California Law Lemon

The California law lemon may apply to you if you have purchased a defective vehicle.  Understanding if the law applies to you could be the first step toward receiving compensation. The term lemon law refers to automobiles that are defective or develop issues even after numerous repairs.


California lemon laws have been implemented to protect consumers. Different states have different laws pertaining to if a car qualifies as a lemon. Below you’ll find a summary of the California state lemon law, what you should do if you think your car is a lemon, and lemon law resources.


New vs. Used Car

One of the first things to consider as to whether California’s lemon law applies to your case is whether your vehicle is new vs. used. A majority of lemon law state statutes apply only to new cars. However, some states , such as California, do have provisions under their used car lemon laws. 

The issue is specifically linked to your vehicle’s warranty. New cars are sold with vehicle warranties that specify coverage for a specified number of miles or months. It is under the umbrella of this warranty that the lemon law generally applies.

For used cars sold by dealers with warranties, coverage under the state’s lemon law may apply.


Summary of California Lemon Laws

he following are the key aspects of the California law lemon. In order for your car to qualify under the lemon law, the following conditions must be met:


• The law covers new vehicles that must be used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, excluding motorcycles, portions of motor homes used primarily for habitation, or off-road vehicles. It includes the chassis, chassis cab and that portion of a motor home devoted to its population, and includes a dealer-owned vehicle and a "demonstrator."


• The car must have had 2 repair attempts for a defect that may cause death or serious injury, 4 repair attempts, or 30 calendar days out of service.


• The coverage period is 18 months or 18,000 miles, whichever occurs first.


If the above conditions are met, under the California lemon law the manufacture or dealer is required to do the following:


• Either promptly replace or repurchase the motor vehicle. Replacement must be a new or substantially identical to the vehicle replaced.


• Provide a refund of the vehicle including the purchase price, collateral charges such as sales tax, license fees, registration fees, and finance charges.



What Should You Do If Your Car Is A Lemon?

First, if you want to possibly make a lemon law claim, documentation is key. Keep detailed records of all problems, repairs performed, and the amount of time your car is unavailable while repairs are being made. Without these documents, proving your car qualifies as a lemon will be a challenge. If you did not collect documents when problems first arose, ask the dealer for the repair records.

To help you organize your documentation, click on this link for a repair log: Lemon Law Repair Log 

Second, in order to potentially invoke the California lemon laws, you must communicate with the dealer attempting to fix the vehicle that you feel your car qualifies. If the dealer is not complying, contact the manufacturer directly, detailing the problem. When contacting the manufacturer, specifically ask for their procedure for making a lemon law claim.

A final step you can take is to hire a lemon law attorney. The good news is that the lawyer fees are generally free to the consumer. If an attorney who specializes in the California state lemon law loses your case, they don’t get paid. If they win, the manufacturer pays the legal fees. Thus, if you do not feel like the dealer or manufacture has provided sufficient restitution, hiring a California lemon law attorney is definitely worth the effort.


California Law Lemon Resources

If your situation does not fall into the realm of the California lemon laws, there are other options. Another potential resource is the federal lemon law. 

This statute is called the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act. In general it falls under the breach of warranty (BOW) theory.

Restitution under this act is different than under than California lemon laws. Instead of reimbursement for the vehicle, restitution is the difference between the Kelly blue book value of the car in excellent conditions vs. good or poor condition. Again, if you are unclear if the California law lemon applies to your situation, a lemon law attorney can be hired at no cost to you to determine if the federal lemon law applies to your case.

If you have specific questions regarding the California lemon laws, you can also contact the California Attorney General’s Office at the following address:

Attorney General’s Office
California Department of Justice
Attn: Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

You can also visit their website at: 
California Attorney General's Office 


The Better Business Bureau also has a printable summary of the California state Lemon Law: BBB Lemon Law State Statutes 



Return to Top 

Return from California Law Lemon to Home