Acquiring or renting a vehicle represents a substantial financial commitment, and, understandably, customers anticipate a certain standard of quality and dependability from their vehicles. Nevertheless, occasionally, a vehicle may prove defective, causing nothing but inconvenience. Thankfully, regulations such as the California Lemon Law are in place to safeguard customers and guarantee their satisfaction with their vehicles. We will delve into the advantages of this law, its operational mechanisms, and the steps involved in making a claim.


What is California Lemon Law?

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, also known as the California Lemon Law, is a state statute aimed at safeguarding consumers who have bought or leased new or used vehicles with substantial warranty defects that the manufacturer or dealer is unable to rectify after a reasonable number of efforts.


Key points to understand:

  • The law applies to new and used vehicles under warranty.
  • It covers both purchased and leased vehicles.
  • The law also extends to motor homes, motorcycles, and some boats.
  • A ‘lemon’ is a vehicle with a defect that substantially impairs its use, value, or safety, and hasn’t been fixed after multiple attempts.


How California Lemon Law Works

In California, if a vehicle is considered a lemon, the manufacturer must either buy it back or provide a replacement. This applies when attempts to fix the vehicle have been unsuccessful within a reasonable number of tries, typically two for issues that could cause serious harm and four for other significant defects. The law also applies if the vehicle has been in the shop for repairs for more than 30 days.


Benefits of California Lemon Law

The California Lemon Law is a robust consumer protection law that offers a variety of benefits to California consumers who find themselves with a defective vehicle. These benefits are designed to relieve consumers’ frustration and inconvenience with owning a ‘lemon’. Here are some of the key benefits:


Vehicle Replacement or Repurchase

If a purchased vehicle is determined to be a lemon under the California Lemon Law, the manufacturer is required to either:

  • Replace the car with a new and substantially identical one, or
  • Repurchase the defective vehicle and refund the purchase price.


Monetary Compensation

If a product is bought back, the buyer is entitled to retrieve several components, such as the initial deposit, all prior monthly payments, the full repayment of the remaining loan amount, any out-of-pocket costs for repairs, towing, or rental car expenses, and compensation for sales tax, license fees, and registration fees.


Collateral Charges

Buyers have the option to reclaim collateral charges, which refer to the mandatory fees paid when buying or leasing a vehicle.


Incidental Damages

Customers have the right to be compensated for any extra expenses incurred as a result of vehicle defects or repair attempts, such as rental car fees and towing expenses.


Manufacturer Pays Attorney’s Fees

If the consumer wins a legal case, the manufacturer is required to cover the attorney’s fees and legal expenses of the consumer. This allows consumers to retain legal representation without incurring personal expenses.


Civil Penalty

Under certain circumstances, if it can be demonstrated that a manufacturer intentionally broke the law, the consumer may receive a civil penalty of up to double the amount of actual damages.

The California Lemon Law is designed to restore consumers to their original financial state before purchasing or leasing a defective vehicle, offering significant advantages and serving as a valuable resource for those facing such issues.



The Lemon Law Process

Navigating the California Lemon Law process involves a series of steps:

  • Keep Detailed Records: Record all efforts to repair, interactions with the manufacturer or dealer, and any instances when the vehicle is not in use.
  • Notify the Manufacturer or Dealer: Compose a written communication detailing the problems with the vehicle and your plan to initiate legal action under the Lemon Law.
  • Hire a Lemon Law Attorney: Due to the intricate nature of these cases, it is advisable to engage the services of a specialized Lemon Law attorney to provide assistance and support throughout the process.
  • Submit Your Claim: Utilize the expertise of your California lemon law lawyer to file a lemon law claim, which could involve discussions, mediation, or pursuing a legal case.


Common Misconceptions about California Lemon Law

Despite the California Lemon Law’s clear benefits, various misconceptions exist that can cloud consumers’ understanding. Some of the most common myths include:

  • The Law Only Applies to New Cars: Indeed, consumers who have bought or leased new or pre-owned vehicles are safeguarded by the law as long as they are within the original warranty period offered by the manufacturer.
  • The Law Doesn’t Cover Leased Cars: This statement is false. The law specifically applies to both vehicles that have been bought and those that have been leased.
  • You Can Only Make a Claim Within the First 18 Months: You can claim while the vehicle is still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, regardless of when it occurs.



The California Lemon Law functions as a safeguard for consumers dealing with faulty vehicles, preventing them from shouldering the full burden of a defective car. It offers various advantages, such as vehicle replacement or buyback and coverage for legal expenses, ensuring that consumers do not face the consequences of owning a lemon car alone. Consumers need to familiarize themselves with the workings of this law and the steps required to file a claim. Armed with the appropriate information and support, consumers can utilize this law effectively to guarantee their satisfaction with their vehicles in California.