Lemon Law

Using California’s Lemon Law to Protect Car Owners

(California Lemon LAw)

What Is the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act?

All 50 states and the federal government have enacted some type of lemon law to protect consumers. In California, the statute is known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (relevant portions of the law are also known as the Tanner Consumer Protection Act). The text of the Lemon Law can be found at California Civil Code sections 1792 to 1795.8. Attorneys at LOJJH have extensive experience with the Song-Beverly Act, and they are available if you have any questions about specific provisions of the law.

Contact LOJJH today for a no obligation consultation about your potential Lemon Law case.

Types of Vehicles and Defects Covered by the Lemon Law

Not all defective cars fall within the parameters of the Lemon Law. It generally applies to newer cars that the dealership has been unable to fix, but the law is quite detailed with respect to the specific qualifications.

Covered vehicles must:

  • Come with a manufacturer’s warranty (new or certified pre-owned) that is still in effect at the time of the first repair attempt. Note that manufacturer’s warranties are transferrable, meaning that used cars with unexpired warranties may be covered by the Lemon Law.
  • Be a car, truck, van, SUV, or other passenger vehicle with a gross weight under 10,000 pounds. The transportation-related parts of a motor home also qualify. Motorcycles, boats, and other recreational vehicles are considered “consumer goods.” They are covered, but the provisions of the law pertaining to automobiles (like the 18 months/18,000 miles Lemon Law presumption) do not apply.
  • Have been purchased or leased through a retail transaction in the state of California. An exception to the in-state purchase or lease requirement exists for vehicles belonging to active members of the armed forces living in California at the time of the claim.
  • Belong to an entity that has at least one – but not more than five – vehicles registered in California. As long as this requirement is met, it does not matter whether a vehicle was acquired for personal or business use.

Covered defects must:

  • Also be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. These warranties are sometimes referred to as factory warranties. They are included in the purchase price. Do not confuse a manufacturer’s warranty with an extended service agreement offered as an optional purchase from the dealership.
  • Substantially impair the vehicle’s “use, value, or safety.” This legal standard is applied objectively – the car owner’s personal feelings and beliefs on the matter are irrelevant.
  • Remain unresolved after a reasonable number of repair attempts by an authorized dealer. The number of attempts required to support a Lemon Law claim varies case by case, but courts have ruled that one attempt is never sufficient. Courts have also ruled that a repair attempt occurs each time the customer brings the vehicle into the dealership for that purpose, irrespective of whether the dealership actually tries to make the repair.

Tips for Dealing with the Dealer/Manufacturer

  • Document every concern and describe each one clearly before signing your Repair Order. If you are visiting multiple times for the same issue, be consistent in your description of this thorny issue that causes you to have to make repeat visits. This allows you to prove that the car was not successfully repaired on each visit, and that you gave the dealership an AMPLE number of chances to repair your vehicle.
  • Make sure that all work performed on your vehicle by the dealership is documented. Check the work completed against the problems you described.
  • If a problem on your repair order was not fixed, ask the dealership to write the reason why it wasn’t on your repair invoice.
  • If an issue was not repaired because a mechanic could not duplicate your concern, demand that either the service manager, shop foreman or your service tech take a test drive with you to duplicate the complaint. If successful in duplicating, make note of that on the paperwork and include the name and job title of the person who verified it on the test drive with you.
  • Never leave the dealership without a copy of your Repair Order. Make sure that it’s accurate and that you have signed it and keep it in your records.

Available Remedies

If the vehicle and defect qualify under California’s Lemon Law, the owner has two primary remedies with respect to the manufacturer:

  • > Repurchase:
  • The manufacturer must refund the amount of money paid for the vehicle, including finance charges and fees. It must also refund the cost of factory options, shipping, taxes, and DMV fees. Out-of-pocket costs for repairs, towing, and rental cars are likewise included. The total amount the manufacturer must pay is subject to a “use reduction” to account for the customer’s use of the vehicle prior to the onset of the defect.
  • > Replacement:
  • The customer can elect to receive a new, similarly equipped vehicle that is free of the defect that led to the Lemon Law claim. The manufacturer must pay the taxes and other fees in this situation. However, both the customer and the manufacturer must agree to the replacement remedy. If the manufacturer insists on a repurchase, the customer will have no choice but to go with that option.

Understanding the Use Reduction

California’s Lemon Law assumes that drivers will bring their vehicles in for service immediately upon noticing a serious mechanical problem. As such, the manufacturer does not need to credit a car owner for anything prior to the date of the first service attempt. This is true regardless of whether the vehicle is repurchased or replaced.

The amount of the use reduction is calculated by dividing the odometer reading by 120,000, and then multiplying it by the purchase price. The formula can be expressed as follows:

[Odometer at first repair attempt ÷ 120,000] × Purchase price = Use Reduction

For example, if a vehicle cost $30,000 and the owner brought it in for repair at 12,000 miles, the Lemon Law award will be reduced by $3,000.

How a California Lemon Lawyer Can Help You in the Process

It is nearly impossible to win against an opponent if you don’t know the rules of the game, but your opponent does. California’s Lemon Law, though effective, has plenty of holes in the fine print that you aren’t aware of, but the dealers know them, and seasoned California lemon law attorneys do, too.

Many Cases
Successfully Completed
Most clients have their vehicle bought back by the
manufacturer and obtain a reimbursement for their out of pockets costs. The manufacturer will pay off any remaining loan if one exists.

Schedule a free consultation. Call 949-484-9704

Lemon Law

We handle Lemon Law cases on contingency basis. You do not pay us any out of pocket fees. We get paid by the manufacturer. Although it is highly unlikely, if a favorable outcome is not obtained, then you will not have to pay for any attorney fees. 

Moreover, we use California statutes to make the manufacturer pay a civil penalty if they willfully refuse to buy back a vehicle. Manufacturers try to avoid this at all costs, but our experts assist in nailing down the facts and apply the law in a manner which drastically harms any defense the manufacturer raises.