California's Lemon Law - California Civil Code Section 1793.22
California's consumer warranty law requires the manufacturer of a new motor vehicle leased or sold with a manufacturer's written warranty to repair the vehicle during the warranty period so that it conforms to the warranty within the first 18 months of purchase or 18,000 miles, whichever occurs first. The vehicle may be a new car, van, truck or the chassis portion of a motorhome, but it must have been purchased or leased for nonbusiness use.
If the manufacturer or dealer cannot fix the vehicle to conform to the warranty within a "reasonable" number of repair attempts, then the manufacturer must replace the vehicle or reimburse the buyer or lessee for its purchase price, whichever the consumer prefers (less a mileage offset for the consumer's use of the vehicle prior to the first repair attempt), subject in certain cases to arbitration that the consumer may or may not accept.
The Lemon Law uses a presumption as a guideline for determining whether a "reasonable" number of repair attempts have been made on a new vehicle. In order for the buyer or lessee to use the Lemon Law presumption, all of the following must be true:
If all of these criteria are met, the Lemon Law "presumes" during the first 18 months/18,000 miles (whichever comes first) that the buyer or lessee is entitled to a replacement vehicle or a refund. However, a replacement or refund may not be automatic since the manufacturer is entitled to prove that no problem exists, that a reasonable number of repair attempts have not been made, or that the problem does not substantially impair the vehicle's use, value or safety. This is predicated upon the consumer's decision to utilize the manufacturer's arbitration program, which they are not required to do unless they decide to pursue the "presumption" rule.
- The vehicle must be one that qualifies as a "new motor vehicle" as described above.
- The vehicle's problems must be covered by the manufacturer's warranty.
- The problem(s) must occur within the first 18 months of delivery or 18,000 miles on the odometer, whichever occurs first.
- The problem(s) must substantially reduce the use, value, or safety of the vehicle to the buyer.
- The problem(s) are not caused by abuse of the vehicle.
- The manufacturer has not fixed the problem(s) after four or more attempts or the vehicle's problem(s) could cause death or serious bodily injury if driven and the manufacturer or dealer has made at least two unsuccessful repairs attempts; or the vehicle has been in the shop for more than 30 days (not necessarily in a row) for repair of any problem(s) covered by its factory warranty and if the warranty or owner's manual requires you to do so, that you have notified the manufacturer about your problems. (Best done in writing.)
Even if the vehicle does not fit the 18 month/18,000 mile "presumption" criteria, consumers may still be entitled to a buy back if the vehicle has been subject to a reasonable number of repair attempts ANY TIME during the entire New Vehicle Limited Warranty period, which is typically 3 years/36,000 miles, or 4 years/50,000 miles, depending on the manufacturer.
Note that if the manufacturer of the vehicle offers a certified arbitration program, the buyer or lessee must utilize the arbitration program only if they wish to use the "presumption" rule, which is in effect only during the first 18 months/18,000 miles of purchase/lease date. After that date (and during the entire period of the balance of the manufacturer's New Vehicle Limited Warranty period), there is no requirement that a consumer must utilize arbitration, so a consumer may directly contact a Lemon Law attorney if they wish. If the consumer wants to use a Lemon Law attorney during the first 18 months/18,000 mile of purchase/lease of the vehicle, they may also do so if they wish, if their vehicle meets the requirements of the Lemon Law.
Note: Consumers must be aware that 3 potential decisions are awarded as a result of a arbitration hearing. 1. Repurchase or replacement of vehicle; 2. Denial of request for repurchase or replacement of vehicle; 3. Repair decision "award", allowing the manufacturer another attempt to repair the vehicle. The automobile manufacturer may also try to "settle" the consumers case by offering "solutions" such as a free Service Contract, refunded payments, "next vehicle" discount coupons or other offers to avoid the arbitration (whether before or during the Arbitration). Consumers should know that arbitration is not publicly funded by any state or governmental agency, but rather by contributions made by the automobile manufacturers.
Consumers must also be aware that though the arbitrator's decision is not binding on the consumer, that any documents, audio recordings, statements by any/all parties, the consumers decision to reject a repair attempt decisions, etc., can be used by the automobile manufacturer against the consumer in a later civil court action.
Many Lemon Law attorneys will offer free consultations via toll-free phone numbers to consumers prior to a consumer deciding whether they wish to utilize arbitration for their individual lemon law case. The Lemon Law attorney can also advise what the proper monetary restitution should be in their case prior to the consumer's decision to utilize the arbitration process.
M: Covers Motorcycles
*U: Used Car Lemon Law
*W: Used Car Express Warranty Coverage - Subsequent buyers are covered within the manufacturer's express warranty period