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Faulty vehicles: what is a lemon law?

After several months of research, you purchase a car that comes with the manufacturer’s new car warranty. You got a great price from the dealer, and they ensure you that you are getting a great deal. Within the first month, you take the car back in for repairs. Each month after, you find yourself returning to the dealer to get the same problem looked at again and again.

This may be more than just frustrating. Your new car may be “a lemon”. Fortunately, California’s lemon law, the Tanner Consumer Protection Act, protects you from your faulty purchase. How does the lemon law work?

What qualifies a vehicle as a “lemon”?

Your vehicle is considered a lemon if the manufacturer is unable to repair the vehicle’s defect within a reasonable number of attempts. Due to the defect, your vehicle fails to pass warranty expectations set forth by the manufacturer.

It is a “reasonable number of attempted repairs” if within 18 months or 18,000 miles:

  • After 2 or more repair attempts, your car continues to have a defect that could cause death or serious injury
  • The manufacturer fails to repair your car’s defect after 4 attempts
  • Your car is not operational for over 30 days throughout the entire repair attempt process

How long do you have to report a problem?

California’s lemon law protects you for the first 18 months or 18,000 miles after purchase. Because of this time limit, it is important to act immediately upon all vehicle defects.

What are you entitled to?

If your vehicle is a lemon, the manufacturer must either replace the car, or reimburse you for the vehicle’s purchase price. They may give you less than the purchase price if they can attribute any vehicle wear made before the defect directly to you.

If the dealer fails to uphold their lemon buy-back obligations, contact a lawyer who can fight for your rights to a fair purchase.

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