What qualifies as a lemon car? Consumer protection laws, governed at the state level, protect consumers when they purchase an automobile. California’s Lemon Lawprotects you when your vehicle is defective and cannot be repaired after a ‘reasonable’ number of attempts,” states the State of California Department of Justice.

What Qualifies as A Lemon Car?

When you purchase a car and it turns out to be defective, the vehicle may or may not be a lemon, depending on a few factors. If you purchased a vehicle made in the 70s, there’s little protection offered to you. However, if you purchased one of the following, you may have protections:

  • New vehicle under warranty
  • Used vehicle still under warranty
  • Leased vehicle under warranty

In all cases above, the “warranty” refers to the original manufacturer’s warranty or a certified pre-owned or manufacturer’s extended warranty.

New and used cars can be lemons, meaning that they don’t work properly. Some vehicles come out of the assembly line with key manufacturing or design issues.

You must purchase or lease the vehicle in California for state lemon law to apply. Out of state purchases are not covered under the law.

Vehicles that are purchased or leased are potentially covered by the Lemon Law even long after the first 18 months after purchase or lease and with mileage that greatly exceeds the first 18,000 miles on the odometer. Don’t let a dealership or manufacturer tell you otherwise.

Under the law, automakers must do one of the following if the vehicle doesn’t operate “properly” after a “reasonable” number of repairs:

  • Buyback the vehicle
  • Replace the vehicle

Defining the word “reasonable” is key to knowing if your vehicle can be classified as a lemon.

What Does “Reasonable” Mean?

“Reasonable” can mean different things to different people. The law doesn’t clearly outline what’s reasonable, but there are a few guidelines that you can follow:

  • The dealership or manufacturer tried to repair the issue a least two times and the problem could cause death or serious injury.
  • The problem was attempted to be fixed four times or more by the dealership or manufacturer.
  • The vehicle has been in the shop for more than 30 days since you purchased or leased it.

When calculating the 30 days in the shop since purchase, it’s important to know that the vehicle doesn’t need to be in the shop for 30 days straight.

Determining what is a “reasonable” number of repair attempts can be difficult for a consumer. A lawyer can help determine what’s reasonable or not. If the vehicle needs a major repair, it’s not automatically a lemon if the dealership or manufacturer is trying to rectify the issue. There must be an attempt to fix the issue, normally multiple times, before it is considered a lemon by law.

What You’re Entitled to Under Lemon Laws

If your vehicle is a lemon, you’ll be entitled to either a replacement or a refund. The replacement is a vehicle of equal price, normally the same or a similar vehicle, but in some cases, a newer vehicle may be given. With a replacement, you may have the same loan in place with the same duration and payment requirements.

A refund would include all of the expenses that you’ve accrued for the vehicle to date:

  • Down payment
  • Payments made
  • Taxes
  • Original registration fees
  • Incidental expenses

The incidental expenses could include costs that you incurred during ownership, such as:

  • Tow truck fees
  • Rental car fees

Under the Lemon Law, if you get a buy back or replacement vehicle, the manufacturer always pays your Attorney’s Fees.

You may not receive a full refund on the payment(s) you made on the vehicle because the manufacturer has a right to deduct a “usage fee.” The fee is calculated by determining how many miles were put on the vehicle prior to taking it into the repair shop for the first time for the problem for which it is being bought back.

What If Your Warranty Ran Out?

If the first attempt to repair the issue occurred during the warranty period, your vehicle may still be deemed a lemon. When a defect occurred during the warranty and it was not rectified, you may still be covered under the Lemon Law.

Knowing if your vehicle qualifies as a lemon is difficult. A lawyer who specializes in Lemon Law will evaluate your case and determine if it’s worth pursuing.

In cases where the defect is serious or lowers the value of the vehicle substantially, the vehicle is likely a lemon if it was repeatedly taken into a dealership for repair and still isn’t fixed.

Stuck with a Lemon?

If you’re stuck with a lemon and want the best chance at a favorable outcome, there’s no time to waste.

Call a lemon car lawyer today to have your case examined and your rights upheld.