Common Lemon Law Myths
Many consumers don’t understand exactly how California’s lemon laws work even after their vehicle begins showing signs of repeated, unrepairable problems. California’s lemon law, the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, applies not only to vehicles but to all retail consumer goods covered by implied or written express warranties.
You may not know exactly what protections you qualify for in California, or you may believe you have more protections than you actually do. The lemon law attorneys of Allen Stewart, P.C. know the ins and outs of California lemon law and can help separate legal fact from legal fiction, helping you get the justice you deserve and back on the road.
My dealer said I don’t have a claim, so I’ve got no hope.
Your vehicle’s dealer and/or manufacturer don’t decide whether or not you have a lemon vehicle: that’s determined by the California lemon law. Your dealer may simply be trying to get you out of their hair, or trying to avoid further repair or legal costs. If your dealer throws up obstacles to your lemon law claim, contact a qualified California lemon law lawyer right away. They can help you determine whether or not your vehicle qualifies as a lemon and how much time you have left to file your claim.
I waited too long to report a problem.
California consumers must file their lemon law complaint within 18 months of receiving the vehicle or before driving 18,000 miles, whichever comes first. However, the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act borrows California’s four year statute of limitations. Qualified lemon law attorneys will know whether to use state or federal laws when pursuing your claim.
My vehicle is a motor home and therefore not covered.
The California lemon law covers “new motor vehicles” including the chassis cab of a motor home. The lemon law does not cover, however, any part of the motor home used for human habitation. The lemon law also excludes motorcycles or any motor vehicle not registered under the state’s vehicle code because it is meant for non-highway use.
I’m not covered because I leased my car.
The California lemon law covers leased vehicles, as long as they were leased in the state or by a full-time active Armed Forces member stationed in California at the time of leasing or when the claim was filed. As long as it fits all of the above-mentioned requirements, it still qualifies for as much protection as a vehicle purchased outright. A qualified lemon law attorney will know the most about your specific situation.
I bought a used car and don’t know if I’m covered or not.
There is no specific lemon law for used cars in California. However, as long as the vehicle is still covered under the manufacturer’s original warranty, you’re still protected. Most used cars are purchased long after those manufacturer’s warranties expire, however, and additional warranties sold by dealerships or car lots don’t count for lemon law protections. If you buy a used vehicle that is the current year model, check if the manufacturer’s original warranty is still in effect. If it’s expired, lemon law may not be able to help you.
My car’s problem isn’t that severe and I can still drive, meaning I’m not covered.
Lemon laws cover “nonconformities,” defined as a problem or defect that substantially impairs the vehicle’s use, market value or safety. Any problem that keeps the vehicle from working correctly and safely can make that vehicle a lemon, whether it’s something as serious as engine or safety system defect or something that simply affects the vehicle’s value, such as a persistent unpleasant odor or paint problem.
California’s lemon law stipulates a vehicle is a lemon if it meets the following criteria within 18 months of delivery or within 18,000 miles driven:
The manufacturer tries and fails to repair a nonconformity four times (two times if the nonconformity is considered “deadly or dangerous if the vehicle is driven,” or
The vehicle has been in the shop for more than 30 days for nonconformity-related repairs.
I modified my car after purchase and voided the warranty.
If the defect you’re reporting isn’t affected by your modification, that defect is still covered by your manufacturer’s warranty. For example, your vehicle’s manufacturer can’t deny you your lemon law coverage over a braking system issue just because you installed a spoiler on the back of your car. However, if you complained about a different issue that was caused by an aftermarket modification or neglect, the manufacturer isn’t obligated to repair it. Many state lemon laws refer to “unauthorized modifications,” which generally refers to modifications not installed by the manufacturer or their authorized agents.
My car’s problem occurred during the warranty period but I waited too long to report it.
As long as you report the problem within the aforementioned time period of 18 months of delivery or within 18,000 miles driven, and your records can show the defect made itself known within the warranty’s term of protection, you are still covered under the lemon law. The best way to make sure is to consult with a qualified lemon law attorney.
I’m pretty sure I’ve got a lemon, but I can’t afford an attorney.
Lemon law attorneys take cases knowing they can get their fees as part of the judgement after prevailing in court. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act requires manufacturers pay a consumer’s attorney’s fees if the court finds in the consumer’s favor. This means consumers can seek legal help with their lemon law case while paying nothing out of pocket.
The best way to separate lemon law fact from fiction is to contact a qualified, experienced lemon law attorney. The lawyers of Allen Stewart, P.C. have combined decades of experience fighting on behalf of consumers when manufacturers fail to live up to their end of a warranty.
If you think you have a lemon vehicle, contact the offices of Allen Stewart, P.C. today. Our attorneys will help determine the best path forward for you after your free consultation. Get the justice you deserve today and get back on the road.