Does a Motor Vehicle’s Express Written Warranty Affect the Length of Time California’s Lemon Law Applies?

The lemon law falls under the provisions of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. Under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, there is no clearly defined time period for lemon law protection. Instead, California’s Lemon Law applies for the entire period of the express written warranty; therefore, application of the lemon law will vary from consumer to consumer.

What Is An Express Warranty?

Under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, the definition of an express written warranty is divided into two parts.
  • An express warranty is a written statement from the manufacturer, or its agent, to a consumer after the sale of a good where the manufacturer agrees to maintain the performance of the good and provide compensation if there’s a failure in that performance.
  • A written warranty is a written affirmation or promise made by a manufacturer to a consumer in connection with the sale or lease of a new motor vehicle. The promise relates to the material workmanship and promises that such workmanship is and will remain free of material defects for a specified period of time.
    • A written warranty may also be a written promise from a manufacturer to a consumer to refund, repair, replace or provide other compensation if the good fails to conform to the material workmanship.

Express Warranty Time Limits

The lemon law specifically covers defects in a motor vehicle that affect its use, value, and safety. Any material defect must be one that is specifically covered by the motor vehicle’s express written warranty to meet the requirements under the lemon law. What this means for the consumer is that if a motor vehicle is purchased in the state of California, with a two-year express written warranty, and a material defect is discovered one year after the purchase date – then the lemon law will require the manufacturer to compensate the consumer. Consumers should remember that all other conditions provided under California’s Lemon Law must also be met. This includes providing the manufacturer, or its agent, with a reasonable number of repair attempts. Consumers should also note that express written warranties may be extended by the manufacturer.

How To Read Your Vehicle Warranty

Many people understand the importance of a warranty, but they don’t actually closely read their vehicle’s warranty, before or after purchase. However, it’s vital to understand all of the details surrounding your warranty so that you can be certain of when and where your car is covered for defective parts and labor. Here are a few tips about reading your vehicle’s warranty:
  • Understand who issued the warranty. Some warranties come directly from the vehicle’s manufacturer, while some are from the vehicle dealership.
  • Understand the coverage for both parts and labor. Many warranties cover the cost of parts for a number of years and the cost of labor for a shorter time period. Pay close attention to these dates and be familiar with the overall timeframe of your warranty.
  • Understand exceptions. While some warranties give comprehensive, bumper-to-bumper coverage, others have significant exceptions. Note these exceptions before purchasing a vehicle and/or warranty.
  • Understand your own responsibilities. For a warranty to be valid, you must comply with specific requirements. For example, many warranties require that you keep accurate records of repairs and tune-ups.

California’s Lemon Law Statute of Limitations

In addition to time limitations created under the express written warranty, California law also provides a four-year statute of limitations to bring a lawsuit against a manufacturer or its agents for breach of the express written warranty. Although this statute of limitations exists, consumers should act immediately upon knowledge that their motor vehicle is experiencing a motor defect that is covered under the express written warranty. This is because the sooner a consumer acts, the easier it is to collect evidence and prove that a vehicle is a lemon.

It’s important to note that the four-year statute of limitations begins when you discover that your vehicle is a lemon. The deadline is an absolute limit and you will not be able to pursue your claim after four years.

Don’t Delay Your Lemon Law Claim

Although your warranties as well as the lemon law statute of limitations may give you a comfortable amount of time to file your lemon law claim, it is not a good decision to delay this legal action. Here’s why:

  • Evidence becomes harder to collect. With each passing day, evidence becomes harder to find and your memory may get foggier. You need information such as your car’s repair history in order to win your case – this documentation is easier to find early.
  • You may paint your situation as not serious. When arguing that your car is a lemon, you want to make clear that your car is not fit to drive due to mechanical issues and safety issues. If you’ve been driving the car for years despite its defects, this could harm your claim.
  • You may miss your window to file. If you wait for as long as possible to file your claim, other unforeseen delays could cause you to miss the state’s four-year statute of limitations or the time limit on your warranty.

The best way to prevent your lemon law claim from being invalid due to an expired warranty or the statute of limitations is to speak to a California Lemon Law attorney about your case immediately. A lawyer will be able to handle all aspects of your case, including making certain that you meet all deadlines and resolve the matter as quickly and economically as possible.

What You Need To File Your Claim

In order to file a successful claim, you need to meet the following requirements:
    Your express warranty has not yet expired.

    The vehicle’s defect was covered in your warranty.

    It is less than four years to the date that you discovered you bought a lemon.

    You have taken your vehicle in for multiple repairs that a mechanic has not been able to resolve.

    Your car has spent a significant amount of time at the shop because of vehicle defects.

    The defects are not due to owner negligence, regular wear, an accident, or another cause.

    You have evidence in the form of repair records.

Again, a California Lemon Law attorney can help you examine evidence and evaluate your case, making it easy for you to know if you have a valid claim you should pursue. In the event that your vehicle is a lemon, the manufacturer is responsible for either reimbursing you for the cost of the repairs and vehicle or supplying you with a new one that is free of defects. While some manufacturers may do this without question after you file a report, others may require legal action before they comply.

Contact An Experienced California Lemon Law Attorney

When it comes to getting justice after purchasing a vehicle that is a lemon, acting quickly and carefully is key to winning your case and receiving compensation for your defective vehicle. Attorney Douglas D. Law is committed to helping consumers find justice after receiving a vehicle that is too defective and dangerous to drive. Contact us today for a free consultation pertaining to state lemon laws, written warranties, and time limits.

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"Doug and Kristen were invaluable in getting GM to repurchase my Corvette due to the driveline defects in the car that Chevrolet could not fix after 9 visits. GM and the Chevy dealerships in La Mesa and Mission Valley were not helpful, giving me absurd excuses, runarounds and one time ultimately refusing to write the defects up after demonstrating them to one of their technicians. In short, I highly recommend them to handle any lemon law case you may have."

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