When Was the California Lemon Law Established?

By Cameron Banks

  • Overview

    The California "Lemon Law" protects consumers from defective motor vehicles--"lemons"--when buying or leasing. One of many state consumer protection laws established during the 1960s and 1970s, the California Lemon Law is based on the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and other legal codes in the state of California, and offers specific legal protections for buyers of new or used cars under manufacturers' warranties.
  • History

    California Lemon Laws are consumer protection laws, which were first established in the early part of the 20th century to protect citizens' health and safety. Some of the earliest consumer protections involved food safety. Concern with the safety of drugs and cosmetics followed, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was established in 1938 to protect consumers through product testing. In the 1960s, consumer rights advocacy surrounding automobiles resulted in the passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966. It was followed by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), which established laws for buyers and sellers, including those involved with warranties for products.
  • California's "Lemon Law" Background

    The California Lemon Law encompasses various codes, including the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and the Tanner Consumer Protection Act. The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act was enacted in California in 1970. This Act is intended to protect people who buy or lease motor vehicles in California; every other state now has its own statutes regarding "lemons." In addition, a federal law--the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act--provides rights to consumers regarding warranties on consumer goods costing more than $15.00.


  • Significance

    The California Lemon Law can help protect consumers from manufacturing or other defects that affect a motor vehicle's safety, performance or value. If a car or other vehicle has repeated problems when it is under a manufacturer's warranty, the law provides rights to consumers. Depending on the situation, if a consumer has attempted to have the car repaired a reasonable number of times and it still has recurring problems, the law may require a manufacturer (or its representative, a dealer) to repair, replace or even repurchase a motor vehicle when it is under warranty. The choice between a replacement vehicle or a monetary refund is the consumer's.
  • Considerations

    To be covered under the California Lemon Law, a car must have been purchased or leased in the state of California for personal or business use. Currently, the California Lemon Law covers repeated problems during the first 18 months or 18,000 miles that a person owns or leases a car. Other factors include considerations such as whether the problem with the vehicle is serious enough to cause death or bodily injury, whether four or more attempts have been made to fix the vehicle and whether the vehicle has been out of use for thirty days or more since it was delivered. It is important to check updates with the Lemon Law to fully understand it as it relates to a specific situation--it may change over time.
  • Protecting Rights

    In order to use the California Lemon Law, consumers should have all dealer maintenance and service records for the motor vehicle. There must be a record of attempting to repair problems with the motor vehicle through the authorized representative (the dealer) of the manufacturer. The Lemon Law does not cover abuse of the car. If you have had repeated problems with a new car or a used car still under warranty in California, check with an attorney to determine whether you can seek protection under California's Lemon Law.
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