List of California Lemon Law Frequently Asked Questions with Answers

GENERAL QUESTIONS:

  1. What is the California Lemon Law?
  2. Who does the California Lemon Law protect?
  3. How long does the California Lemon Law protect a consumer?
  4. Does the California Lemon Law cover used vehicles?
  5. How many repair attempts are required to qualify under California’s Lemon Law?
  6. What if my dealership won’t refund or replace my vehicle?
  7. What if my manufacturer won’t refund or replace my vehicle?
  8. How do I know if I have a lemon?
  9. What if my vehicle is out of warranty?
  10. What is a “lemon law buyback”?
  11. Do I have to go through arbitration before I can start a lemon law claim?
  12. If the manufacturer will not buy my car back, does that mean that I don’t have a case?
  13. I bought my car used, can I still make a lemon law claim?
  14. What if I leased my car, can I still make a lemon law claim?
  15. How long will it take to settle my case?
  16. What if I purchased the vehicle outside of California?

ARBITRATION

  1. What is arbitration?
  2. How can I apply for arbitration?
  3. Is there a cost to file for arbitration?
  4. How is the arbitration conducted?
  5. What if the consumer’s vehicle is under warranty but the manufacturer does not participate in a California state-certified arbitration program?

FEES, ATTORNEYS AND PROCESS

  1. Do I need to hire an attorney?
  2. I can’t afford an attorney, can I still make a lemon law claim?
  3. How long will it take to resolve my dispute through arbitration?

OUTCOMES / RESULTS

  1. What are some of the possible decisions through arbitration?
  2. What happens if I win through arbitration?
  3. Can I choose a replacement vehicle or am I required to accept a refund?
  4. What happens if I choose a replacement vehicle?
  5. What happens if I choose a refund?
  6. What happens if arbitration is not favorable to me?

General Questions: The Answers

What is the California Lemon Law?

The California Lemon Law requires a vehicle manufacturer to replace the vehicle or refund the purchase costs of the vehicle when the manufacturer is unable to repair a vehicle to conform- to the manufacturer’s original warranty after a reasonable number of repair attempts.

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Who does the California Lemon Law protect?

The California Lemon law protects consumers that buy or lease a new or used vehicle that comes with the manufacturer’s original warranty.

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How long does the California Lemon Law protect a consumer?

The California Lemon Law applies throughout the duration of the vehicle manufacturer’s original warranty period. The California State-certified manufacturers extend the filing period to file for arbitration to 6-months beyond the expiration date of the applicable warranty.

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Does the California Lemon Law cover used vehicles?

If the used vehicle is covered by the manufacturer’s original warranty, yes.

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How many repair attempts are required to qualify under California’s Lemon Law?

The manufacturer is allowed a reasonable number of repair attempts. What is reasonable will depend on all the circumstances, but in all cases at least two repair attempts are required.

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What if my dealership won’t refund or replace my vehicle?

The manufacturer, and not the dealership, is responsible for the warranty and would be the one to refund or replace your vehicle.

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What if my manufacturer won’t refund or replace my vehicle?

If you feel you have given the manufacturer enough time and opportunity to repair your vehicle, but you feel the nonconformity still exists, your next step would be to file for arbitration.

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How do I know if I have a lemon?

If your vehicle has been taken to the dealership four or more times and repaired under the original manufacturer’s warranty for the same defect, and that defect substantially impairs your use, value, or safety, you may be entitled to relief under the lemon law.

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What if my vehicle is out of warranty?

If your vehicle is now out of warranty, but was under the original manufacturer’s warranty when the repairs were performed, you may still be entitled to relief under the lemon law. Repairs covered by an Extended Service Plan do not count as warranty repairs under the California Lemon Law.

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What is a “lemon law buyback”?

A lemon law buyback occurs when the automobile manufacturer buys your car back from you. When this happens, you are reimbursed for your down payment, all of your monthly payments, your current registration fee, and the automobile manufacturer pays off any outstanding auto loan. The manufacturer then takes the vehicle from you and brands the title as a lemon law buyback. The only money that is deducted from your refund is the mileage offset which is calculated by the mileage on the vehicle when the problem first began, divided by 120,000, and then multiplied by the purchase price of the vehicle.

This equation is set forth in the statute and this amount is considered to be a credit to the manufacturer for the “good miles” that were on the vehicle before there was anything wrong. The only other items that may be deducted from your refund include items that were added onto the purchase of the vehicle such as aftermarket service contracts, aftermarket alarm systems, lojack, accessories such as spoilers, and any other modifications to the vehicle such as bedliners, lift kits, etc. Each manufacturer looks at these items differently and there is no hard and fast rule about what will be included in a buyback versus what will be deducted when it comes to these items.

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Do I have to go through arbitration before I can start a lemon law claim?

Absolutely not. In fact, sometimes, the arbitration results are so unfair, that consumers come to us after losing at arbitration!

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If the manufacturer will not buy my car back, does that mean that I don’t have a case?

No, this is not true. Many times, the manufacturer does not believe that a defect rises to the level of a “substantial impairment” and therefore, they will not buy the vehicle back. However, in most of these cases, the manufacturer will pay what is called a “cash and keep” settlement. In this type of settlement, the manufacturer will pay you a sum of money for the trouble that you have had with your vehicle, but at the end of the claim, you will keep the vehicle (and dispose of it as you see fit, either by trading it in, selling it privately, or keeping it).

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I bought my car used, can I still make a lemon law claim?

If you purchased a used vehicle that is still covered under the original manufacturer’s warranty, or you had it repaired under the original manufacturer’s warranty and it is now out of warranty, you may still be entitled to relief under the lemon law. If you purchased a “Certified Pre-Owned” vehicle, the manufacturer will often extend the warranty, so depending on the mileage, you may still have a viable lemon law claim.

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What if I leased my car, can I still make a lemon law claim?

Yes, leased cars are covered by the lemon law.

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How long will it take to settle my case?

Each case is different and each manufacturer handles these types of cases differently. With that said, we have worked with the same attorneys for the automobile manufacturers for the last eight years and we have an excellent working relationship with all of them. We will make every effort to make sure that your case is settled as quickly and efficiently as possible while obtaining the best possible result for you. These cases rarely go to trial and it is extremely unlikely that you will have to go to court for any reason while pursuing a lemon law claim.

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What if I purchased the vehicle outside of California?

To qualify for the benefits of the California Lemon Law, the vehicle must have been purchased, registered, and repaired in the state of California under the original factory warranty, and there is only one exception to this rule. If you are active duty military, you may still receive the benefits of the California Lemon Law as long as you purchased the vehicle in the United States from a manufacturer that also sells vehicles in the state of California, and you are either (1) a California resident or (2) you were stationed in California when you purchased the vehicle or at the time you began your lemon law claim.

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Arbitration: The Answers

What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a process whereby the dispute between the vehicle manufacturer and the consumer is resolved by a neutral third party, an arbitrator. In California, many manufacturers offer a California state-certified arbitration program. These arbitration programs are required to meet certain standards, such as making a decision on the dispute within a certain number of days. Arbitrators in the state certified arbitration programs are regularly trained. The Arbitration Certification Program regulates the arbitration programs offering arbitration for new vehicle warranty disputes.

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How can I apply for arbitration?

To apply for arbitration visit -www.dca.ca.gov/acp/acpprocess.shtml-.

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What if the consumer’s vehicle is under warranty but the manufacturer does not participate in a California state-certified arbitration program?

The consumer should contact the manufacturer directly and also contact the New Motor Vehicle Board (www.nmvb.ca.gov) for assistance with mediation to possibly resolve the warranty dispute.

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Is there a cost to file for arbitration?

No. There is no cost to the consumer to file for arbitration.

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How is the arbitration conducted?

Parties have the option of presenting their arbitration case in person, via telephone or in writing. If the parties select in-person or via telephone, an arbitration hearing will be scheduled, with the date and time and location to be provided to the parties by the arbitration program for them to appear or to call in. For arbitration conducted by written submission, the parties submit all relevant evidence, including all repair orders and other paperwork to the arbitration program and wait for a decision from the arbitrator.

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Fees, Attorneys and Process: The Answers

Do I need to hire an attorney?

The decision to hire an attorney, or not, is left up to the individual consumer. You are not required to be represented by an attorney to file for arbitration. The California state-certified arbitration programs are informal. Because the process is informal, the arbitration programs assists in collecting the evidence to be shared with all participants, including the arbitrator. You may hire an attorney to represent you; however, attorney fees cannot be decided by the arbitrator, unless the manufacturer has agreed to allow arbitrators to include attorney fees in the arbitrator’s decision to consumers being represented by an attorney.

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I can’t afford an attorney, can I still make a lemon law claim?

Our firm does not charge anything to the consumer. All of our fees and costs are paid directly by the automobile manufacturers.

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How long will it take to resolve my dispute through arbitration?

Usually it can take up to 40 days. However, many arbitration claims are resolved sooner.

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Outcomes / Results: The Answer

What are some of the possible decisions through arbitration?

An arbitration decision will determine if the vehicle conforms to the warranty or does not conform to the warranty. If the vehicle does not conform to the warranty, the consumer has the right to elect either a replacement of the vehicle or a repurchase of the vehicle. If the consumer has stated a preference for one of the options, the decision may reflect the consumer’s stated preference as part of the decision. If the vehicle is no longer under warranty, and the consumer still owns the vehicle, the arbitrator may order the manufacturer to provide an additional attempt to repair the vehicle at no cost to the consumer.

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What happens if I win through arbitration?

Participating manufacturers in the California state-certified arbitration programs have agreed to be bound by the arbitrator’s decision, if the consumer accepts it. The manufacturer must perform the arbitrator’s decision within 30 days of the consumer’s acceptance of the arbitrator’s decision.

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Can I choose a replacement vehicle or am I required to accept a refund?

You have the option to choose a refund or replacement.

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What happens if I choose a replacement vehicle?

The manufacturer must replace your vehicle with a substantially identical vehicle. If you choose additional options or after-market items, you may have to pay for those items. The arbitrator may deduct a mileage offset for the use of the vehicle prior to the first warranty repair attempt.

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What happens if I choose a refund?

The consumer is entitled to receive all the monies paid for the vehicle, and may also include a deduction for mileage offset.

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What happens if arbitration is not favorable to me?

If you are still under the manufacturer’s original warranty, and there are further attempts by the manufacturer to repair the vehicle, -you may refile for arbitration if the repair attempt is not successful. You may want to consult with an attorney to see what other options you may have.

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