California Lemon Law FAQs
Does the lemon law cover only cars and trucks?
No, the California lemon law covers all “consumer goods” purchased for personal or family use. The lemon law also covers boats, computers, and just about any consumer item.”
Are used cars and trucks covered by the lemon law?
Used cars and trucks sold with the balance of the factory warranty are covered.
Are leased vehicles covered?
Are motor homes, 5th wheel trailers, and other RVs covered by the lemon law?
Yes, all RVs are covered.
Do service contracts (extended warranties) give the buyer lemon law rights?
No, the California Supreme Court ruled that service contracts (also known as extended warranties) are not covered by the lemon law. Service contracts are promises to repair. If a service contract refuses coverage without a good reason, you may sue the service contract company (and possibly the dealer that sold it to you) for the cost of repair.
What if my car is beyond the time or mileage limit of the lemon law?
If you reported a defect to the dealer within the warranty period, you may have a case under the lemon law even though your car or truck is beyond the warranty period.
What defects are covered?
The Song-Beverly Act applies to defects that constitute a substantial impairment of the safety, value or use of the vehicle.
Serious problems with brakes, transmission, engine function, inoperable air conditioning, persistent water leaking, to name a few, are examples of cases where juries have awarded damages to the consumer. Minor inconveniences such as radio static are not sufficient.
Are cars and trucks over 18,000 miles covered by the lemon law?
Yes, the law covers vehicles during the life of the factory warranty, which is usually either three years or 36,000 miles or four years or 50,000 miles. The confusion concerning 18,000 miles arises because the law sets up a presumption that the buyer has given the manufacturer a reasonable change at repair if its dealers attempt to repair the same defect within the first 18,000 miles or 18 months. However, meeting the presumption is not a necessary element of the buyer’s case. Most cases do not involve the presumption.
What is the basic test of whether a car qualifies as a “lemon?”
The correct test is whether the buyer has given the manufacturer a reasonable opportunity to repair the vehicle within the warranty period. A reasonable opportunity is usually four (4) repair attempts unless it is a safety-related defect in which case two (2) repair attempts is deemed reasonable. These are only guidelines. Downtime is also a factor in evaluating a claim under the lemon law.
Do I need to pay attorneys’ fees?
No, if the buyer prevails in a case, the court will award attorney’s fees as against the manufacturer. We take almost every case on a contingent basis so our clients do not have to pay fees.
What percent of cases go to trial?
98% of lemon law cases are settled. Trials are a fairly rare exception to the rule.
Do I have to go to arbitration before filing a lawsuit?
Not in California. Some states do require buyers to first resort to a manufacturer’s arbitration program.