The Ins and Outs of the California Lemon Law Process

Lemons bring freshness and joy with their bitterest taste and brightest color. I wish I could say the same about California Lemon Law. It is not as fun and exciting as lemons are. However, the law is here to protect your rights. So in some sense, we can say that it does bring joy. If you buy or lease a car in California and then find out that it has defects that substantially affect its safety, use or value, state law can help you gain satisfaction from the vehicle’s manufacturer.

Don’t get too excited, because the law cannot help everyone with a “lemon” and some people probably have to hire an attorney to get their cases resolved. Of course, there are some things that need to be taken into consideration when deciding if a car is a lemon or not. But the law creates important rights for car buyers. And we feel safe.

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act requires that if a manufacturer or its representative is unable to repair a purchased or leased motor vehicle to conform to its warranty after a reasonable number of attempts, the manufacturer must promptly replace or repurchase it. So if you buy a car with a six-year manufacturer’s warranty, then you are protected for at least six years. And the great part is that if your vehicle is determined to be a lemon, you have the right to choose a refund instead of a replacement vehicle. Maybe you changed your mind about that specific car. Or maybe you just changed your mind about owning a car. The subway is not so bad after all.

You should know that the Warranty Act also applies to used cars. But they have to be under a manufacturer’s new car warranty. When a used car, which is covered by a new car warranty, is sold, any remaining time left in the warranty protects the car’s new owner.

The law covers resold lemons, too. By California law, the first time a lemon buyback is resold at the retail level, it has to have a one year factory warranty to cover defects and cannot legally be sold “as is.” Interestingly, the law also requires that the car’s title state that it is a “lemon law buyback.” The car also has to have a “lemon” sticker on the door.

Your moves with lemon law

There are things you have to do when you find out that you have a lemon. First of all, you can write a letter to the manufacturer stating your problems. You should ask them to “buy back” your car. The manufacturer then can decide to buy your lemon back without any further action from you. But if the manufacturer gives you a hard time, you need to hire an attorney or use the manufacturer’s arbitration program. However, the manufacturer may not have an arbitration program.

And if you are left with hiring a lemon law attorney, there are 3 proven ways that your lawyer can help you. You can file a lawsuit with the help of your attorney. Moreover, in California, most lemon lawsuits are settled promptly, with consumers receiving a refund and reimbursement for their attorney’s fees. So you don’t even have to worry about that. Do you know about the California Lemon Law presumption and what is it all about?

What you get for a car you bought

Now, if you proceed with the lawsuit and get a refund for the car you bought, it will consist of four things. First, there will be monthly payments and down payment. Second, there will be collateral charges. Those include sales tax, finance charges and prorated registration and service contracts. Third, it will include incidental and consequential expenses that are related to the lemon. Those include rental car or two expenses. And lastly, it will include a payment of your loan balance. An important thing to note is that if you are not the original owner of the vehicle, your refund will be based on your purchase price, not the original owner’s purchase price.

What you get for a car you leased

Moving on, if you leased your vehicle and it is a “lemon,” your refund will consist of other four things. First, it will include lease payments and down payment. Second, it will have collateral charges, which include sales tax, finance charges, and prorated registration and service contracts. Third, it will include incidental and consequential expenses that are related to the lemon, which includes rental car or tow expenses. And fourth, it will have payment of any remaining lease obligations.

Compensated by replacement

If your vehicle is a “lemon” and you get a replacement car, the replacement vehicle must be substantially identical to your vehicle, as it existed at the time you purchased or leased it. It should include the same service contract, if applicable. It also should include any undercoating, rustproofing or other factory/dealer options that came with the original vehicle. And it should reimburse you any incidental and consequential expenses that are related to the lemon, which includes rental car or tow expenses.

Money, money, money

If the problems with your vehicle are not so much that it is considered to be a “lemon,” you may receive cash compensation for its diminished value as a result of its problems. In case this is true, the manufacturer will pay you a “cash and keep” settlement. In this case, you will keep your vehicle. And you will also receive money for the problems you experienced with it. And the remaining portion of warranty will remain in effect.

To know what are your exact rights you should talk to an experienced lemon law attorney. They know the ins and outs of the California lemon law better than you.


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