If you have a defective vehicle that meets requirements under state law, you can begin the California lemon law buyback process. The manufacturer must pay a variety of the charges that you incurred while leasing or making payments on the new vehicle as well as any ancillary costs.
The California Lemon Law Buyback Process
There are a number of steps that both you and a car manufacturer must make before you can take advantage of the California lemon law buyback process. The first set of steps revolves around eligibility of the vehicle:
- You must either have bought or leased a new car and problems arisen in the first 18 months or 18,000 miles -or-
- You may have bought a used car that has not been operated for the same set of months or miles.
Once you have found that there are significant defects, ones that affect safety or just overall operation of the vehicle, the manufacturer, usually through its dealership, must have the opportunity to try and fix it several times. The number of times is not set, but in the case of non-substantial defects, the California lemon law generally recommends that there be at least four attempts, or two if the condition affects the safety of the vehicle.
In addition, the repairs under warranty must take the vehicle out of use for at least 30 days, according to the consumer protection statutes. However, none of the above guidelines are hard-and-fast requirements. You may be eligible to begin the California lemon law buyback process even if your car or SUV has not been in the shop that long.
Consulting with an attorney can help you understand your requirements and whether or not your vehicle is eligible. In addition, they can help you with the following steps of the buyback process:
- Collecting documentation of the defect(s) that make your car unusable;
- What efforts, if any, the manufacturer and the dealership have made to remedy the problem;
- Assessing what next steps you should take, including receiving a replacement vehicle or a cash offer.
How the California Lemon Law Buyback Works
There are two options once you file a claim alleging that the vehicle you drive has substantial defects that the manufacturer has been unable to repair. First, the manufacturer may offer to replace the vehicle with the same one as long as it does not have the same defect. However, this may not work for many people, and so the law requires the manufacturer to buy back the car, truck or SUV from you.
Buybacks vs. Replacements
For some people, there is little issue with getting a similar vehicle to the one that they had, depending on their needs and the overall vehicle market. Even then, new car owners should understand that the manufacturer must still cover costs involved with a purchase. These include title and registration costs, among others.
Many people instead wish to see a cash reimbursement for the cost of the vehicle that will cover loan payments, the down payment and any additional fees. However, if you have driven the car or SUV for even a short amount of time, the manufacturer will likely try to subtract a “mileage offset” from the offer it makes to you.
California law establishes that vehicles have an average lifetime of 120,000 miles. For reference, the average driver will travel 12,000 miles in a year. The calculation for mileage offset is:
How much you have driven the vehicle, divided by 120,000 with that fraction multiplied by the price of the vehicle.
So, for example, if you drove your $20,000 vehicle for the average of 12,000 miles, the manufacturer could seek to subtract at least (12,000/120,000) or (1/10) times $20,000. That would equal $2,000. However, some manufacturers will try to seek offsets that are unreasonable based on how safe the vehicle was to drive over certain distances, for example. This is where it’s important to consider legal representation.
Car manufacturers will seek to reduce the costs involved in the California lemon law buyback process whenever possible. However, if you have been put out while attempting to drive a defective vehicle, you may have faced expenses for towing, obtaining a rental car, cab fare or rideshare costs and even hotel stays depending on where your car, truck or SUV broke down.
One reason to consider hiring a California lemon law attorney, similarly to the above mileage offset, is to obtain the maximum legal remedy for these incidental costs and avoid arbitration.