We’ve listed some of our most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to get you started in understanding the California Lemon Law and your rights as a consumer.
- What is a “lemon?”
What Is A “Lemon?”
The term “lemon” is generally used to refer to a vehicle or other consumer good that is defective, and despite multiple attempts to repair it under warranty, the defect has not been fixed.
Lemon laws exist to give the consumer a right to demand a replacement or refund, after a reasonable number of repair attempts.
What Products Does The Lemon Law Cover?
Lemon laws generally apply only to consumer products, which are products owned by individuals primarily for personal, family or household use.
This includes cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, travel trailers and motor homes, ATVs and many other consumer goods.
Under the California Lemon Law, the product must have been purchased or leased from a retailer (not a private party) within the state. Under federal law, any product has a warranty included, regardless of where or how it was purchased.
What Is The Cost To Hire An Attorney?
State and federal lemon laws provide that the warrantor must pay your attorney fees and costs in addition to any refund or other compensation due. We charge no retainer and do not receive any fees until the case is resolved to your satisfaction. If there is no recovery, you owe us nothing for attorney fees or costs incurred.
If I Have A Lemon, What Am I Entitled To Get?
If the warrantor has not repaired a substantially defective product after a reasonable number of attempts, it must either replace the product or take it back for refund.
A replacement should be a new product as close as possible to the original product, even if this means that you will get a newer model than the original. A refund includes the full purchase price of the product.
Generally, you are also entitled to receive compensation for out-of-pocket expenses such as repairs, rental cars, towing and registration fees.
If you financed the product, the warrantor must also refund any interest or finance charges you paid and pay off the remaining loan balance.
Any refund may be reduced by an offset for your use of the product. The offset is limited to your use of the product before you first discovered that it was defective.
How Long Does It Take?
Each case is different and no attorney can guarantee a resolution within any specific time period. Many cases are settled for buyback without litigation, and those can be finished within 30-60 days of your first contact to our office. If a lawsuit is necessary, the process will take longer. Depending on the court to which your case is assigned, you can expect to receive trial date 12 to 18 months after the case is filed.
Will I Have To Go To Trial?
We are always prepared to take cases to trial if necessary, but most cases are resolved by a settlement. Less than 4 percent of our cases end up going to trial.
California Lemon Law has a special provision to encourage manufacturers to settle cases. The jury can impose a civil penalty to punish a manufacturer that knowingly refuses to comply with the law. The civil penalty can be up to twice the consumer’s actual damages — meaning, for a $30,000 vehicle, the jury can impose an additional penalty of up to $60,000.
Does The Lemon Law Cover Products Other Than Vehicles?
Both the California and federal lemon laws apply to all consumer products, including motor homes and RVs, boats and other watercraft, motorcycles, and even household appliances and personal computers.
For products costing less than $10,000, it may be a matter for small claims court, where attorneys cannot appear.
Does The Lemon Law Cover Used Products?
California Lemon Law covers any product, new or used, that comes with a written warranty. Certain provisions apply differently to new products, but in general your rights are the same. The federal lemon law makes no distinction between new and used products: It applies to any product as long as the original warranty is still in effect.
California Lemon Law also considers a “used” vehicle to be a “new” vehicle, if any amount of the original warranty is still in effect. For example, if you purchase a used vehicle that is two years old and has 25,000 miles on it, but it comes with the original manufacturer’s three-year or 36,000-mile warranty, California Lemon Law covers it as a “new” vehicle.
Does The Lemon Law Cover Leases?
Generally, your rights under the California Lemon Law are the same whether you have purchased or leased your consumer product.
What Defects Does The Lemon Law Cover?
Not every unrepaired defect will automatically justify returning a product for a full refund. The defect or defects must substantially impair the product’s use, value or safety in the eyes of a reasonable person in your circumstances. This legal standard can be highly subjective and depends upon the particular circumstances of each case.
How Many Times Can The Warrantor Try To Fix My Vehicle?
The warrantor is entitled to a reasonable opportunity to repair a vehicle or other product before it must offer a replacement or refund. This depends on a number of factors, including:
- The number of repair visits;
- The total number of days out of service for repair;
- Whether there have been repeated visits for the same problem;
- The ease or difficulty of diagnosing or repairing each problem;
- Whether a loaner is provided during repairs; and
- The extent to which the defects cause an unsafe condition.
Generally, there has been a sufficient opportunity to repair after four attempts, or 30 days out of service (cumulatively). However, this is not a firm requirement, and each case depends on its own unique facts. A product can be a “lemon” with fewer repairs. On the other hand, it is possible that a warrantor might be entitled to further repair attempts, even if it already had four attempts or 30 days to fix its defective product.
For purposes of the lemon law, every repair visit counts toward the “reasonable opportunity to repair,” regardless of whether the dealer actually tries to fix the problem.
What About Vehicles Used For Business?
State and federal lemon laws do not exclude some business use and generally apply when the primary use of the product is for personal, family or household purposes.
New motor vehicles used primarily for business are covered by the California Lemon Law so long as the business has no more than five vehicles registered to it in California, and the vehicle weighs less than 10,000 pounds. (Any vehicle that came with the remainder of the manufacturer’s original warranty is considered a “new motor vehicle,” even if it was purchased used.)
The federal lemon law is more inclusive and covers any product generally used for personal reasons, regardless of how it is actually used. For example, if you use your pickup truck primarily in your gardening business, the federal lemon law should still apply, because pickup trucks are normally used as consumer products.
Each case is different. To find out whether you qualify for relief under the lemon law, call us for a free consultation or case review with a consumer protection lawyer. From our office in Valencia, we serve clients throughout California.