All About Transportation Journal News

Understanding And Applying California's Lemon Law To Used Vehicles

Feb 7

The excitement of acquiring a new-to-you vehicle can quickly turn into frustration if it turns out to be a lemon—plagued with persistent issues. In California, consumers are armed with a potent weapon against such automotive disappointments: the California Lemon Law. This legal framework, officially known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, extends beyond just safeguarding purchasers of new cars; it equally shields those who invest in used vehicles under specific circumstances. 


Join us on a journey through the intricacies of understanding and applying California's Lemon Law to used vehicles, unraveling the qualifying criteria, unveiling the steps to take when faced with a lemon, and exploring the legal remedies available. Whether you are a seasoned car owner or a first-time buyer, this exploration aims to equip you with the knowledge needed to navigate the challenges of automotive lemon hood and emerge with a fair resolution.


What is California's Lemon Law?

California's Lemon Law, formally referred to as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, offers legal recourse to individuals who encounter defects in vehicles they purchase or lease. Encompassing both new and used vehicles, provided they remain within the confines of the manufacturer's original warranty, this legislation is meticulously crafted to shield consumers from the burden of owning vehicles plagued by recurring problems.


Coverage of California's Lemon Law for Used Vehicles

The Lemon Law in California is not exclusive to new cars; it also covers used vehicles under specific circumstances. To be eligible for protection, a used vehicle must meet certain criteria:

  • Warranty Period: The used vehicle must still be under the original manufacturer's warranty or a certified pre-owned warranty at the time the defect is reported. If the warranty has expired, the Lemon Law may not apply.
  • Multiple Repair Attempts: The law requires a "reasonable number of attempts" to repair the same defect. Typically, this means that the issue persists after two or more repair attempts, or the vehicle has been out of service for an extended period due to repair attempts.
  • Serious Safety Defects: If the defect poses a substantial risk to the driver or occupants' safety, and the manufacturer fails to repair it within a reasonable number of attempts, the vehicle may qualify for Lemon Law protection.



Steps to Take if Your Used Vehicle is a Lemon

Discovering that your recently purchased used vehicle is a lemon can be a frustrating and disheartening experience. However, there are specific steps you can take to address the situation and seek resolution under California's Lemon Law. Here's a guide on what to do if you find yourself with a defective used car:


Document the Defects: 

The first crucial step is to meticulously document the defects plaguing your vehicle. Keep a detailed record of each issue, noting the date of occurrence, the nature of the problem, and any attempts you've made to address it. Thorough documentation serves as vital evidence when pursuing a Lemon Law claim.


Notify the Manufacturer or Dealer:

Once you have documented the defects, promptly notify the manufacturer or dealer about the issues. This notification should occur within the warranty period specified for your vehicle. California's Lemon Law requires consumers to provide the manufacturer or dealer with a reasonable number of repair attempts to rectify the problems.


Keep Copies of Repair Records: 

Retain copies of all repair orders and invoices related to the attempts to fix the defects. These records serve as a comprehensive history of the repair process and validate that you have given the manufacturer or dealer adequate opportunities to address the issues.


Consult with an Attorney:

If your attempts to resolve the issues with the manufacturer or dealer prove unsuccessful, consider consulting with an attorney specializing in Lemon Law cases. An experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance, review your case, and help you determine the best course of action. They can also ensure that you meet all legal requirements and deadlines associated with a Lemon Law claim.



Seek Alternative Dispute Resolution: 

Before pursuing formal legal action, explore alternative dispute resolution methods. Some manufacturers and dealerships participate in arbitration programs as an attempt to resolve lemon law disputes outside of court. While participation in such programs is often voluntary, it can be a quicker and less formal way to reach a resolution.


File a Complaint with the California Department of Consumer Affairs: 

If all else fails, you can file a complaint with the California Department of Consumer Affairs. They oversee consumer protection regulations, and submitting a complaint can prompt an investigation into the manufacturer's or dealer's conduct. This step can potentially lead to a resolution or, at the very least, contribute to a database of consumer complaints.


Legal Remedies Under California's Lemon Law


Replacement or Refund

If your used vehicle qualifies as a lemon under California's Lemon Law, you may be entitled to either a replacement vehicle or a refund of the purchase price. The manufacturer typically has the option to replace the defective vehicle with a comparable one or provide a full refund, which includes taxes, finance charges, and any incidental costs associated with the purchase.


Attorney's Fees and Costs

California Lemon Law lawyer allows for the recovery of attorney's fees and costs by the prevailing party in a Lemon Law case. If you succeed in proving that your vehicle is a lemon and are awarded replacement or refund, the manufacturer is generally responsible for covering the legal expenses incurred during the process. This provision aims to ensure that consumers have access to legal representation without bearing the financial burden themselves.



McMillan Law Group - 4655 Cass St, San Diego, CA 92109, United States. Phone: +1 619-795-9430