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California Lemon Laws

A stylized image of California and a Lemon Car

A Summary of Lemon Laws in California

California’s lemon laws state that if a buyer or lessee of a vehicle finds a major fault in it – which is labeled as irreparable after a certain number of valid attempts by the vehicle manufacturer to repair it – the manufacturer is liable to repurchase or replace the faulty vehicle. This law applies to the vehicle throughout its warranty period, and if the vehicle is still under its warranty period and meets the eligibility criteria as specified by California’s state laws, the owner of the vehicle can claim their arbitrary aid and request an arbiter to look into the matter and provide them with the necessary reimbursement, in the form of a refund or replacement of the faulty vehicle. The repurchase costs will also cover any additional costs the owner underwent while purchasing the vehicle.

Eligibility

This law protects owners of cars, pickup trucks, vans, SUVs, motorhomes, all of which are newly purchased or leased for personal, family, household or business purposes, who find themselves to have unfortunately purchased a faulty vehicle which is beyond repair. This also applies to used vehicles that remain under the manufacturer’s original warranty. The number of ‘valid attempts of repair’ has not been set in stone, but must exceed a minimum of two attempts in order for the owner to file for arbitration. 

In order to be eligible for arbitration, the vehicle needs to weigh under 10,00 pounds, and needs to have been bought by the owner within California by a retailer or dealer. The process must be requested within the vehicle’s warranty period as stated by the manufacturer, or at least 6 months before the vehicle’s expiration. 

There are also certain guidelines attached to the phrase ‘valid attempts of repair’. If the manufacturer has attempted to repair the vehicle twice and rendered serious damage to it which may threaten the life of the buyer if they were to drive it, or they have attempted to repair the same fault for over four times, or the buyer has not been able to use the vehicle for 30 days (consecutive or nonconsecutive) or more on account of the problems, which are covered in the vehicle’s warranty which have significantly reduced its value or made it unsafe, the consumer is eligible to apply for an arbitrary claim.

The Arbitration Process

All manufacturers are required to provide buyers with detailed instructions as to how they can request for arbitration along with the vehicle’s warranty materials. The arbitration form can be found along with the vehicle’s information packet, or can be obtained from the manufacturer or the Arbitration Certification Program website. 

After calling the manufacturers regarding the arbitration claim, it is likely for them to request you to settle or mediate the claim. The ACP permits such discussions, and the manufacturers may offer to provide you with a replacement or additional repair attempt, and/or a goodwill offer to compensate for your inconvenience. It is unto you if you’d like to settle this without filing for arbitration, or if you’d rather get a refund for it. 

Since arbitration is an informal method of settling a dispute, you are not required to hire an attorney for it. However, you are free to have an attorney represent you during the proceedings. The process is also free of cost, and owners do not need to pay any arbitration charges.

After your claim is opened, an arbiter will listen to both parties and pass their judgment upon inspection of evidence and testimonies provided. 

As per their observations of the case, the arbiter may assign the manufacturer an additional repair attempt, or instruct them to provide the buyer with a replacement or refund of the vehicle along with additional costs born by the buyer, such as towing, etc. You are allowed to choose either of the options, depending on which seems more fitting to you. Your claim could also be denied by the arbiter if it is invalid for certain reasons.

What A Replacement/Repurchase Will Grant You

If your claim for repurchase or replacement for the vehicle has been passed, the manufacturer may or may not deduct a fee for the damages done to the vehicle, depending on their severity, and how much accountable the buyer is towards the damages. The California law requires the following formula to be used to calculate the amount deducted from the repaid amount:

Price at which the vehicle was purchased x (multiplied by) [miles driven by the buyer before the first repair attempt ÷ (divided by) 120,000] = (equals) amount deducted.

Time Limits

Within 40 days, it is mandatory for the program to process your requests, and your claim should be resolved within 40 days after it has been opened.

In the event of  the replacement or repurchase judgment being passed, the manufacturer must enact the instructions provided by the arbiter within 30 days, as long as the buyer or lessee agrees to them.

Note that the number of days is subjected to change due to a variety of factors, such as the need for more information or technical inspections upon the request of the arbiter. A period of seven days is also granted in case the consumer has not attempted to resolve the issue privately with the manufacturers.

The manufacturer may also take longer than the stipulated time period to replace or repurchase the vehicle due to unavoidable circumstances.

California’s lemon laws state that if a buyer or lessee of a vehicle finds a major fault in it – which is labeled as irreparable after a certain number of valid attempts by the vehicle manufacturer to repair it – the manufacturer is liable to repurchase or replace the faulty vehicle. This law applies to the vehicle throughout its warranty period, and if the vehicle is still under its warranty period and meets the eligibility criteria as specified by California’s state laws, the owner of the vehicle can claim their arbitrary aid and request an arbiter to look into the matter and provide them with the necessary reimbursement, in the form of a refund or replacement of the faulty vehicle. The repurchase costs will also cover any additional costs the owner underwent while purchasing the vehicle.

California Lemon Laws & Used Vehicles

You are protected under the California Lemon Law when buying a used vehicle if these conditions are met.  You are always covered up to the manufacturers original warranty, and in the case of a ‘buy here, pay here’ used car vehicle you also gain a 30 day or 1,000 mile warranty (whichever comes soonest)

  • The vehicle must be purchased from a retailer, and not a private individual.  Private sales are not affected by this law.
  • The warranty on the vehicle is still active, this can be the original manufacturers warranty, or it can be an extended warranty offered by the reseller.
  • The used vehicle must have a significant defect
  • The vehicle must have spent a significant amount of time in the shop (at least two attempts to repair it)
  • The term vehicle applies to transport devices under 10,000 lbs.  This included cars, trucks, recreational trailers, boats, seadoos, and any other watercraft.