Searching for a car can be an overwhelming process. There is such a broad range of options to choose from when it comes to purchasing or leasing, purchasing new, used, or certified pre-owned, whether to buy from a dealership or an individual person, and what kind of car to even buy. On top of all these decisions, warranties, service contracts, and lemon laws can be complicated. Generally speaking, most cars come with some type of warranty, which is a contract in which the dealer or manufacturer is responsible for repairing, replacing, or repurchasing vehicles that are defective or cannot be fixed after a reasonable amount of attempts.
Protections Under California Law
You may be thinking that even though a warranty of protection may be in place, that there is still fear of making the dealer or manufacturer comply with their end of the bargain. Unfortunately, the dealer could be intimidating and could lead purchasers to misinterpretations of what their rights are under a warranty. In extreme cases, dealers may use a vehicle owner’s lack of knowledge against them or take advantage of their inexperience with defective cars and warranties.
Luckily for car owners, California lemon law protects those who have bought a lemon. California Civil Code §1793.22 states that a vehicle that is defective and covered under warranty should be repaired by the dealer or manufacturer. The dealer or manufacturer must be given a reasonable number of attempts to repair it. The reasonableness of the attempted repairs could differ depending on the circumstance. In cases of defects that pose a safety risk to the driver or passengers, the dealer or manufacturer is usually given one or two attempts until it is considered unreasonable. In other cases, where the defect is small, or involves a part of the car that does not interfere with the safety of the vehicle, the dealer or manufacturer is usually given three to four attempts before it is considered unreasonable.
If the dealer or manufacturer cannot fix the defect in the vehicle, the vehicle can be replaced by one that is identical or similar. The dealer and the owner must agree on the replacement for this option to be allowed. In other cases, the dealer can repurchase the vehicle or buy back the vehicle and the owner will be given the purchase price minus the mileage put on the vehicle. The option of replacement or repurchase is up to the owner’s preference.
California Lemon Law
The lemon law was designed to protect vehicles that were purchased or leased under a manufacturer’s new car warranty. The law generally applies to new vehicles, but could also include used vehicles that are under a manufacturer’s new car warranty. When the car is sold to a new owner, whatever time or mileage is left on the new car warranty carries over. The law also applies to those that have purchased an extended warranty for their vehicle. The extended warranty is meant to cover the vehicle from defects for longer than the original new car warranty.
One common misconception is that a car that is determined to be a lemon is essentially dead in the market. This is untrue, as dealers that repurchase lemon cars can resell the car on the market, so long as the dealer represents to new buyers that it is a lemon law buyback. These vehicles must come with a lemon sticker on the door to alert potential buyers that the car, even if fixed, was bought back by the dealership, after being determined to be a lemon.
Even if a car owner or lessee is not protected by California lemon law, there are other state and federal laws that may offer protection. Some laws that apply to those that do not meet lemon law eligibility include laws that protect against deceptive practices and laws that require cars to meet a minimum standard of safety.
If you believe that your car is a lemon, and you are unclear about whether you are eligible for protection under California lemon law, contact our office to speak to an attorney who can walk you through eligibility and help you determine whether you qualify for relief and have a claim.