Guide to Laws about Defective Products (Lemon Law) in California

The California “lemon law” applies not just to cars, but many other products too.

If a consumer product under warranty cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of repair attempts, the company providing the warranty (usually manufacturer or retailer) must either replace the defective product or reimburse its price, less the amount attributable to your use.1Civ. Code Sec. 1793.2(d), 1793.22(b); Song-Beverly Consumer
Warranty Act

How does the Lemon Law apply to vehicles?

A vehicle manufacturer that is unable to repair a vehicle to conform to the manufacturer’s express warranty after a reasonable number of repair attempts must replace or repurchase the vehicle.

Although there is no set number for “reasonable repair attempts,” California’s Lemon Law Presumption contains guidelines for determining when a “reasonable number” of repair
attempts have been made.

The law applies to the following new and used vehicles sold or leased in California that come with the manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty, throughout the duration of the warranty period:

  • Cars, pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs.
  • The chassis, chassis cab, and drivetrain of a motorhome.
  • Dealer-owned vehicles and demonstrators.
  • Many vehicles purchased or leased primarily for
    business use.
  • Vehicles purchased or leased for personal, family, or
    household purposes

What is the Lemon Law Presumption?

It is presumed that a vehicle is a “lemon” if the following criteria are met within 18 months of delivery to the buyer or lessee or 18,000 miles on the vehicle’s odometer, whichever
comes first, one or more of the following occurs:

1. The manufacturer or its agents have made two or more attempts to repair a warranty problem that results in a condition that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if the vehicle is driven.

OR

2. The manufacturer or its agents have made four or more attempts to repair the same warranty problem. If required by the warranty materials or by the owner’s manual, the consumer must directly notify the manufacturer about the problem(s), preferably in writing. The notice must be sent to the address shown in the warranty or owner’s manual (for 1 and 2 above).

OR

3. The vehicle has been out of service for more than 30 days (not necessarily consecutively) while being repaired for any number of warranty problems and the problems must be covered by the warranty, substantially reduce the vehicle’s use, value, or safety to the consumer and are not caused by abuse of the vehicle.

If these criteria are met, the Lemon Law presumes that the buyer or lessee is entitled to a replacement vehicle or a refund of the purchase price. However, this presumption is rebuttable. The manufacturer may show that the criteria has not been met (for example, because the problems are minor) and therefore, the buyer or lessee is not entitled to a replacement vehicle or refund.2Sources: California Civil Code section 1793.22(b)

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