The California Lemon Law Statute
The California Lemon Law (officially known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty act, found in California Civil Code sections 1790 et seq.) is a law designed to protect consumers who purchase or lease warranted motor vehicles. If it is determined that a motor vehicle is a “lemon,” the motor vehicle’s warrantor must repurchase or replace the motor vehicle from the buyer.
The Lemon Law commands that if a vehicle manufacturer or its authorized dealer(s) cannot properly repair a “material defect” in your vehicle while it is under warranty after “a reasonable number of attempts,” the manufacturer must either promptly replace your new vehicle or refund your money, at your choice. The Lemon Law applies to all vehicles (including trucks and recreational vehicles) purchased or leased in the State of California and under the manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty.
A “material defect” is defined under the Lemon Law as something which “substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of the vehicle.” Most mechanical or drive-ability problems will qualify under this standard. The more serious the defect, the fewer number of repair attempts will be necessary to qualify the vehicle as a “Lemon.”
What constitutes “a reasonable number of attempts” at repair is a question of fact that can only be answered on a case by case basis. However, as a guideline, the Lemon Law states that if within 18 months or 18,000 miles of use, whichever occurs first, either the same material defect has been subject to repair four or more times, or the vehicle has been in the shop by reason of repairs for material defects for a cumulative total of more than 30 calendar days, then the vehicle is “presumed” to be a lemon. In addition, for vehicles purchased or leased after January 1, 2001, if the vehicle is repaired two times for a defect is likely to result in serious bodily injury or death, the vehicle is “presumed” to be a lemon.
Keep in mind, this is only a guideline; any vehicle which is not properly repaired while still under warranty after a “reasonable number of attempts” may qualify as a lemon, regardless of length of ownership or mileage. Therefore, with today’s extended warranties, it is possible that a vehicle will qualify under the Lemon Law even though it may be three or four years old and have been driven 50,000 miles or more!