California’s Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, also known as the “Lemon Law,” provides consumers with the right to obtain a refund or replacement vehicle if their car is a lemon. Our attorneys have successfully resolved lemon law cases against all the major manufacturers. To find out more about the lemon law, and how we can help you, we have prepared answers to several frequently asked questions. We also invite you to telephone or email us for a free consultation about your situation.
How do I know if my vehicle is a “lemon?”
If a manufacturer or its authorized dealer cannot repair a defective product within a reasonable number of repair attempts, the manufacturer must either promptly replace or repurchase the product, provided the product is covered by a manufacturer’s or retail seller’s warranty.
A material defect is defined as a defect which “substantially impairs the use, value or safety” of the vehicle to the buyer. Impairment to only one of these three categories – use value or safety – is sufficient.
What constitutes a reasonable number of repair attempts is best determined on a case by case basis, although a common benchmark is four times or 30 days in the shop. The days in the shop can be calculated consecutively or cumulatively. The number of repair orders, the number of days in the shop, the age, and the mileage of the vehicle are factors that will influence whether your vehicle qualifies as a lemon.
These are only guidelines. Any failure to repair a nonconformity which substantially impairs use, value or safety within a reasonable number of attempts may entitle the consumer to a refund, even after several years of ownership, as long as the defect first occurred while the vehicle was under warranty.
Does the Lemon Law apply to used vehicles?
A common mis-perception is that used vehicles are not covered by the lemon law. California’s lemon law covers all consumer goods – new and used – sold with a warranty. If your vehicle was sold with a warranty, and the selling dealership or its agents were unable to repair your vehicle after a reasonable number of repair attempts during the warranty period, you may be entitled to relief under the lemon law.
Does the Lemon Law apply to cars only?
The lemon law covers all consumer goods. Consumer goods are defined as products which are used, bought or leased for use primarily for personal, family, or household purposes. Cars, boats, recreational vehicles, motorcycles and motor-homes are generally covered by the lemon law.
If I use my vehicle in my business, does the Lemon Law still apply?
If you have fewer than five vehicles registered to your business and the vehicle has a gross vehicle weight of less than 10,000 pounds, then your vehicle may qualify for protection under the Lemon Law.
What is an “extended service contract” and what rights do I have under a service contract?
An extended service contract, often incorrectly called an extended warranty, is a contract that promises repair or replacement of defective components or conditions in your vehicle. If the dealership or service contract company refuses to repair your vehicle, you may bring a case for the breach of the service contract. In some rare cases, you may be entitled to a refund of the purchase price of your vehicle.
The law also provides certain requirements for service contracts: these contracts must contain a clear description of covered parts, a description of the length of coverage, a statement of the entity that is responsible under the service contract, a clear and conspicuous statement of any exclusions, a clear and conspicuous statement of any limitations as to service, a statement of whether preventative maintenance is included, a step-by-step explanation of the procedure the buyer should follow to obtain performance of the service contract, and an explanation of the steps that the service contract seller will take to fulfil its obligations, as well as several other items.
Does the lemon law apply to leases?
Yes. The lemon law applies to leased products.
How long do I have to make my claim?
Generally speaking, you should bring any legal claim as soon as possible. In the context of the Lemon Law, any defect arising during the warranty period – be it at 3,000 miles, 30,000 miles or more – could lead to a Lemon Law case. The time may be extended when a defect arises during the warranty period but is not repaired during the warranty period.
What am I entitled to if my vehicle is a “Lemon?”
If your vehicle or other consumer product is a lemon, you are entitled to have it repurchased or replaced. If you choose a replacement vehicle, you are entitled to a motor vehicle “substantially identical” to the vehicle being replaced. The warrantor is responsible for all taxes and licensing fees.
If you choose a repurchase, you are entitled to a refund of all monies invested in the lemon: down payment, monthly finance payments and payoff of the finance contract. For either a replacement or a repurchase, you are entitled to recover expenses such as towing costs, rental car fees and repair costs.
The warrantor is entitled to deduct from your recovery (or charge you in the case of a replacement vehicle) an amount for your usage of the lemon vehicle prior to the first repair attempt for the defect. California law provides a formula which calculates the “mileage deduction” as follows: mileage at the time of the first repair attempt for the significant defect, divided by 120,000, times the actual price paid or payable by the buyer.
Can I afford to hire an attorney?
Yes. Our firm works on a contingency basis. Our firm requires no money down from you because the majority of our fees and costs will be paid by the defendants at the successful conclusion of the case.
How long will the process take?
Ninety-eight percent of all civil cases settle. Our goal at the Bravo Law Group is to make that process as efficient as possible. Depending on the reasonableness of the manufacturer, the process can be very quick. If the manufacturer or dealership deny responsibility, the process can take several months or longer.