California Lemon Law

What is California Lemon Law?

California Lemon Law allows you to receive a full refund for a defective vehicle -- called a “manufacturer buy-back” or “manufacturer repurchase” -- minus some deduction for the number of “good miles” you enjoyed from the car.

Good miles” are defined as those miles that you accumulated prior to the first instance of the repair order which subsequently triggered your lemon law claim. This is an important point, and something many people do not realize.

So to clarify: a Lemon Law claim will usually not allow you to recover 100% of the value of your vehicle; but the sooner you file the claim, the more you can recover.

What can I recover?

In general, you can expect to recover at least some part -- and in many cases all, or almost all of -- the original purchase price of the vehicle.

Additionally, you may be entitled to recover many incidental costs and expenses such as repairs costs, rental car costs, and possibly even additional fuel costs incurred because of your vehicle’s defects.

But again, this recovery will be reduced by the number of “good miles” you enjoyed before the first problem that triggered your Lemon Law claim in the first place.

Does my vehicle qualify for a California Lemon Law claim?

First, make sure your vehicle qualifies. To qualify, your vehicle must be “new enough.” This means your car must be either:

(A) Under the manufacturer’s original new vehicle warranty (e.g., 4 years/50,000 miles)

(B) Under the manufacturer’s extended warranty (e.g., 6 years/100,000) miles. Note that this does not include third-party extended warranties.

Not sure? Everyone who buys a new car from a dealership has an original manufacturer’s warranty.

You will only have a manufacturer’s extended warranty if you intentionally purchased it, usually at the same time that you purchased the vehicle.

Some manufacturers allow you to purchase an extended warranty after you purchased the vehicle, but before the original warranty expires. In any event, you will have spent at least several thousand dollars to purchase this extended warranty. If you have any doubts, just ask your dealer and they can easily inform you.

What triggers a Lemon Law claim?

Generally, you should seek an attorney for legal advice if your mechanical troubles fall in one or more of the following categories which we call the 4-2-30 Rule.

(A) Ordinary defect 4x: Your vehicle has been in the shop four (4) or more times for the same exact problem -- i.e., the actual work order specifies the same problem is to be repaired. It doesn't matter how trivial this problem is; if it can't be fixed after four attempts, your vehicle may qualify.

(B) Severe defect 2x: Your vehicle has been in the shop two (2) or more times for the same exact severe problem such as failed brakes or stuck accelerator pedal. In general, a "severe problem" or defect is the sort of thing which, if unresolved, could result in injury or death.

(C) 30 repair days in 1 year: Your vehicle has been in the repair shop for thirty (30) cumulative days in a given year (365 days) for any problem or multiple problems. Note that these need not be consecutive days.

At The Marc Hoag Law Firm, we call this the 4-2-30 Rule because of the triggers that can support a successful lemon law claim, i.e., an ordinary defect occurring four or more times; a severe defect occurring two or more times; and your vehicle stuck in the repair shop for 30 or more days: hence, 4-2-30.

What do I need to do to file a California Lemon Law Claim?

If you satisfy the above requirements, you may qualify for a Lemon Law claim and be entitled to recover money for your damages. To find out, you will need to find, collect, and provide the following to your attorney:

(1) copy of original vehicle purchase contract

(2) current vehicle registration

(3) copies of all repair orders pertaining to your Lemon Law claim

(4) all monthly vehicle payment statements, if any

(5) proof of manufacturers extended warranty, if any

Do you have any non-obvious examples of successful California Lemon Law Claims?

Examples of non-obvious issues triggering successful California Lemon Law claims range from the mundane (five times in the shop for a faulty trunk lid) to the serious (vehicle enters "limp home mode" with drastically reduced power and extremely limited speed to just 25mph or so; or vehicle with all-digital dashboard and instrument displays that fail to turn on).

Final thoughts

A defective vehicle can be at best a headache and at worst an absolute nightmare. And while you suffer with the hassles, lost time, dealer shuttles and loaner cars, it may seem easier to just bite the bullet and accept your fate.

But you have the right to get your money back, and to get a new car that works! Nobody should remain stuck with a paperweight for a car, especially if it's a potential deathtrap too.

To get started, just provide the necessary paperwork to your attorney and hopefully you will soon be trading your defective vehicle for a check from the manufacturer.

If you think you have a vehicle that may qualify, contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss the matter with you. You may be rid of that lemon before you know it.