It is impossible to think of California without thinking of cars, trucks and motorcycles. They are a big part of our identity. For most of us, they’re also an absolute necessity as well as a substantial investment. Vehicles do us no good when they’re in the repair shop. Your new car not starting, breaking down in the middle of the highway, or disabled because a faulty computer says there’s a problem (when there isn’t) is annoying, inconvenient, and stressful.
When It Happens Once.
When it happens repeatedly, and it seems your car is always in the shop, you may think you’re wasting your hard-earned money on a lemon. That’s truly a scary thought. It conjures images of cash being thrown into the ocean. The ocean you can’t get to because . . . well, you get the point.
Luckily, if you bought or leased a new or used car, truck, or motorcycle in California you may be covered under California’s Lemon Law.
If you think you have a lemon – or think your car is headed that way – call Gayle Law Group PC – as soon as possible.
The team at Gayle Law Group PC has years of experience handling cases like yours. We’ve seen all manner of defective vehicles. We not only understand the intricacies of the California Lemon Law, we know how the manufacturers think.
Lemon Law In California
In 1970, California was one of the first states to put a Lemon Law in place, and it is still one of the strongest in the country today. The official name of the Lemon Law is the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. By law, once you prove your vehicle is indeed a lemon, it may provide you with either a refund of your money (down payment, monthly payments and certain other out of pocket costs) and pay off your loan, or with a replacement vehicle.
It’s important to note that the manufacturer may deduct a “usage offset” (the monetary value of the miles you drove before you first took the car in for repair) from a settlement.
If you purchased or leased a new or used vehicle in California and have had an ongoing problem or problems with the vehicle that a dealer has unsuccessfully attempted to fix on multiple repair visits or if your vehicle has been at a dealership for repair for in excess of 30 days cumulatively, you may qualify for recovery under the Lemon Law.
If you think you might have a lemon, an experienced California Lemon Law attorney could help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact the Gayle Law Group, PC. You will be treated with respect and your case will be taken seriously, no matter what the issue.
The California Lemon Law
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 what our Lemon Law covers. 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 or if your vehicle has been at a dealership for repair for in excess of 30 days cumulatively, you may qualify for compensation.
The Warranty Requirement
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.
About the manufacturer’s warranty: judging by many of the phone calls we get, conversations with clients, friends, and colleagues who don't practice in the field there is some confusion about warranties and the California Lemon.
So, to clarify: Cars, trucks, and the powertrain portions of motorhomes 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 take it in for repair before the warranty expires.
Note as well that vehicles that were previously found to be 'lemons' and were repurchased by the manufacturer, then repaired and resold are covered as long as they come with a warranty.
Motorcycles, the coach portion of a mobile home and towables (fifth-wheel trailers, toy haulers, travel trailers and pop - up campers) are covered as consumer goods and have the same protections as any consumer goods sold with a manufacturer's warranty.
The defect still must be discovered before the warranty expires. You still must give the manufacturer the opportunity to repair the defect.
The key thing to remember when you think you may have a lemon law case is that the vehicle must covered by a ‘manufacturer’s warranty’ or a ‘manufacturer’s extended warranty.’ Many used cars, of course, are sold with many months, many miles, left on the original manufacturer’s warranty. That may give the buyer lemon law coverage if you gave the manufacturer the chance to repair the problem.
A used car sold only with a limited warranty – they usually cover limited miles and sixty to ninety days at most – likely will not be covered by the Lemon Law
When buying a used car, please remember that - it should inform your buying decision.
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.
Which remedy is used in your situation is up to the manufacturer. Regardless of the remedy, the one constant is that you - the consumer – pay no attorney fees as you are restored to where you should have been if not for the lemon.
What Is A Lemon?
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. Multiple attempts and cumulative days are hardly written in stone. In practice, much of it depends on the severity of the defect or defects. If a defect is life threatening, fewer repair attempts are necessary.
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, or 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 often repeatedly, 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.” This is often true.
The law specifies only that a ‘reasonable number of repair attempts’ are made. If a defect involves a safety issue, such as stalling, 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).
What To Do
If You Think You Have a Lemon 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.