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I Think I Bought a Lemon Auto – Is There Anything I Can Do?

Captured in film and song, California car culture is legendary. So is California traffic. But for better or worse, having reliable transportation is essential here. Without it getting to work, taking the kids to school and even shopping can be difficult. In the midst of a global pandemic, getting to the doctor or a hospital can also be challenging without a dependable vehicle.

So let’s say you’ve saved all your money and purchased a “new” car from a Los Angeles dealership. You thought you got a good deal, but you have had nothing but problems since. In other words, you think the car is a “lemon.” Is there anything you can do? Read on to find out.

The legal definition of a lemon auto

Under the state’s so-called lemon law, a vehicle is classified as a lemon if it has a significant mechanical deficiency that remains, even after the carmaker has had a reasonable number of attempts to fix it.

Furthermore, the alleged mechanical problems must be detected, and attempts to fix them must begin within 18 months after you take delivery of it– or within the first 18,000 miles; whichever comes first. However, the following vehicles are exempt from these provisions:

  • Motorhomes designed for human habitation.
  • Vehicles that are only used off-road.

A general overview of California’s lemon law follows.

California’s lemon law – the basics

In legal circles, the California lemon law is also known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, which is set forth in the state’s Civil Code.

Simply put, it provides consumer safeguards for people who buy or lease new motor vehicles. It does so by mandating that a manufacturer or an authorized dealer take certain actions in certain circumstances. These stipulations apply when the carmaker or dealer cannot fix or service a new motor vehicle to comply with the specific terms of an express written warranty. If it cannot do so after a “sensible” number of attempts, it must then replace the motor vehicle or refund the purchase price. The replacement or refund must be issued “promptly.”

Additionally, the refund must cover the amount paid for manufacturer-installed items and its transportation. However, the refund does not cover the amount paid for non-manufacturer items the dealer installed. You are not obligated to accept the refund or the replacement.

This comprehensive law includes many other provisions pertaining to:

  • Payment of applicable taxes and fees
  • Charges for motor vehicle use
  • Duration of warranty
  • Classification of “new” vehicles
  • Exemptions

What constitutes a reasonable attempt to fix the vehicle?

One provision worth discussing in detail is the provision regarding “reasonable attempts” to fix the vehicle in question. It stipulates that a carmaker or authorized representative has had ample opportunities to remedy a significant mechanical issue during the time period detailed above if:

  • The recurring problem causes a vehicle condition that is likely to result in death or significant injury if the motor vehicle is driven; and the carmaker or its authorized representatives have tried to fix it twice; and you directly notified the motor vehicle’s manufacturer at least once of the need for repairs based on information in the owner’s manual or warranty. OR
  • The carmaker or authorized representative tried to fix the recurring issue at least four times; and you directly notified the manufacturer at least once about the need for repairs based on information in the owner’s manual or warranty.
  • You have been unable to use the vehicle for more than 30 days (in total) since you took delivery of it due to any number of the carmaker or authorized representative’s attempts to fix a recurring issue.

Does the California lemon law apply to used vehicles?

Of course, this begs a question. What if you bought a used car with issues? The answer is yes, but only in certain circumstances. You’re likely covered under California’s lemon law and applicable federal law if the used, pre-owned or certified vehicle is still subject to the manufacturer’s warranty.

In addition to the vehicles we’ve just mentioned, this law also applies to:

  • Demonstration (demo) vehicles
  • Vehicles repurchased under the lemon law before and resold with a manufacturer’s warranty
  • Any vehicle that has been certified and is now subject to an extended warranty.

With some exceptions, you may be able to get a refund or replacement if the vehicle in question meets these specifications. For example, you will not be able to get a refund or a replacement if:

  • The mechanical issues in question can be directly attributed to abuse/misuse after you took delivery of the vehicle.
  • You have not complied with provisions for proper use and maintenance in the warranty.

If you suspect your car is a lemon and you have any questions or concerns about your legal rights and obligations contact the Law Office of Parag L. Amin P.C., today. We’ll take it from there.


PLEASE NOTE: This is not a representation, warranty, or guarantee of a future result or outcome. Every case is different just like every one of our clients.