Lemon Law Attorney in California Answers Frequently Asked Questions

What is the lemon law?

 “My car is a lemon!” You may have heard a frustrated friend or family member use this phrase to describe a vehicle that keeps breaking down and they can’t get it fixed. Maybe you have even used this phrase yourself to describe your own vehicle. Most people associate the word “lemon” with a vehicle that just won’t run properly.
california lemon law

The “lemon law” broadly describes a set of comprehensive state and federal consumer protection laws that protect consumers who buy or lease new or used cars covered by warranties. The lemon law provides remedies when those cars can’t be properly repaired. In California these laws include the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and the Tanner Consumer Protection Act.  In addition, the federal Magnusson-Moss Act also protects consumers.

Does the lemon law just cover cars?

No! Many other products including motor homes, motorcycles, travel trailers and boats are also covered. If you’re not sure whether your vehicle is covered contact our lemon law attorney in California for more information.

What is a warranty?

A warranty is basically a promise. For example, in a typical new car limited warranty the manufacturer promises to repair defects in design or workmanship for a certain period of time such as 3 years or 36,000 miles whichever comes first. There are other kinds of warranties that may also apply. Sometimes manufacturers have certified used car programs. When you buy a factory certified used car the manufacturer usually provides a limited warranty or promise that it will repair certain defects for a specified period of time. 

Sometimes the dealer will also provide a dealer’s warranty in which the dealer promises to repair certain defects within a specified period. There are also warranties that are not expressly given by either the manufacturer or dealer, but are implied by the law. You may have more than one warranty covering your car at the same time that provides protection against defects.

What is a service contract?

Many consumers also buy a service contract through the dealership at the same time they buy or lease a new or used car. Service contracts are often referred to as extended warranties. In a service contract, the service contract provider promises to provide certain services and/or repair certain defects for a given period of time.  Like warranties, the duration of a service contract is usually measured by time or mileage such as 36 months or 36,000 miles.

Is the dealership ultimately responsible for honoring the manufacturer’s warranty?

No! Most new cars sold or leased in California come with a manufacturer’s express new car limited warranty. When you need repairs under the manufacturer’s warranty, your point of contact with the manufacturer is usually the authorized dealership where you take your car to have those repairs performed.  However, it is ultimately the manufacturer’s responsibility to honor its limited warranty.  

Your dealership values your business and wants you to be a satisfied repeat customer. Because the dealer is usually the point of contact for warranty repairs, it is common for frustrated consumers to blame the dealer when their car can’t be fixed. In most cases however, the dealer’s service manager is working behind the scenes to convince the manufacturer to authorize all necessary repairs. It can be very frustrating when you can’t get your car fixed.  But remember, the manufacturer not the dealership is ultimately responsible for honoring your vehicle’s warranty.

What if my dealer also gave me a warranty?

Sometimes the dealer provides a dealer’s warranty. The dealer is responsible for correcting any items covered by its own warranty and the manufacturer is responsible for correcting defects covered by its warranty. Sometimes, both warranties will cover the same defect.

When is a consumer protected by the lemon law?

Generally, the lemon law applies to any car, motor home, travel trailer, motorcycle, boat or other covered product purchased or leased in California that comes with a warranty so long as the vehicle is used primarily for personal, family or household purposes. This includes your personal car that you use to commute to and from your place of employment. It can get complicated, so it is important to have the right legal team protecting your interests.

Does the lemon law only cover vehicles purchased or leased in California?

Not necessarily! Even if you bought or leased your vehicle or motor home from a dealer in another state, the lemon law might still apply depending on how the transaction was structured.

Does the lemon law cover work vehicles?

Yes! The lemon law protects small business owners by covering certain work vehicles. Generally, the lemon law covers work vehicles so long as the owner has five or fewer work vehicles registered in California, the vehicle experiencing the problems is registered in California and the vehicle weighs less than 10,000 pounds. Don’t confuse weight rating with actual weight. For example, some vehicles are rated at 10,000 pounds but they actually weigh less than 10,000 pounds. The lemon law uses the actual weight in pounds, not the weight rating, for determining whether you are covered.

Does the lemon law cover used cars?

Yes! If you buy or lease a used car from a car dealer and the manufacturer’s warranty has not expired, your car is still covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. If you experience any problems while the manufacturer’s warranty is still in effect, you should take your used car to one of the manufacturer’s authorized repair facilities for warranty repairs. This usually means the local dealership.

Does the lemon law cover leased cars?

Yes! So long as your leased car is covered by a warranty, the lemon law applies.

Does the lemon law cover motor homes?

Yes! Some parts of a motor home are specifically covered by the lemon law. Generally, the lemon law covers the motor home chassis, chassis cab and any part of the motor home that is devoted to propulsion. Those parts of a motor home used primarily for human habitation are covered under the general warranty law. Either way, you are protected! Contact us for more information about your motor home coverage under the lemon law.

What should I do when I take my car in for warranty repairs?

If you experience a problem with your car while it is under warranty, immediately take it to one of the manufacturer’s authorized repair facilities. You do not have to take it to the dealership where you bought the car. You can take it to any of the manufacturer’s authorized dealership’s.

Make sure you describe the problem in detail, including any vibrations, noises, smells, or other issues related to the problem. If the problem happens under certain conditions, such as in between shifting or while idling, be sure to clearly describe those conditions in detail.

Before signing the repair order prepared by the service technician, thoroughly review it to make sure it accurately describes the problem or problems you are having. Also, make sure that it lists each problem you have reported. The repair order should describe the problem exactly as you have described it to the repair technician. If necessary, make the service technician re-write the repair order so that it accurately describes your problem in your own words.

What should I do if my car isn’t repaired right the first time?

Take it back for repairs immediately. Whenever you take your car back to have the same problem repaired again, it is extremely important to tell the service technician that your are bringing the car back to have the same problem repaired again. You must take a proactive role in protecting your rights. Describe the problem the same way you described it the previous time. Review the repair order to make sure it accurately describes the problem. If necessary, have the service technician re-write the repair order to accurately state the problem. Some unethical technicians will deliberately write up the problem in such a way so it looks like a different problem. You need to make sure the repair order clearly indicates that the car is experiencing the same problem for which a previous repair attempt was made. 

What if the warranty has expired but I’m still having problems?

The lemon law may still apply even though your warranty has expired. If your warranty has expired and you are experiencing the same problem that was previously repaired under the warranty, that problem may still be covered. Even if the dealer previously told you that it could not find anything wrong with your car, it could not verify the problem, the car was operating normally, or the dealer did not attempt to make a repair, you may still be covered by the lemon law.

Should I keep my maintenance records?

Yes! It is extremely important that you keep your maintenance records so you can show that you maintained the car in the manner required by the vehicle owner’s manual.

What if the dealer tells me my car is operating normally when I know it is not?

You are probably right! You know your own car. You drive it every day and you know what it feels like when it is running normally. Sometimes people are told that their vehicles are operating “normally” when the dealer cannot diagnose or repair a particular problem. If your car has a condition that does not seem right to you and you are told it is operating normally, contact us for a free consultation. You may be entitled to relief under the lemon law.

Do I need a lemon law attorney in California?

If you are having difficulty getting your car repaired to your satisfaction, then please contact us. The consultation with our lemon law attorney in California is free. There is no fee unless we win your case. And the lemon law makes the manufacturer pay your attorney fees! Remember, the company that made your car does not represent itself! It hires attorneys who are paid to make the problem go away. Shouldn’t you also be represented by a firm with the experience and commitment to protect your interests?