Frequently Asked Questions

What is the California Lemon Law?

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act was enacted in 1970 to provide drivers with relief from persistent problems with their vehicles. It’s more commonly known as the California’s Lemon Law.

How Does the Lemon Law Protect Me?

California has one of the best Lemon Laws in the country. As a matter of fact, it has been used as the model for other states. It protects consumers by mandating that if you give the manufacturer of your vehicle a reasonable number of attempts to repair your vehicle and it still isn’t fixed, you are then entitled to a new vehicle or your money back from the manufacturer.

What Types of Vehicles are Covered by the Lemon Law?

The California Lemon Law applies to cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, RVs, motorcycles, some business-owned vehicles, and boats.  

I Lease My Car, Am I Covered?

Yes. The California Lemon Law applies to purchased and leased vehicles that are under warranty.

I Bought a Used Car, is it Covered by the Lemon Law?

Yes, the California Lemon Law covers used vehicles that are certified pre-owned and/or are still covered under a manufacturer’s warranty.

What Do You Mean by Under Warranty?

That when you bought or leased your vehicle it came with a manufacturer’s Warranty, a manufacturer’s Extended Warranty or Extended Service Contract. A manufacturer’s warranty is the automaker's guarantee that if problems occur within a certain period of time or number of miles, it will be responsible for the repairs. By the way, you pay for that warranty – it’s built into the price of your new vehicle.

What is a Lemon?

There is no single or easy answer. To be a lemon under the Lemon Law the vehicle has to have a substantial defect and hasn’t been repaired even after several attempts to get it fixed or it’s been at the dealership for many days cumulatively.

What is a Substantial Defect?

A substantial defect is one that impairs the vehicle’s “use, value, or safety.” That means it affects a vehicle’s use and prevents you from driving the vehicle as it was intended to be driven. A vehicle’s value is diminished when the defect means the vehicle won’t sell for the price it normally would bring - if the defect wasn’t there.

So, a substantial defect is one that:

  • Prevents you from driving the vehicle as it was intended to be driven.
  • Diminishes the vehicle’s value.
  • Puts the driver, passengers, and other drivers in danger.

Please note: only one of these conditions is sufficient to qualify as a lemon.

What’s a Repair Attempt?

Every time you take your vehicle into a manufacturer authorized repair facility or dealership, you are giving the manufacturer one attempt to repair your vehicle, regardless of whether or not work is done on the vehicle.

What is a “Reasonable Number of Repair Attempts?”

It’s exactly what it sounds like: you have a problem with your vehicle, you bring it to the dealer or manufacturer, and continue to have the same problem and it happens over and over. There is no magic number, the law specifies only that a ‘reasonable number of repair attempts’ are made. If a defect involves a safety issue, such as faulty airbags, it may only require two repair attempts.

How Long is Too Long to Be in the Shop?

A vehicle may qualify as a lemon if the manufacturer has had 30 days or more to repair any number of problems. The thirty days is cumulative.

How Does a Truck Qualify as a Lemon?

If you bought or leased a truck with a warranty and for personal use, that truck falls under the California Lemon Law. If you bought or leased it for business, it is still covered provided (a) the gross weight of the truck is less than 10,000 pounds; and your business has five or fewer vehicles registered in its name in California.

What Makes a Motorcycle a Lemon?

A motorcycle is a lemon if you bought it new, it is under warranty, it doesn’t perform like it is supposed to, and you’ve tried to have it repaired and have been unsuccessful.  

That means you have taken the motorcycle to the repair shop multiple times and the problem persists. Or, the bike has been in the shop for at least thirty days and you have not been able to use it.  

Note that the bike must be registered as an on-road vehicle. Also, if you have done anything to cause or contribute to the problem, made modifications, or neglected regular maintenance it will void the warranty. 

My Bike is a Lemon, How Long do I have to File a Claim?

Manufacture warranties for motorcycles may be long on the time the bike is covered and noticeably short on miles driven. Watch your mileage. It is vital when evaluating a claim.

What Part of My RV/Motorhome is Covered by the Lemon Law?

The chassis of your Recreational Vehicle falls under the Lemon Law just as cars and trucks do. The coach is covered much like a motorcycle – it’s considered a ‘consumer good’ and has the same protections as other consumer goods sold with a manufacturer’s warranty.

Is My Boat Covered?

Boats and watercraft enjoy the same protection as cars and other vehicles under the California Lemon Law.  The law applies to all forms of watercraft, not just the ones with engines. Sailboats have the same protection as jet skis and multi-million-dollar yachts.

Like cars, motorcycles, and RVs, boats and watercraft sold with a manufacturer’s warranty are protected.

What if I had Repairs Done on My Vehicle Out of State?

California’s Lemon Law applies to all cars purchased or leased in California, even if repairs were completed out of state.

What if I Purchased My Vehicle Out of State While I was in the Military?

If you bought or leased your vehicle outside California while you were in the military and you are now serving in California, you may have Lemon Law rights in California.

This is a Bit Confusing, Do You Have a Flow Chart?

We do!  Cars and, trucks, are covered by our Lemon Law if:

The vehicle is new, used, pre-owned or certified.


You bought or leased it.


When you bought or leased the vehicle it was covered by the manufacturer’s warranty (or portion of)


A manufacturer’s extended warranty.


You discover the defect before the warranty expires.


The manufacturer has had a reasonable number of opportunities to repair the defect.


The vehicle has been in ‘the shop’ for thirty or more days, cumulatively.

What Do I Do If I Think I Have a Lemon?

Document everything! Get the repair order and invoice every time you take your vehicle in and pick it up. Even if they have not or cannot fix the problem ‘that day,’ ask for an invoice. Never allow them to leave your ticket “open” while a part is being ordered. Document all calls with the dealer and manufacturer; get the name and title of everyone you talk to.

My Dealer or the Manufacturer Told Me My Car Isn’t a Lemon. What Can I Do?

Call the Gayle Law Group, PC anyway. The manufacturer’s job is to minimize their expenses, and they will often tell customers they don’t have a case, even when they do. Only a qualified attorney can tell you if you have a valid claim.

If I Qualify Under the Lemon Laws, What am I Entitled to?

California Lemon Law remedies may include a complete purchase refund (including registration fees, the down payment, and financing costs) AND having the full balance of your loan/lease paid off in full.

OR a replacement vehicle.

In addition, regardless of the solution, the manufacturer is responsible for attorney’s fees, costs, and expenses. The consumer pays nothing.

How Much Will This Cost Me?

Under the law, manufacturers must pay attorney’s fees for Lemon Law cases, not the consumer. At the Gayle Law Group, PC, even if you don’t win your case, you are not responsible for paying any attorney’s fees.

Is It True That the More Expensive the Car, the Harder it is to Qualify as a Lemon?

It is not.

How Much Can I Recover?

If your car is deemed a lemon under the law, you are entitled to all of your money back from the manufacturer, including your down payment, all of your payments made, and to getting the balance of the loan on the vehicle paid off. However, a deduction may be taken from this amount that is called is a “usage offset.” A manufacturer is allowed under the lemon law to deduct a “usage offset” from what they owe you which is based on the mileage you drove before you first took your car to the dealership for repair of the problem. The usage offset is the cost of the miles you drove before you first took your car to the dealership for repair of the problem.

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