For as long as cars have been mass produced on assembly lines, there have been lemons: cars that were poorly designed, slipped through quality control, or had a defect. Until 1970, about the only thing a driver could do was to threaten to never buy a Ford, Chrysler, Pontiac, Rambler, or AMC car again.
Not much of a threat when the car companies were selling thousands of cars a week.
In 1970, California became one of the first states in the nation to rectify that. California’s Lemon Law was enacted to provide drivers with relief from persistent problems with their vehicles.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions revolving around our Lemon Law. To be fair, it can be somewhat complicated – just as vehicles manufactured over the last decade are incrementally more complicated than any that came before.
What exactly does the Lemon Law do? The simple answer is: If you purchased or leased a new or used vehicle in California that is under a warranty and has had an ongoing problem or problems that a dealer has unsuccessfully attempted to fix over multiple repair visits, you may qualify for compensation.
The California Lemon Law applies to cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, RVs, motorcycles, some business-owned vehicles, and boats. For the most part, the vehicle must be under warranty. (The vehicle might qualify out of warranty, if it had an ongoing problem that required it to be in the shop several times prior to the expiration of the warranty).
It applies to purchased or leased new vehicles. It also pertains to used vehicles that are certified pre-owned and/or still under a manufacturer’s warranty.
California Lemon Law remedies may include:
- A complete purchase refund (including 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.
We have a lemon law we know what it applies to and what the remedies are. The big question, of course, is ‘what makes a vehicle a lemon?’
There is no single or easy answer. The Lemon Law requires both a substantial defect and either that the vehicle is not repaired after multiple attempts to get it fixed or it has been at the dealership for many days cumulatively.
Substantial defects impair the vehicle’s “use, value, or safety.”
- A defect that affects a vehicle’s use is one that 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.
- Safety defects are defects that put the driver, passengers, and other drivers in danger
A heater that never works, an air conditioner that intermittently blows hot, or a door handle that doesn’t function despite repair after repair all qualify as substantial. Your problem does not have to be safety related to qualify. Most safety issues are obvious – at least to the driver. Stalling on the highway, vibrations from the brake pedal, a transmission that ‘catches’ or ‘lags,’ and an engine that keeps running hot would all be considered to be safety related issues.
But a safety defect is not required. Something that affects your use of your vehicle is enough.
A radio or GPS screen that keeps glitching could be the sign of a serious computer problem. In the 21st Century, a computer problem can create havoc.
The vehicle is not repaired after multiple attempts is 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.
You have undoubtedly been told by a relative that if “you bring it in four times, it’s automatically a lemon.”
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. If a car remains in the shop for ‘too long’ it also may qualify as a lemon whatever the defect(s).
Call Gayle Law Group PC and . . .
. . . document, document, document.
You are the only one who can document what you are going through with your vehicle. You can expect no help from the dealership or manufacturer. You must be proactive; you’ll need to ask the dealership for the documentation you are entitled to at every visit.
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 the invoice.
Never allow them to leave your ticket “open” while a part is being ordered. Get an invoice then and when the part comes in and the work is done. Remember, every visit counts as a ‘reasonable attempt.’ Again, it’s up to you to get and keep accurate documents.
Make sure, even if you have to step around to view their computer screen, that the service representative enters a ‘complete and accurate description of your vehicle’s problem’ as you’ve described it.
Don’t keep your service repair records in your glove compartment or center console. We hope the reasons for this are obvious – (they can mysteriously disappear while your vehicle is in the shop.)
Document all calls with the dealer and manufacturer; get the name and title of everyone you talk to.
When a dealer, salesperson, manager, or manufacturer’s rep explain any aspect of the California Lemon Law, pay them no mind. Whatsoever. They’re not lawyers. They are, in fact, potential defendants in a lawsuit.
If you think you have a lemon, or your vehicle is headed that way, call the Gayle Law Group, PC for a Free Consultation. We are experienced California Lemon Law attorneys who will help you get any compensation you may deserve. You will be treated with respect and your case will be taken seriously, no matter what the issue.