California Lemon Law

What is the Lemon Law?

A “Lemon” is a term used to describe a motor vehicle with one or more manufacturing or design defects that the manufacturer, through its authorized dealerships, has failed to fix.

The “Lemon Law” differs from state to state.  Luckily for you, the Lemon Law in California is more consumer-friendly than most other states.  The California Lemon Law refers to the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, which is a breach of warranty statute in the California Civil Code.  This law is designed to protect consumers from purchasing products that the manufacturer can’t fix.

How Do I Know If I Have A Lemon?

There are two standards under the California Lemon Law.  The first is called The Tanner Presumption, which shifts the burden (of proving that the vehicle is a Lemon) from the car owner to the manufacturer (who must now prove that it is not a Lemon).  This offers the most protection for the car owner.  The second standard is a more basic rule.

According to the Tanner Presumption standard, your vehicle is presumed to be a Lemon if any one of the following occurs within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles of the original purchase or lease start date, whichever expires first:

1)    Four repair attempts for the same defect that substantially impairs the safety, use or value of the vehicle; or

2)    Two repair attempts for a defect that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury; or

3)    The vehicle has spent a cumulative thirty (30) days out of service at the authorized dealership(s) for any combination of repair attempts (not including regular maintenance).

If your vehicle does not meet the requirements of the Tanner Presumption, you may still have a Lemon under the second standard if you have given the manufacturer a “reasonable opportunity,” within the original warranty period, to fix a defect that substantially impairs the safety, use or value of the vehicle.

Vehicles That Are Protected Under The California Lemon Law

The California Lemon Law applies to the following vehicles:

  • Cars, pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs.
  • The chassis, chassis cab, and drive train of a motorhome.
  • Dealer-owned vehicles and demonstrators.
  • Vehicles purchased by a business if, and only if, the business owns/leases no more than five vehicles.
  • The vehicle must have a gross weight of less than 10,000 pounds.
  • Vehicles purchased or leased for personal, family or household purposes.

The California Lemon Law does not apply to the following:

  • Dealer-installed options or after-market parts.
  • Motorcycles and scooters.
  • Vehicles that have not received regular maintenance and servicing.
  • Vehicles that have been abused.

What Can I Expect To Receive If I Do Have A Lemon?

If your vehicle turns out to be a Lemon, you give the car back to the manufacturer and you get the option of getting a refund or a replacement vehicle.  If you choose a refund, you get the following:

  • Refund of down payment
  • Reimbursement of monthly payments
  • Reimbursement of sales tax
  • Reimbursement of all registration fees and license fees
  • Reimbursement of rental car expenses
  • Reimbursement of towing expenses
  • Reimbursement of other incidental expenses
  • Reasonable attorney fees and costs (if you hired an attorney)