When researching lemon laws, there is information that could not only confuse those looking for answers and information, but also a number of myths that lead to misunderstanding of the laws. For some, reading myths about lemons and lemon laws could cause belief that there are no available options or claims.
Myth: Lemon laws only apply to new vehicles that are purchased.
One common misconception is that there is no claim under lemon law for vehicles that are used. This is generally untrue, unless the vehicle is purchased from a private individual. In California, dealers must give the buyer the option of a warranty. Although dealers must offer a warranty, the warranty for used or certified pre-owned vehicles are typically the bare minimum, including coverage on certain defects and only for about a month. The lemon laws claim is typically available to those used vehicles that are bought under warranty, and after the dealer or manufacturer has been given a reasonable number of attempts to repair the vehicle.
Myth: The manufacturer or dealer can refuse to repair defective vehicles under warranty if the defect requires repair or replacement that is too expensive.
One reality of having a lemon car is that the owner is responsible for bringing the car in to the dealer or manufacturer and alerting them to the problem and giving them the opportunity to repair, replace, or repurchase the car. If the vehicle has a defect and is under warranty, the dealer has a reasonable number of attempts to repair it. In cases where the defect puts the safety of the driver or passengers at a safety risk, the dealer is usually given two attempts at repair. In cases where the defect is not a substantial safety concern, the dealer could be given three or four attempts to repair.
The dealer could also choose, with agreement from the owner, to replace the vehicle. In some cases, the dealer will repurchase the vehicle. The dealer is not allowed to simply claim that the repair or replacement of a part is too expensive, if the vehicle is under warranty. If the dealer makes no attempt to repair and the owner is left with the defect, the owner will most likely have a good claim for breach of warranty. Likewise, there is likely a good claim for breach of warranty after the reasonable number of attempts has been surpassed.
Myth: If the warranty has expired, the lemon laws cannot protect the defective vehicle.
Another common misconception is that the lemon laws no longer apply to someone once their vehicle’s warranty has expired. Although true in most cases, this is not a hard and fast rule. The lemon law may still protect a vehicle that had a problem or defect during the warranty period. If the defect was not repaired before the warranty was up, there could be a claim under the law. It is best to consult with a lemon law attorney who can evaluate your individual situation and help you determine whether you have a claim.
Myth: The dealer or manufacturer is responsible for maintenance of a vehicle under warranty.
Although it is true that the dealer or manufacturer must make reasonable efforts to repair or replace a defective vehicle under warranty, the warranty does not cover general maintenance or damages to the vehicle once purchased. After purchasing a vehicle, the owner is responsible for paying for things like oil changes, replacing and rotating tires, replacing transmission fluid, and other general maintenance. Further, the owner is responsible for getting the vehicle repaired if it is damaged, not the dealer or manufacturer. This even applies when the vehicle is brought to a shop for repair or maintenance and the problem is not fixed. The dealer is only responsible for repairing the vehicle to the extent that the warranty covers. If you are unsure about whether the dealer is responsible for fixing your vehicle, contact an attorney who can evaluate your case and help you decide what to do.