Lemons are sour, like the taste left in your mouth when you realize you’ve spent good money on a product that doesn’t work. The word “lemon” has been used for over 100 years to describe a defective, malfunctioning, or badly designed product. It became synonymous with a defective car in 1960 thanks to a famous Volkswagen ad describing the company’s rigorous inspection method as “plucking the lemons so you get the plums.”
In 1975, congress enacted the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act requiring clear information about warranty coverage given to product buyers. Vehicle purchases were a big part of the reason for the act, which soon became known as “The Lemon Law.”
All 50 states adopted lemon laws for new vehicles, and 6 states, including California, included used cars under the statutes as well as new ones.
What Does California’s Lemon Law Do for Car Buyers?
California’s lemon law statute is a consumer protection law for those who purchase or lease goods. The Lemon Car law refers specifically to purchased or leased vehicles including:
- Pickup trucks
- The cab and chassis of motorhomes
This law covers vehicles paid in full, financed, leased, or bought pre-owned as long as they are still under warranty. Pre-owned (used) vehicles are only covered by the Lemon Law if the car was purchased with a written warranty and was NOT purchased “as is.”
California’s Lemon Law protects car buyers by specifying that when a manufacturer or seller of a vehicle cannot repair the vehicle under warranty after a reasonable number of attempts, then it has to replace the vehicle or repurchase it, plus pay back incidental costs to the consumer and cover legal fees.
What the Lemon Law Requires of Manufacturers and Sellers
Under California’s lemon law, manufacturers must take the following steps in order to adhere to their vehicle warranties:
- Provide an adequate number of dealer repair facilities in the state so buyers have ample access to repairs
- Limit the number of days a vehicle can be in the repair process to under 30 days
- Repair the vehicle within a reasonable number of times (typically around 4 times but fewer if the defect is a safety risk)
- Offer a replacement or a refund of the amount paid or payable for the vehicle plus any incidental costs and legal fees
Leased cars also fall under the lemon law in California. For leased vehicles, the manufacturer must refund the amount paid and buy out the remainder of the lease agreement. Used vehicles are also covered under the Lemon Law if the car was sold with a written factory warranty and wasn’t sold “as is,” and if the car is still under its original warranty.
In order for lemon laws to apply, the defect cannot be the result of misuse on the part of the car owner or from wear and tear.
Statute of Limitations on Lemon Laws in California
California has a four-year statute of limitations in place for filing a lemon law claim.
It’s best to file a claim as soon as possible once your vehicle meets the definition of a lemon. Gather all records of repairs, your vehicle warranty documents, and your purchase or lease contract. Then, contact a California Lemon Law Attorney to evaluate your case.