for protection.
2. Lemon Law Rights Period: To be eligible for relief under the Lemon Law, the vehicle must be within the manufacturer’s original warranty period or under an extended warranty. The Lemon Law rights period typically extends for 18 months from the date of delivery or until the vehicle reaches 18,000 miles on the odometer, whichever occurs first.
3. Substantial Defects: For a vehicle to qualify as a “lemon,” it must have a substantial defect or problem that affects its use, value, or safety. These defects should persist even after a reasonable number of repair attempts.
4. Reasonable Repair Attempts: Under the Lemon Law, the manufacturer or authorized dealer must be given a reasonable number of attempts to fix the defect. For serious safety-related defects, two or more repair attempts may be considered reasonable. For other issues, four or more repair attempts may be required.
5. Out-of-Service Period: If your vehicle has been out of service for a cumulative total of 30 or more days during the Lemon Law rights period due to repair attempts, it may qualify as a lemon.
Who Is Covered by California Lemon Law?
California Lemon Law offers protection to a wide range of consumers, including:
1. Buyers and Lessees: Both buyers and lessees of new and used vehicles for personal, family, or household use are covered by the Lemon Law.
2. Original Owners: The law provides protection to original owners who purchased the vehicle, as well as subsequent owners if the vehicle is still within the original warranty period.
3. Used Vehicle Buyers: Used vehicle buyers may also be covered by the Lemon Law if their vehicle meets the criteria and is within the Lemon Law rights period.
What to Do If You Suspect You Have a Lemon
If you believe you have purchased or leased a lemon, here are the steps to follow:
1. Document the Issues: Keep detailed records of all repair visits, including dates, descriptions of the problems, repair orders, and any communication with the dealership or manufacturer.
2. Give the Manufacturer a Chance to Fix It: You must provide the manufacturer (or authorized dealer) with a reasonable number of opportunities to repair the defect. California’s Lemon Law defines this as at least two attempts to repair a problem that poses a serious safety risk or four attempts for other issues.
3. Notify the Manufacturer: If the defect persists after a reasonable number of repair attempts or if your vehicle has been out of service for an extended period, you must formally notify the manufacturer in writing about the problem and your intention to pursue a Lemon Law claim.
4. Consult an Attorney: It is advisable to consult with an experienced California lemon law lawyer. An attorney can guide you through the process, ensure you meet all the necessary requirements, and help negotiate a resolution with the manufacturer.
5. Seek a Replacement or Refund: If your vehicle qualifies as a ‘lemon,’ you have the right to request a replacement vehicle or a refund of the purchase price, minus a reasonable allowance for vehicle use.
6. Pursue Arbitration: If the manufacturer has a certified arbitration program, you may be required to participate. Arbitration can be an alternative way to resolve your lemon law claim.
7. File a Lawsuit: If arbitration doesn’t result in a satisfactory outcome, you may need to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer. An experienced lemon law attorney can assist you with this process.
California Lemon Law is a crucial consumer protection tool for individuals who find themselves with defective vehicles. If you believe you have a lemon on your hands, it’s essential to take prompt and documented action. By following the steps outlined in this overview and seeking legal advice when necessary, you can assert your rights and work towards a resolution that provides you with a vehicle that meets safety and performance standards or a refund for your defective purchase. The California Lemon Law exists to ensure that consumers are not stuck with vehicles that fail to meet their expectations and standards.