How to Know If You’ve Been Sold a Lemon

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Posted By | May 31, 2023 | Lemon Law

When you buy a new car or truck, you expect to be able to enjoy years of dependable transportation with the car in the shop only for routine preventative maintenance every three thousand miles. The first time something fails or malfunctions, you might shake it off as a fluke, but when the same part fails again and again, despite many repair attempts and it begins to feel like your car is in the repair shop more than it’s on the road, you might begin to wonder, “Have I been sold a lemon?”

California takes the selling of defective products seriously. As vehicle sales increase at the same time that vehicle reliability decreases, lemon law claims in California and elsewhere are on the rise.

Is My Car a Lemon?

The requirements for a successful lemon law claim vary slightly from state to state, but in California, there are several ways your car could fit the legal definition of a lemon and qualify for a California lemon law claim, in which case you’re entitled to a buyback, replacement, or refund. Your car is a lemon if:

  • Your vehicle has one or more defective parts that aren’t repairable after a reasonable number of repair attempts—though “reasonable” is a vague term, the state’s lemon law presumption rules sets the guidelines at 4 or more repair attempts
  • Or, if your vehicle’s malfunction is a safety risk that could cause serious bodily harm or death if the problem occurs while you’re driving then it qualifies as a lemon after only 2 repair attempts
  • If your vehicle has been in the repair shop for at least 30 days (not necessarily consecutively) for repairs for any problem covered under the vehicle’s warranty

If your car, truck, van, SUV, or the chassis, drive train, and cab of an RV fit any of the above requirements for California’s lemon law and is still under the factory warranty, you can make a lemon law claim and hold the manufacturer accountable.

What If My Used Car is a Lemon?

Your vehicle doesn’t have to be brand new to qualify as a lemon. You can make a lemon law claim for a used car in California if it’s still under its original warranty and wasn’t sold to you “as is.” Just as with a new car, if your used vehicle has spent more than 30 days in repair, had 4 or more unsuccessful repair attempts, or has a malfunction that’s a serious safety risk, you’re entitled to a buyback, replacement, or refund.

When buying a used car, it’s important to understand that you could be buying a car that’s already been bought back as a lemon. If your used car was a lemon buyback vehicle, California requires the seller to inform you of the car’s status as a buyback and include a notice in writing of the following:

  • The vehicle’s VIN, year, make, and model
  • That the title of the vehicle is marked as a Lemon-Law buyback
  • What defective part(s) were reported by the vehicle’s original owner
  • A list of repairs and repair attempts associated with the defective part(s)

All dealers are required to disclose the fact that a car is a lemon law buyback vehicle before you buy.

If you think your new or used vehicle is a lemon, speak to a California lemon law attorney about your rights before you file a claim. Manufacturers often use tactics like offering an extended warranty in exchange for signing away your rights to a claim and other methods to avoid fully compensating consumers for their lemon vehicle.