A “lemon car” has most likely come up in a conversation and you may have seen it on a billboard on the highway, but what exactly does it mean? The short answer to what the lemon law in California does is that it protects you as a consumer when purchasing a car from a dealer.
Some vehicles off the lot fail to meet quality standards or turn out to be defective. In this case, the manufacturer of the vehicle is required by law to replace the vehicle that was purchased or offer a refund for the amount that was paid.
A new vehicle should mean you won’t have to deal with issues, but California’s Lemon Law protects buyers if the unfortunate event of a new car has defects. Just like buying a microwave at the store that doesn’t work and returning for a full refund, the lemon law works the same way to get you your reimbursement on a defective car.
Other than a regular car on the road, the Lemon Law in California also protects consumers on a number of motorized vehicles such as:
- Commercial vehicles
Whether it’s a newly purchased vehicle, used vehicle or leased vehicle, the Lemon Law in California has provisions to help you in any situation under the law that is qualified.
The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act
The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (Song-Beverly Act), found in California’s Civil Code Section 1790-1795.8, is a state consumer protection law that addresses the legal responsibility of manufacturers to cover warranty on many consumer products.
In 1970, California adopted the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act that requires “manufacturers to repurchase or replace faulty products they failed to fix after a reasonable number of repair attempts. The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act applies to many consumer transactions, not just vehicle purchases.”
Within the Song-Beverly Act, there are guidelines on what is assumed to be a “lemon” and if the criteria are met under the California Lemon Law, then you may have a valid case. You have to meet the given criteria within the 18 months of purchasing a vehicle or under 18,000 miles of the buyer’s vehicle odometer, whichever comes first.
How Do you know if you have a Lemon?
Since every case is different, The best way to know if you have a lemon car in California is to talk to an experienced Lemon Law lawyer about the details of your case. However, if you purchased a car that is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, then the general requirements to have a valid lemon law claim are as followed:
- The dealer has made two or more vehicle repairs with a warranty problem that results in a condition that is likely to injury if the vehicle is driven.
- The dealer made four or more vehicle repair attempts to fix the same vehicle issue.
- The vehicle has been in the shop for more than 30 days combined in the total number of repair days. It does not mean it has to be 30 days consecutively but in a combined total.
- The dealer is telling you that the vehicle’s warranty does not cover your issue
Presumably, If these criteria are met, the California Lemon Law defends the buyer of a vehicle and is entitled to a replacement vehicle or a full refund of all payments towards the vehicle including down payment. It is the buyer’s duty to collect all evidence including contracts and written notice to the manufacturer about the issue.
What are the Documents Necessary to have a Lemon in California?
Documentation is very important for filing a vehicle as a lemon especially when you’re waiting for the car to be fixed days on end. Having proper documentation can help prove that your car is a lemon under the California Lemon Law and save time by processing the case faster. Some documentation to consider requesting and saving with you is as follows:
1. Express Warranty
Normally, when purchasing a vehicle, you will receive an express warranty, also known as a written warranty. This warranty covers any damages listed from the manufacturer that may be repaired at no cost to you. Some vehicles under the warranty may be covered if they are above 18 months or 18,000 miles.
The manufacturer warranty is important because it details everything that covers the vehicle and protects you when filing a lemon law case. Under the lemon law, the defective vehicle that was under the manufacturer warranty is required to be repaired or entitled to a full refund from the purchase date.
2. Repair Invoice
Another important document that you should collect is repair invoices. Repair invoices are what you will be handed for each repair order you request for your vehicle at the dealer.
This is very important because it will be key evidence on the number of repair attempts and the number of days at the dealer for repair when filing your lemon case. Repetitive complaints about the same issue written down will not only help your case but also address the complaint as a manufacturer recall.
3. Sales Documentation
The next item on the list is having proper sales documentation. Whether it’s a lease or a buy, you should have your sales documentation to prove you purchased your vehicle and what contract you signed.
With this purchase contract, the car buyer would be able to see information such as:
- What’s included in the warranty
- If you purchased GAP insurance
- The date of the sale
- The make and model of the vehicle
- The price of the vehicle purchased
- Features added into the financing of the vehicle
Items under your purchase contract affect the outcome of your lemon law case. A copy must always be kept with the dealer as well, but it’s more reliant on yourself to have all the documents in place.
4. Vehicle History Report
Another aspect of protecting you in a lemon law case is having all the information about your vehicle since you received it. This would mean having information about your registration, insurance, accident report, and timeline since you received your vehicle.
All expenses since receiving your vehicle should also be written down to show your lemon law lawyer to build a stronger case.
You Have Rights as a Consumer
Knowing your rights when buying a vehicle will help you protect yourself and save a lot of headaches. As a consumer, you should know that the lemon law is placed nationwide to help you with your defective car purchase.
You are entitled to receive a fully working vehicle or your money back under consumer protection laws in California. If you are still unsure about the status of your vehicle, it is recommended to seek a lemon law attorney for professional help.