When it comes to purchasing a new car, you expect it to run smoothly and without any issues. However, sometimes unexpected problems arise that can lead to frustration and stress. Luckily, California has legal protection in place for consumers who purchase defective vehicles known as the California Lemon Law.

The California Lemon Law helps protect consumers who purchase or lease a new or used vehicle that has a defect or condition which greatly reduces its usability, value, or safety.This law applies to all types of vehicles, including cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, and even boats.

A man in a suit sits at a desk with a judge's gavel explaining California Lemon Law.

If you’ve recently purchased a vehicle in California and have experienced repeated issues or problems, it’s important to understand your rights under the Lemon Law. By doing so, you can take the necessary steps to receive compensation or a replacement vehicle.

This post explores the California Lemon Law, its coverage, and the actions you can take if you think your vehicle qualifies for protection under this law. 


What is California Lemon Law?

The California Lemon Law, or the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, protects consumers who buy or lease a new or used vehicle that turns out to be defective. This law ensures protection for individuals when the manufacturer or dealer fails to rectify substantial defects after a reasonable number of repair attempts.


Eligibility Criteria

Protection under the California Lemon Law is not available for all defective vehicles. Here are the primary eligibility criteria:

  1. The purchase or lease of the vehicle must have been made in California.
  2. The primary use of the vehicle should be for personal, family, or household purposes. Additionally, businesses with fewer than five vehicles are also safeguarded.
  3. The vehicle’s use, safety, or value must be significantly affected by the defect.
  4. The defect must have been given a reasonable amount of attempts to be repaired by the manufacturer or dealer.


Types of Vehicle Issues Covered

The California Lemon Law is applicable to substantial defects that impact the functioning, security, or worth of the vehicle. These defects could include, but are not limited to:

The defect must manifest itself either within the warranty period or within 18 months of delivery or 18,000 miles, whichever comes first.


A man is driving a car.

Consumer Rights and Remedies

Consumers are provided with different rights and solutions under the California Lemon Law. If a vehicle is determined to be a lemon, the manufacturer is required to either:

  • Replace the vehicle with a new one of similar value, or
  • Refund the purchase price, less the mileage driven before the first repair attempt.

In addition to paying for expenses like towing or rental car fees caused by the vehicle’s problem, the manufacturer is responsible for covering any other costs the consumer may have to pay.


Legal Process

If you have a vehicle that you believe is a lemon, the legal process typically involves these steps:

  1. Record all the problems encountered and efforts made to fix them, ensuring that dates, issues, and solutions are documented.
  2. Send a written notification to the manufacturer regarding the defects and repair attempts.
  3. If the manufacturer does not provide a satisfactory solution, enlist the services of a Lemon Law lawyer to advocate for you.
  4. The manufacturer will be sued by your lawyer, who will seek a refund or replacement as well as reimbursement for legal fees and incidental costs.


Manufacturer and Dealer Responsibilities

Under the California Lemon Law, both manufacturers and dealers have specific responsibilities when it comes to lemon vehicles:

Repair Attempts

After being informed of the defect, they have a duty to make a reasonable amount of repair attempts for the vehicle. If a vehicle has been repaired four or more times for the same problem, or two or more times for a problem that could cause death or serious injury, it could be considered a lemon.


Replacement or Refund

If the problem is not fixed after several attempts, the manufacturer must either give you a similar replacement vehicle or refund the price of the vehicle, minus a fair deduction for its use.


Incidental Expenses

Alongside the defective vehicle itself, manufacturers must bear the responsibility for covering any other associated costs. These incidental expenses may encompass towing fees, rental car charges, or repairs paid for out of pocket.


Two people signing documents

Tips for Vehicle Owners

As an owner, here are some steps you can take to ensure you’re fully protected under the California Lemon Law:

  • Document Everything: It is crucial to maintain a comprehensive record of all repairs and correspondence with the dealer or manufacturer. This documentation plays a vital role in substantiating your claim.
  • Communicate Effectively: It is of utmost importance to inform the manufacturer directly regarding the defect and your intention to proceed with a Lemon Law claim. This notification holds significant value in any potential legal proceedings.
  • Seek Legal Advice: If you’re dealing with a faulty vehicle and the manufacturer or dealer isn’t providing the assistance you require, seek advice from a Lemon Law attorney. They will assist you in navigating the procedure and advocate for you during negotiations or legal proceedings.


To sum it all up, the California Lemon Law provides crucial protection to consumers who have purchased or leased defective vehicles. Understanding the requirements of the law, as well as the steps involved in the claims process, can help you protect your rights and ensure a fair outcome. To qualify under the Lemon Law, seek guidance from an experienced lemon law attorney to maximize compensation. With the right approach, you can mitigate the impact of a lemon vehicle and get back on the road with confidence.