California Lemon Law and Motor Vehicle Warranty

california lemon law, vehicle warranty, auto manufacture warranty

A purchaser or lessee of a motor vehicle has various rights under both state and federal law if the vehicle does not perform as provided under an express warranty. An express warranty is a seller’s promise or guarantee that a buyer relies on when they purchase an item. Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (a federal law that governs consumer product warranties), a company must provide a written express warranty. Repairs covered by an Extended Service Plan do not count as warranty repairs under the California Lemon Law.

Oftentimes consumers find the need to make full use of the rights provided to them under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and what is popularly known as the “Lemon Law.” Because these laws are complex, you should consult with us before you take action on your own — either against the dealer you purchased your vehicle from or the manufacturer — so that we can best advise you of your rights under the particular circumstances of your case. Complicated laws and teams of attorneys representing the auto manufacturers do not mean that you are stuck with a lemon. As Lemon Law experts, we are well versed in all of the ways auto manufacturers try to get out of paying the compensation that you legally have a right to. Our services are always free to the consumer.

The California Lemon Law provides protection for consumers who lease or buy new motor vehicles. The law requires that if the manufacturer or its representative (an authorized dealership) is unable to repair your vehicle to meet the terms of an express written warranty after a reasonable number of repair attempts, and the defect substantially impairs your use, value, or safety, the manufacturer is required to replace the vehicle or return the purchase price to the lessee or buyer. The law only applies if the defect was caused by a manufacturing defect.

The purchase price that must be returned to the consumer includes the price paid for manufacturer-installed items and transportation but does not include the price paid for anything that was not made by the manufacturer and installed at the factory.

The manufacturer is also responsible for paying; license, registration, and other official fees; and incidental damages that the lessee or buyer may have incurred such as finance charges, repair fees, towing fees, and rental car costs. This is one reason why you should always keep copies of all of your paperwork, and also be sure that you get and keep all copies of service and repair records given to you by the dealership when you pick up your vehicle after a repair.

Although there is a four-year statute of limitations to bring a lawsuit for breach of warranty or for violations of Song-Beverly, you should act promptly. As a word of caution; If you are thinking about starting a lemon law case, do not post about it on any of the social media sites, including your own.

The Lemon Law helps determine what is a reasonable number of repair attempts for problems that substantially impair the use, value, or safety of the vehicle. Under the California Lemon Law, it is presumed that a manufacturer has had a reasonable number of attempts to repair the vehicle if either:

  1. The same problem results in a condition that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if the vehicle is driven and the problem has been subject to repair two or more times by the manufacturer or its dealers or,
  2. The same problem has been subject to repair four or more times by the manufacturer or its dealers and the buyer has at least once directly notified the manufacturer of the need for the repair of the problem as provided in the warranty or owner’s manual or,
  3. The vehicle is out of service because of the defect for a cumulative total of more than 30 days since delivery of the vehicle.

Note, however, that the Lemon Law presumption is a guide, not an absolute rule. When in doubt, contact us and we will be happy to answer your questions regarding your particular situation.

Although the special provisions apply to new motor vehicles, there are many general rules that apply to any consumer product sold with an express written warranty. As a result, there is important coverage for motorcycles, motor homes, used vehicles sold with a dealer’s express written warranty, “lemon” vehicles repurchased by the manufacturer and sold to consumers with an express written warranty covering the defect, and vehicles sold with a service contract.

Contact us for complete advice concerning your legal rights under the California Lemon Law.

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Debbie Horowitz

Deborah L. Horowitz, an attorney who has been licensed in California to practice law for over 15 years, has dedicated her entire legal career to protecting consumer rights. She has settled over 8,000 lemon law cases and achieved excellent results for her clients.