Lemon Laws in California
California Lemon Laws
The California lemon law is also known by its less popular name “The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act”.
Warranty law in any state is a complex set of rules that may be understood in basic terms by most consumers. Like most law however, there is not a one to one translation from legal text to plain English.
This California lemon law explanation was created to help simplify the basic concepts of the law. To validate the credibility of this information, there are government reference links placed at the bottom of this article to verify the information provided.
The California Lemon Law
The California lemon law protects consumers that purchase or lease new automobiles. The law clearly states that a vehicle manufacturer must be able to repair a new car in accordance with the express written warranty.
If the vehicle manufacturer or their authorized representatives are not able to repair the new vehicle after a “reasonable number” of tries, they are required to replace the car or refund the money paid for the car to the individual who purchased it.
The buyer is responsible for deciding whether to have the automobile replaced, or receive a full refund for their purchase. This includes all tax & license, towing, registration, finance charges, repairs and other expenses that the consumer has paid and is directly related to the automobile in question.
The buyer is responsible for paying for the use of the automobile however, regardless of whether they decide to receive a refund or have the automobile replaced. The formula for this cost is provided by example.
California Lemon Law Example
Price of Vehicle = $30,000
Number of Miles Used or Traveled in New Car = 12,000
Required Denominator = 120,000
30,000 x 12,000 / 120,000 = 10% of the Purchase Price = $3,000 Required Amount.
In the case example above, the consumer purchased the vehicle and drove it without issue for 12,000 miles. At 12,000 miles however a vehicle problem emerged that could not be resolved after a “reasonable” number of repair attempts. Therefore the individual who purchased the vehicle is responsible for paying for the use of the vehicle prior to the emergence of the problem.
This California lemon law example assumes that the 12,000 mile problem occurred within the vehicle warranty time frame. So if the vehicle warranty is valid for 3 years or 30,000 miles, it clearly falls within the warranty period and thus qualifies under the California lemon law.
If abuse of the vehicle is proven, the California lemon law will not apply. READ THE WARRANTY.
Lemon Law – What is “Reasonable”?
As you have read, a vehicle manufacturer or their authorized representatives must repair the new vehicle after a “reasonable” number of tries or be obligated to either replace the automobile or provide a refund to the consumer.
This begs the question, what is a reasonable number of repair attempts?
There is not one answer to this question, but there are guidelines that limit the possibilities.
If the defect of the vehicle is life-threatening such as a faulty steering mechanism or brake failure a reasonable number of repair attempts is 2 or more attempts. This includes the vehicle owner contacting the manufacturer at least 1 time notifying them of the needed repair in accordance with the warranty given at the time of purchase.
In this situation the so-called California lemon law applies during the first eighteen months of ownership or eighteen thousand miles, whichever occurs first.
In other, less critical repairs the number may be 4 or more attempts to repair the vehicle, with the vehicle owner contacting the manufacturer at least 1 time notifying them of the needed repair in accordance with the warranty given at the time of purchase.
The final test for reasonableness provides that if the vehicle has been out-of-service for a total of thirty days or more since the vehicle was purchased it qualifies for replacement or a refund to the consumer.
It would benefit the consumer greatly to read the warranty details and owner manual for specific instructions related to direct manufacturer notification of the vehicle problem(s). The consumer’s failure to follow these instructions may result in a less-favorable settlement in the lemon law case.
These lemon law numbers are not an exact science however and they will be subject to arbitration or a judges ruling. In some cases the manufacturer may request additional repair attempts and based on the arbitration or judgment a ruling on the request will follow.
Lemon Law for Used Cars, RV and Motorcycle
The lemon law or Songs-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act relates to products sold with an express written warranty. Simply, an express warranty is a guarantee from a seller or manufacturer of a product that provides details regarding the quality and performance of the product and specifies the conditions under which the product may be replaced, returned or repaired.
In the purchase of a used automobile, RV or motorcycle a consumer would be well advised to become intimately familiar with the warranty being purchased as the lemon law relating to used vehicles are not exactly the same as new vehicles.
For example, a consumer may receive a refund or replacement of a used vehicle as provided by the warranty purchased, however like the new car warranty discussed earlier in this article, the consumer will be charged for the use of the vehicle prior to the problem existing. This is where the difference between the new car lemon law and the used car, RV or motorcycle becomes apparent.
The calculation discussed under the California lemon law example detailed the formula that is used to calculate how much a consumer would have to pay for the use of their vehicle prior to the emergence of a problem that prompted a refund or replacement. This formula is relatively straightforward in the new car example, however with a used vehicle this is not the case.
There is not a specific formula for calculating the usage charges on a used car, RV or motorcycle. So even though the warranty may allow replacement of the vehicle or a refund, these are both subject to usage charges that are not set in stone as with a new vehicle purchase.
Clearly this is the point at which a consumer should seek legal counsel to gain a deeper understanding of the potential recovery in a used vehicle lemon law case.
California Car Seat Law
California Court Reporting Schools
State of California Lemon Law Links
State of California Motor Vehicle Warranty And Lemon Law
State of California Department of Consumer Affairs
State of California "Lemon-Aid" Pamphlet