California’s Lemon Law, also known as the Tanner Consumer Protection Act, is a crucial piece of legislation that protects consumers from purchasing defective vehicles. Enacted in 1982, this law has undergone several revisions to further strengthen and clarify its standards, making it one of the most comprehensive and consumer-friendly lemon laws in the United States. However, despite its existence for almost four decades, many car owners are still unaware of their rights under this law, leading to confusion and frustration when faced with a lemon vehicle. That’s why every car owner in California needs to understand the intricacies of this law and how it can potentially benefit them. 

In this article, we will delve into the details of California’s Lemon Law, its standards, and the process of seeking relief for a defective vehicle. Whether you’re a new car owner or have been dealing with a lemon for some time, this guide aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the Lemon Law standards in California, empowering you to protect your rights as a consumer.



Background of California’s Lemon Law

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, also known as California’s Lemon Law, was created in the 1970s to offer consumers a legal recourse when they encounter issues with a newly purchased or leased vehicle. This law guarantees that if a customer buys or leases, whether new or used vehicle, and it has significant defects that the manufacturer or dealer cannot rectify within a reasonable period, the consumer may have grounds for receiving a refund or getting a replacement.

The law doesn’t just pertain to cars; it extends to a broad range of consumer products such as trucks, motorcycles, boats, and even recreational vehicles, as long as they are primarily used for personal, family, or household purposes.

The Lemon Law emphasizes that manufacturers must uphold their warranties. If they are unable to fix a defect in a vehicle or consumer product after a reasonable number of attempts, they are obligated to either provide the consumer with a replacement product or refund the purchase price.


Understanding Lemon Law Standards

To qualify for the protections under the Lemon Law, certain conditions need to be met:

  • Vehicle Defects: The car needs to have a significant issue that affects its functionality, worth, or safety. This issue should be included in the warranty and occur within a set timeframe or mileage after the purchase of the vehicle.
  • Reasonable Repair Attempts: If the manufacturer or its authorized dealer fails to fix the vehicle’s defect after a certain number of attempts, it may be deemed a ‘lemon.’ The definition of a reasonable number of attempts can vary depending on the nature of the issue. However, as a general rule, if the vehicle has spent more than 30 cumulative days in the repair shop for the same or related problem, or if there have been two or more unsuccessful attempts to repair a serious safety issue, it could meet the criteria for being considered a ‘lemon.’
  • Manufacturer’s Failure to Repair: If the manufacturer fails to fix the defect after several reasonable attempts, they are required by the Lemon Law to either provide a replacement vehicle or reimburse the purchase price.

It’s worth mentioning that California’s Lemon Law protects individuals who lease vehicles, in addition to those who buy them outright.


Steps to Take if You Suspect You Have a Lemon

Recognizing that your vehicle might be a lemon is the first step toward seeking redress. Should you find yourself in this predicament, here are some steps you can take:

  • Documentation: Maintain thorough documentation of all vehicle-related matters, such as repair bills, service requests, and any correspondence with the manufacturer or dealership.
  • Timely Reporting: If you encounter any issues, it is important to promptly inform the manufacturer or dealer. Failing to do so in a timely manner could impact your entitlements under the Lemon Law.
  • Allow for Repairs: Provide the manufacturer or its authorized dealer with a fair opportunity to repair the vehicle, as one of the conditions for the Lemon Law to take effect is that the defect was not able to be rectified after a reasonable number of attempts.
  • Seek Legal Advice: If the issue continues, or if the manufacturer or dealer denies the problem, seek advice from a California lemon law lawyer. They can assess whether your vehicle meets the criteria for being a lemon and assist you with the necessary actions.



Legal Recourse for Consumers

After establishing that your vehicle might be considered a lemon, you are entitled to take legal action. You can choose to seek a buyback or replacement from the manufacturer under the Lemon Law, allowing you to demand that they either provide a new vehicle of similar value or repurchase your current one. The choice between a refund and replacement is mostly up to the consumer.

Under specific circumstances, you might qualify for monetary reimbursement, especially if the problem with the vehicle does not greatly affect its functionality, worth, or safety but remains a significant issue that the manufacturer has not addressed.

The Lemon Law requires the manufacturer to pay for your attorney fees if your claim is successful, making it easier for consumers to exercise their rights without having to worry about the expense of legal representation.

Please be aware that California’s Lemon Law has a time limit. Generally, consumers have four years from the date they first suspected their vehicle might be defective to file a claim.



To conclude, understanding the Lemon Law standards in California is crucial for anyone who has purchased or leased a defective vehicle. By knowing your rights and the requirements for a vehicle to be considered a lemon, you can ensure that you receive the proper compensation and remedy for your situation. It is always recommended to consult with a professional attorney who specializes in Lemon Law cases to ensure that your rights are protected and your case is handled properly. Remember, the Lemon Law exists to protect consumers and hold manufacturers accountable for their defective products. Stay informed and empowered as a consumer by familiarizing yourself with these important laws.