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Frequently Asked Questions

Answers from Our Santa Clarita Lemon Law Attorney

Think you’ve been sold a lemon? If the sale took place in California, the state has protections in place to compensate you if you’ve bought a defective vehicle. These answers to frequently asked questions can tell you more about California's Lemon Law.

If you have a question that is not answered here, you may call (661) 679-5325 for a free consultation with our Lemon Law attorney in Santa Clarita.

Can a vehicle purchased from a private party qualify as a lemon?

Vehicles purchased from private parties are not afforded protection under the California Lemon Law. The vehicle must be purchased from a retail seller (i.e., a dealership). Even if the vehicle has its original manufacturer’s warranty left on the vehicle, if it was purchased from a private party, you’re not entitled to California Lemon Law protection.

How many repairs do I need to qualify a vehicle as a lemon?

Generally, under the California Lemon Law, a vehicle may qualify for a refund or a replacement if it meets just one of the following criteria:

  • The vehicle has the same problem repaired FOUR or more times;
  • The vehicle has the same problem repaired TWO or more times and the problem is a major safety defect;
  • The vehicle is out of service for THIRTY or more total days.

The problems with the vehicle must substantially impair the use, value, and safety of the vehicle and must have occurred at least partially during the original vehicle warranty.

What is considered a “major safety defect”?

“Major safety defect” has yet to be explicitly defined by the courts. However, we know that it must be a potentially life-threatening problem with the vehicle, or the vehicle’s failure forces the owner into a dangerous situation. These failures include, for example, stalling, failure to start, overheating, significant braking issues, fuel issues, airbag and seatbelt issues, transmission failure, instrumentation failure, and the like.

How do you calculate days in repair?

If you bring the vehicle in for repairs on a Monday, and the repairs are completed on Wednesday, it will count as three days. Likewise, if the vehicle is inoperative on a Sunday, but cannot be brought in for repair until Monday and is repaired on Monday, it will count as two days.

Do my repairs need to be done at the dealership where I bought the vehicle?

No. You can have repairs made at any service center authorized by the manufacturer to make repairs on your vehicle. However, your independent mechanic is probably NOT considered an authorized repair facility for the manufacturer of your vehicle.

What does “use, value, or safety” mean?

Just about anything wrong with a vehicle will affect its use, value, or safety. “Minor” or “cosmetic” problems, such as moldings, a cigarette lighter, an outside thermometer, a change holder, coat clips, and the like, will likely not count toward use, value, or safety problems.

What am I entitled to under the Lemon Law?

Once a vehicle qualifies under the Lemon Law, the consumer is entitled to either a refund for the vehicle or a new vehicle. A refund includes the down payment, all monthly payments, taxes, original licensing fees, rental expenses, reasonable attorney’s fees, and, in rare instances, penalties. The manufacturer will also pay off the balance of your remaining loan or lease. In the alternative, the manufacturer will provide you with a new vehicle that is substantially similar to the lemon vehicle. For example, if you own a 2017 Ford Explorer, but there are no more 2017 models available, Ford would then give you a 2018 Ford Explorer.

Is the manufacturer allowed to charge me any money for the miles I have on the vehicle?

Yes. This charge is known as the usage/mileage deduction. Simply put, the manufacturer is entitled to an offset for the miles placed on the vehicle before the first major problem that became the basis for the refund. The calculation formula is set forth in California Law. As a rule, the more expensive the vehicle, the more expensive the deduction!

How long will my case take?

The average NON-LITIGATED case should take about 90 to 120 days to be fully completed. This is an average; some cases take longer for various reasons, and some take less time. If the case needs to be litigated, the case could take substantially longer to be completed. Fortunately, most cases do not require litigation.

Do I still have to make payments on my vehicle while the case is pending?

Yes. Failure to continue making payments could lead to repossession and/or damage to your credit.

Do I have to repair damage to the vehicle before I turn it in after the case is settled?

Any damage beyond ordinary wear and tear to the vehicle must be repaired prior to returning the vehicle to the manufacturer or the manufacturer will deduct the cost of any damage from the settlement. Door dings and minor scratches are considered ordinary wear and tear. Dents, major paint damage, and interior damage such as cigarette burns are not considered wear and tear and must be repaired.

Who pays for the attorney’s fees?

The California Lemon Law requires the manufacturers to pay reasonable attorney’s fees to your attorney. Because every manufacturer pays a different amount of fees to your attorney, your attorney may or may not charge additional fees beyond those paid by the manufacturer. Our cases are all handled on a contingency fee basis and require no upfront payments.

Will my case go to trial?

Despite what you may read or hear in the news, only about one percent of all civil cases eventually go all the way to trial. Only about 30 percent of our Lemon Law cases are litigated, with nearly all those litigated cases settling prior to trial. Some auto manufacturers are very unfair to consumers and force cases into litigation, despite our best settlement efforts. Because litigation is extremely expensive, we make all efforts to settle Lemon Law cases without litigation.

What should I do if my vehicle is unsafe to drive but the dealership can’t find the problem?

This is a very tricky situation that will sometimes occur if you have an intermittent problem with the vehicle, such as sudden stalling. In these situations, it is best not to drive the vehicle but to insist that the dealership make all efforts to find the problem. Sometimes a different dealership will make a more comprehensive effort to locate the problem. If possible, ask the dealership to put in writing that the vehicle is safe to drive. If the vehicle then becomes involved in an accident due to the unrepaired item, you may have grounds for a potential negligent repair case against the dealership, in addition to the Lemon Law case.

Do I have to go to arbitration before I proceed with a Lemon Law case?

No. You may proceed with your case regardless of whether the manufacturer has notified you of your right to arbitration. You may also still bring your Lemon Law case after you have been to arbitration but have lost.

Do I need all of my repair invoices to prove my case?

No, but without the repair invoices, determining whether you have a case is difficult. Sometimes you may go to your dealership and ask them to print out a full history of all repairs, which will be helpful in determining whether there is a case. But this report may not provide us with all the necessary information to make a fully informed decision.

Do only automobiles qualify under the Lemon Law?

No! The California Lemon Law also applies to trucks, boats, small watercraft, motorcycles, computers, motor homes, and any other “consumer goods.” There are some exceptions to this. Because automobiles and light trucks are most commonly seen as Lemon Law cases, other consumer goods usually prove more difficult to pursue. For instance, cases involving a boat will usually be more time-consuming to pursue.

Can you represent me if I move out of California?

Yes. If the vehicle was purchased in California, we can still represent you. We cannot help you if the vehicle was purchased in a state other than California.

Now that my vehicle is no longer under warranty, can I still pursue my claim?

Yes. If the repairs began while it was still under the original manufacturer warranty, your claim is still valid. Sometimes dealerships will even make “courtesy” repairs after the original warranty has expired. These may also count as repairs. However, repairs made only under an extended warranty (service contract) do not count toward Lemon Law repairs, with few exceptions. It is always preferable to have the repairs done while under the original manufacturer’s warranty.

Do all of my repairs have to be made before 18,000 miles or 18 months in order to bring a claim?

No. If enough repairs were made before 18,000 miles or within 18 months of ownership, the vehicle is presumed to qualify as a lemon under the law. However, if the repairs begin or continue while under the original manufacturer’s warranty (for instance, within 3 years or 36,000 miles, and often even longer for the powertrain), the vehicle will still qualify but the presumption may not apply.

Can I bring a Lemon Law claim even if I no longer have possession of the vehicle?

Yes. Recent case law states that even though the owner (or lessee) of a vehicle no longer has possession, the Lemon Law case is still valid.

Do leased vehicles qualify as lemons?

Yes. A Lemon Law case can be brought whether the vehicle was leased or purchased.

Can used vehicles qualify as lemons?

Yes. If the repairs to the used vehicle occurred while the vehicle was still under the original manufacturer’s warranty, the vehicle may still fall under the protection of the Lemon Law. Many Certified Pre-Owned vehicles come with very good warranties, which are still considered “original” warranties since they are granted by the manufacturer.

Can I bring a California Lemon Law case for a vehicle bought outside of California?

No. The Lemon Law will only apply to vehicles purchased within the state of California. However, if you have purchased the vehicle in California, then move out of California, the California Lemon Law will still protect you. For vehicles purchased outside of California, you may be protected under that state’s laws.

Read Our Reviews

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