How many failed repairs make a car a “lemon?”

On Behalf of | Oct 20, 2022 | Lemon Law |

Buying a new car is already a stressful experience for a lot of people – but that experience can turn into a total nightmare when the car you bring home keeps breaking down.

You feel like you got a real “lemon” in the deal, and you’d like the dealership or manufacturer to make things right. In your mind, that means swapping out your new vehicle for another in an equal trade. The dealership, however, says that you have to give them (or the manufacturer) a reasonable chance to make the appropriate repairs on the vehicle you already have.

Who is right? It’s actually the dealership.

What rule has to be met to officially call a vehicle a lemon?

California law is pretty specific about what makes a vehicle a lemon and what doesn’t. If you purchased your car and it breaks down within the first 18,000 miles or 18 months, you can only demand more from your dealership when at least one of the following scenarios apply:

  • The vehicle has been out of service for a cumulative total of 30 days or more, and there is nothing outside of the manufacturer’s control (like supply issues) causing the delay in the necessary repairs.
  • You’ve attempted to have the problem with your vehicle resolved through repairs four times (or more) without success.
  • The problem with your vehicle creates a situation that could very likely cause you serious injury or death if the vehicle is driven and you’ve allowed repairs to be made at least twice.

You may certainly feel that this is a lot of jumping through hoops and not entirely a “reasonable” burden, given how much you rely on your vehicle. You can generally try to negotiate with your dealership for a courtesy vehicle loan while yours is put in the shop.

Ultimately, however, if you’ve given the dealership and manufacturer every fair chance under the law to make things right and they still are fighting you about replacing the vehicle, it may be time to seek legal guidance.