When it comes to purchasing a vehicle, you want to ensure that it is of the highest quality, and will last you for years to come. Unfortunately, sometimes purchased vehicles can turn out to be “lemons,” or defective vehicles and fail to meet certain quality standards. If you have purchased a vehicle in California that you believe to be a lemon, it is important to know what your rights are as a consumer and the steps you can take to seek redress.

In this post, we will explore what happens in California if your vehicle is a lemon, the legal definition of a lemon, and how the Lemon Law can help protect you. We will also provide resources to help you navigate the legal system and get the relief you deserve.


Definition of a “Lemon”

A lemon is any car whose state renders it unsafe for anyone to drive. The exact definition of lemon can vary significantly by state. Some examples could be non-working or faulty brakes, engines, transmissions, or lights.


California’s Lemon Law

California lemon law protects you when you can no longer repair a new vehicle you have bought or leased. Sometimes, you are entitled to a replacement or refund. 

The California Lemon Law covers new or pre-owned vehicles, irrespective if they’re still under warranty. The Lemon Law covers the following: 

  • Vehicles such as four-wheel drive trucks, SUVs, vans, and trucks, as well as their fully loaded chassis. Parts such as van conversions are not included.
  • Most dealer-owned cars and demonstrators.
  • Vehicles bought or leased for personal use, family reasons, or household usage.
  • Vehicles are purchased or leased almost entirely for commercial purposes.


While The Lemon Law is not applied to:

  • Vehicles that are not registered under California Vehicle Code, such as off-road vehicles.
  • Vehicles that have suffered abuse.


Rights and Obligations of Vehicle Owners

Under the Lemon Law, the manufacturer may be obligated to repurchase or replace your vehicle if, after a reasonable number of repairs, it is unable to repair a problem that:

  • Is covered by the automobile manufacturer’s new-vehicle warranty.
  • Substantially impedes the car’s functionality, usefulness, or safety.
  • Doesn’t stem from the unauthorized use of the vehicle shortly after the sale.


What to Do if You Suspect You Own a Lemon

You could request a full refund if your new vehicle is a lemon within 30 days of acquisition. If your old car was taken into account when the price of the new one was calculated, you’re entitled to be refunded.



Following the 30-day period, it gets harder to get certain items, but not impossible. If a defect occurs with the car after the 30-day period, we are unlikely to provide full refunds. That doesn’t suffice to mean that you’ll be stuck with damaged items, though. The seller is obliged to guarantee that the car is up to snuff six months after purchase.

If the seller does not concede that the problem you found with their car was there when they sold it to you, they will have to prove it. If they can’t prove it, they will have to do one of three things: 

  • Simply call the technical support staff and repair the malfunction at no cost.
  • Provide you with a partial refund.
  • Replace the car with a new one.


After six months, the fact that the vehicle is defective will be apparent to the buyer. The customer will need to provide proof that the problem with the car was there before it was sold to them. An independent evaluation of the vehicle can confirm its condition at the time of sale.

If you have a problem with the car you purchased, you should let the seller realize, and also remember to let him or her know that you are consulting an independent mechanic.

For auctions of private items, this may not amount to much. Purchases through a dealer that was certified constitute one exception to that.

The burden on the buyer to show the item is garbage is on the buyer at the moment. You will have to weigh up the value of proving this claim, the time it takes to work on it, and, if you are successful, the amount you might get back. The reason for this is that you will not get back the full price that you pay for the item, even if you win the case.

By age, a vehicle’s value will decline, and so if you anticipate getting a cash refund for the unusable vehicle, it will be an important consideration. If your vehicle is an old beater, it may be a better idea to just get rid of it later rather than depending on what you can get for it.


Common Resolutions for Lemon Vehicles

If your automobile’s manufacturer assesses it to be a lemon, you may be eligible for three separate things.

  • A replacement vehicle or reimbursement of monetary value.
  • Payment of all monthly expenses, registration charges, taxes paid, and down payment.
  • Reasonable towing costs, rental prices, and your reasonable costs for an attorney are included in your reasonable costs and expenses.


Hiring a lemon law attorney can be a helpful step for individuals who have purchased a new or used vehicle that has ongoing issues or defects that have not been properly addressed by the manufacturer or dealership. Lemon laws vary by state, so it’s important to find a lawyer who is familiar with the specific lemon laws in your state. 



When hiring a lemon law lawyer, it’s a good idea to ask about their experience and success rate in lemon law cases, as well as their fees and the process for working with them. It’s also helpful to gather as much information as possible about the issues you’ve experienced with your vehicle, including repair records and any communication with the manufacturer or dealership.


In conclusion, if you purchased a lemon vehicle in California, you have the legal right to hold the manufacturer accountable. Whether you choose to pursue a warranty claim, request a refund, or seek out a free replacement vehicle, the California Lemon Law is in place to protect you from being stuck with a faulty vehicle. Make sure you know your rights and take the necessary steps to ensure you get the justice you deserve.