Prevailing Through Endurance

What Makes a Car a Lemon in California?

On Behalf of | Feb 17, 2020 | Lemon Law

While it is never fun to buy a defective product, buying a defective car can be even more frustrating. For starters, vehicles are expensive. The last thing you want to do is spend your hard-earned money on a car only to find out later that it is faulty. On top of this, owning a vehicle should make traveling more convenient. However, when your car is a lemon, a defect may prevent you from driving it or it may be spending a lot of time at the shop. Either way, as our lemon lawyer in California knows from experience, it’s harder to get around when your car is a lemon.

If your car exhibits a persistent problem, it may qualify for a lemon law buyback. Below our Antelope Valley lemon law lawyer discusses what makes a car a lemon in California.

What Makes a Car a Lemon?

California’s lemon laws cover vehicles sold or leased in the state which come with a manufacturer’s warranty. California recognizes the following types of vehicles as possible lemons:

  • Cars
  • Pickup trucks
  • Vans
  • SUVs
  • The chassis, chassis cab, and drivetrain of a motorhome
  • Dealer-owned vehicles and demonstrators

New and Used Cars

Both new and used vehicles can be lemons in the state of California.  The following criteria are significant in determining whether your car may be a lemon:

  • The car is under a manufacturer or dealer warranty.
  • The car is used primarily for personal, family or household purposes.
  • The car is defective which effects either the car’s value, safety, or use.
  • The defect is covered by the manufacturer or dealer’s warranty.
  • The manufacturer has made a reasonable number of attempts to fix the car’s problem.
  • The problem remains even after the manufacturer’s unsuccessful attempts to fix it. All you are required to do is present your car for repairs.  If the authorized repair facility is unable to fix the problem, makes no attempt to fix the problem, cannot find anything wrong with the vehicle or refuses to make covered repairs, it still counts as a repair opportunity!
  • Small business vehicles may also qualify.

Used Cars

A used car can be a lemon if it meets the above criteria as well as one or more of the following:

  • The car is mainly driven for personal use.
  • The car came with a written warranty.
  • The manufacturer resold the car with a warranty that covers the defect.
  • The car’s gross weight is less that 10,000 lbs., is a company car, and that company has no more than five total vehicles.

Lemon Laws in California

Lemon laws in California protect people who purchase a defective vehicle. If the manufacturer cannot repair the defect after a reasonable number of opportunities, they must replace or repurchase the vehicle. Determining what counts as a “reasonable” number of repair attempts varies by case. However, under certain circumstances, California’s Lemon Law Presumption presumes a car is a lemon.  When one of the following is true within 18 months or 18,000 miles after purchase, your vehicle might be presumed to be a lemon:

  • The manufacturer has made at least two attempts to repair a warranty problem that threatens death or bodily injury


  • The manufacturer has made at least four attempts to repair a warranty problem yet the problem persists


  • The vehicle is out of service for 30 days for warranty repairs for problems that reduce the vehicle’s safety, value, or use

These general guidelines offer a helpful idea of what to look for when trying to figure out what makes a car a lemon. However, individual cases will vary, so you should speak with our Antelope Valley lemon law lawyer to learn more. Additionally, working with an attorney may help you if the manufacturer contests your lemon claim. By arguing that your car is not a lemon, the manufacturer may not have to offer you a replacement or refund.

Learn More About Lemon Laws in California

California lemon law attorney Jim Kostas has represented clients in lemon law matters in Palmdale, Lancaster and the entire Antelope Valley for the past 15 years. Our lemon lawyer in California is passionate about protecting consumers’ rights from fraud and defective purchases. If you suspect your car is a lemon, give Kostas Law Firm a call at (661) 206-2629 to schedule your free consultation.