Things to Know & Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
What is the lemon law?
My car is a lemon!” You may have heard an exasperated friend or family member use this phrase when their car keeps breaking down and they can’t get it fixed. Maybe you have even used this phrase to describe your own experience. People use the word “lemon” to describe a problematic car. The “lemon law” broadly describes a set of comprehensive consumer protection laws that protect consumers who buy or lease new or used cars covered by warranties. The lemon law provides remedies when those cars can’t be properly repaired.
California Lemon Law
In California these laws include the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and the Tanner Consumer Protection Act.
Does the lemon law only cover vehicles purchased or leased in California?
Not necessarily! Even if you bought or leased your vehicle or motor home from a dealer in another state, the lemon law might still apply depending on how the transaction was structured. California lemon law often applies when the buyer takes delivery of the vehicle in California, even if it was purchased from another state.
When is a consumer protected by the lemon law?
Generally, the lemon law applies to any car, motor home, travel trailer, motorcycle, boat or other covered product purchased or leased in California that comes with a warranty so long as the vehicle is used primarily for personal, family or household purposes. This includes your personal car that you use to commute to and from your place of employment.
Does the lemon cover work vehicles?
Yes! The lemon law protects small business owners by covering certain work vehicles. Generally, the lemon law covers work vehicles so long as the owner has five or fewer work vehicles registered in California, the vehicle experiencing the problems is registered in California and the vehicle weighs less than 10,000 pounds. Don’t confuse weight rating with actual weight. For example, some vehicles are rated at 10,000 pounds but they actually weigh less than 10,000 pounds. The lemon law uses the actual weight in pounds – not the weight rating – for determining whether you are covered.
Does the lemon law cover used cars?
Yes! If you buy or lease a used car and the manufacturer’s warranty has not expired, your car is still covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. If you experience any problems while the manufacturer’s warranty is still in effect, you must take your used car to one of the manufacturer’s authorized repair facilities for warranty repairs. This usually means the local dealership.
Does the lemon law cover leased cars?
Yes! So long as your leased car is covered by a warranty the lemon law applies.
Does the lemon law cover motor homes?
Yes! Some parts of a motor home are specifically covered by the lemon law. Generally, the lemon law covers the motor home chassis, chassis cab, and any part of the motor home that is devoted to propulsion. Those parts of a motor home used primarily for human habitation are covered under the general warranty law, but not the Tanner Consumer Protection Act. If the problems only relate to the living quarters of the motor home, the manufacturer might only be required to repair the problems but not necessarily be required to repurchase the motor home. In this case, we can often obtain a substantial cash settlement on your behalf under which you would get money for your inconvenience but would keep the motor home. Either way, you have at least some protection!
Does the Lemon Law Just Cover Cars?
No! Many other products including motor homes, motorcycles, travel trailers and boats are also covered. If you’re not sure whether your vehicle is covered contact us for more information.
What is a warranty?
A warranty is essentially a promise. For example, in a typical new car warranty the manufacturer promises to repair defects in design or workmanship for a certain period of time such as 3 years or 36,000 miles whichever comes first. There are other kinds of warranties that may also apply. Sometimes manufacturers have certified used car programs. When you buy a factory certified used car the manufacturer usually provides a warranty or promise that it will repair certain defects for a specified period of time. Sometimes the dealer will provide a dealer’s warranty in which the dealer promises to repair certain defects within a specified period. There are also warranties that are not expressly given by either the manufacturer or dealer, but are implied by the law. You may have more than one warranty covering your car at the same time.
What is a service contract?
Many consumers also buy a service contract through the dealership at the same time they buy or lease a new or used car. Service contracts are often referred to as “extended warranties.” In a service contract, the service contract provider promises to provide certain services and/or repair certain defects for a given period of time. Like warranties, the duration of a service contract is usually measured by time or mileage such as 36 months or 36,000 miles.
Is the dealership ultimately responsible for honoring the manufacturer's warranty?
No. Most new cars sold or leased in California come with a manufacturer’s express new car warranty. When you need repairs under the manufacturer’s warranty, your point of contact with the manufacturer is usually the authorized dealership where you take your car to have those repairs performed. However, it is ultimately the manufacturer’s responsibility to honor its warranty. Your dealership values your business and wants you to be a satisfied repeat customer. Because the dealer is usually the point of contact for warranty repairs, it is common for frustrated consumers to blame the dealer when their car can’t be fixed. In most cases, however, the dealer’s service manager is aggressively working behind the scenes to convince the manufacturer to authorize all necessary repairs. It can be very frustrating when you can’t get your car fixed. But remember, the manufacturer is ultimately responsible for honoring its new car warranty.
What if my dealer also gave me a warranty?
Sometimes the dealer provides a dealer’s warranty. The dealer is responsible for correcting any items covered by its warranty.
What should I do when I take my car in for warranty repairs?
If you experience a problem with a car covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, immediately take your car to one of the manufacturer’s authorized repair facilities. Make sure you describe the problem in detail including any vibrations, noises, smells, or other issues related to the problem. Before signing the repair order prepared by the service technician, thoroughly review it to make sure it accurately describes the problem. The repair order should describe the problem exactly as you have described it to the repair technician. If necessary, make the service technician re-write the repair order so that it accurately describes your problem.
What should I do if my car isn't repaired right the first time?
Take it back for repairs immediately. Whenever you take your car back to have the same problem repaired again, it is extremely important to tell the service technician that you are bringing the car back to have the same problem repaired again. You must take a proactive role in protecting your rights. Describe the problem the same way you described it the previous time. Review the repair order to make sure it accurately describes the problem. If necessary, have the service technician re-write the repair order to accurately state the problem. Some unethical technicians will deliberately write up the problem so it looks like a different problem. You need to make sure the repair order clearly indicates that the car is experiencing the same problem for which a repair attempt was previously made.
What if the warranty has expired but I'm still having problems?
The lemon law may still apply even though your warranty has expired. If your warranty has expired and you are experiencing the same problem that was previously repaired under the warranty, that problem may still be covered. If you are denied warranty coverage, talk to a lawyer.
Should I keep my maintenance records?
Yes! It is extremely important that you keep your maintenance records so you can show that you maintained the car in the manner required by the vehicle owner’s manual.
How long do I have to file a lemon law claim?
In California, you have until four years after the manufacturer’s most recent repair attempt on your vehicle under the warranty to file a lawsuit under the lemon law. Even if you believe your vehicle’s problems were too long ago to do anything about them, please give us a call because you may still have the right to sue.