California Lemon Law: New Car Claims
Any vehicle sold with a warranty is guaranteed by the manufacturer to operate as promised when you drive it off the lot. With the California new car lemon law, you have legal protections in the case of defects. While there are certain conditions that need to be met, you may be able to receive compensation for the remaining value of the vehicle as well as costs you took on during the process.
The new car lemon law, as the name implies, applies to almost every new vehicle sold in the state, provided it meets a few eligibility criteria including:
- The vehicle is bought for home, personal or family use -or- by a business that uses less than five vehicles
- The vehicle has a gross weight rating of under 10,000 lbs. (this exempts some larger trucks but nearly every vehicle qualifies);
- The vehicle came (as nearly all must be) with an express warranty from the manufacturer; and
- You or a mechanic first discovered the defect within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles of ownership.
The last part is not a firm or hard rule, and it’s one reason you may want to consider seeking an experienced lemon law attorney in California. Most standard warranties are for two to six years for new vehicles and it can be impossible to detect a defect until something untoward happens.
Even if your vehicle doesn’t meet the criteria it is possible to receive compensation for the diminished value of the vehicle based on the number repairs of the vehicle.
Additionally, California’s lemon laws have civil penalty provisions. Those provisions allow owners to recover civil penalties of up to twice their actual damages if they can prove the manufacturer willfully violated the state’s lemon laws.
How Does a Car Qualify for the Lemon Law in California
There are two separate checklists to complete if you want to consider filing a claim under the California lemon law, eligibility as noted above as well as providing the manufacturer the opportunity to fix the problem to your satisfaction. In the case of any defect that does not present a risk of injury or death, the lemon law provides that you allow a dealership or other certified mechanic up to four opportunities to fix the problem before you can begin a claim. If the defect is more serious, two visits might suffice.
On the other hand, the law also suggests that if the vehicle needs to be in the shop for a cumulative of 30 days you may have a lemon law claim if it’s just one repair. These are guidelines, and you should consult with a legal professional to determine whether or not the facts of your potential case merit a claim.
The California New Car Lemon Law Statutes Presumptions
Options After Qualifying
You have two key options when you have established that you have a lemon law claim: you can opt for the manufacturer to provide you with a replacement vehicle that is substantially similar to the one you originally purchased, or you may opt for them to repurchase the vehicle with a cash offer.
Some people may work with a lemon law attorney even if they opt for a replacement vehicle. The consumer protection statutes provide for buyers to seek repayment of any charges that they faced as a result of their car, truck or SUV not working. These include, but are not limited to, towing fees, charges for taxis or ride shares and even hotels depending on where the breakdown occurs.
Fighting for repayment is one reason to consider an attorney with experience in the new car lemon law, but they can become especially important when you instead ask for the manufacturer to buy back the vehicle. There is a “mileage offset” that the car maker can subtract from the purchase price of the vehicle in their offer, and some have been known to be aggressive in their math so that they can pay as little as possible.
In either case, you will want to consider whether or not going through the state arbitration process adequately protects your interests and maximizes the damages that you can obtain from a car maker because of the defective vehicle.