How to Qualify for the California Lemon Law

By Barb Nefer

  • Overview

    The California Lemon Law is a provision in California's consumer protection laws that is used to determine what counts as a reasonable number of attempts to fix a problem in a new car. If a car is found to be a lemon, its owner may be eligible for a refund or replacement. In order to qualify for relief under this law, you must carefully follow its provisions which are discussed in the following steps.
    California law offers protection from automotive lemons.
    • Step 1

      Determine whether your vehicle is in a qualifying classification. The Lemon Law covers new vehicles, which are defined by the California Attorney General's office as "new motor vehicles (and) demonstrators; the chassis, chassis cab, and propulsion system of a new motor home; and any other motor vehicle sold with a manufacturer's new car warranty." Some used vehicles may also qualify for limited coverage under the law. These include motorcycles, used vehicles that include an express written warranty from thr dealer or that are sold with a service contract, and "lemon" vehicles that a manufacturer bought back and resold with an express written warranty for the specified defect.
    • Step 2

      Calculate whether the vehicle's purchase date and/or mileage fall within the Lemon Law's limitations. The law applies problems that crop up within the first 18 months after you receive delivery of your car or within the first 18,000 miles that you rack up on the odometer, whichever occurs first.


    • Step 3

      Assess the seriousness of the defect. The Lemon Law's view of a reasonable number of repair attempts depends on the seriousness of the problem. If you're dealing with a defect that can be a safety hazard, such as faulty brakes, one or two attempts may be considered sufficient to qualify as a reasonable attempt under the Lemon Law. If the defect impairs the use or value of the car but doesn't pose a danger, as many as four attempts or more may be considered reasonable.
    • Step 4

      Determine how long the vehicle has been out of service due to the problem. Under the Lemon Law, a vehicle can qualify if it is out of service for a total of more than 30 days since it was delivered because of the issue.
    • Skill: Moderate
    • Tip: If you believe you have a claim that meets the provision of the California Lemon Law, you can retain an attorney rather than fighting on your own.
    • Warning:
    • The "Lemon Law is a guide rather an an absolute rule. The ultimate decision on whether a manufacturer has made a reasonable amount of attempts lies with a judge or arbitrator. If a case gets to this point, the manufacturer can attempt to prove that it should be allowed to make additional attempts to repair the problem rather than having to take back the vehicle.
    • This article is not legal advice and should not be taken as such. Consult an attorney for more information.

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