Does California’s Lemon Law Apply to Leased Vehicles?

Leased Vehicles and Reputable California Lemon Law Lawyer

There are a number of benefits to leasing a vehicle instead of buying it: you don’t have to provide a down payment, you can drive an updated car, you can have a lower monthly payment, and you can bring the car back to the dealer without having to worry about trade-in values. However, there are also a few downsides to leasing vehicles. Some drivers who lease their car or truck may worry that not buying means getting stuck with a lemon: does the Lemon Law apply to California’s leased vehicles?

Leased Vehicles Are Protected under California Laws

Protection under the Lemon Law varies from state to state with changing degrees of coverage depending on the consumer’s situation. Fortunately, if you are a resident of California and have a leased car or truck, you are afforded the same rights under the law as someone who purchased a vehicle.

California’s Lemon Law, a provision of the more general Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, provides protection for consumers who buy or lease a defective motor vehicle. The law requires a manufacturer of a defective motor vehicle, whether new, used, or leased, to replace the vehicle or compensate the consumer monetarily should the manufacturer be unable to fix the defect after a reasonable number of repair attempts. Therefore, leasing a motor vehicle instead of purchasing a motor vehicle will not limit rights to consumer protection.

The precise wording of the statute itself may be confusing to consumers. The statute uses words such as “buyer” and “bought” throughout that may lead consumers of leased vehicles to believe that their defective motor vehicle is not covered under California’s Lemon Law. While the wording of the statute may be misleading, the California Legislature and California Courts are clear that leased motor vehicles receive the same protection as purchased motor vehicles under the law.

Understanding Material Defects

Consumers of leased motor vehicles should remember that the law specifically applies to material defects covered under the manufacturer’s express written warranty. A material defect is one that affects the use, value, or safety of the motor vehicle. Should a manufacturer not provide an express written warranty for the leased motor vehicle, the consumer will not be afforded protection under the law. The law may also not be applicable if a judge or arbitrator finds that the defect is not material, or is not a defect that was specifically provided for under the express written warranty.

Canceling a Lease Because of Car Defects

It is not as easy as going to your leasing company and asking them to cancel your lease because of a vehicle defect. You have signed a contract with the company that outlines the circumstances in which your lease can be terminated and you must read this contract carefully. However, you should understand that no matter what your contract says, you are protected under California law.

If your leased vehicle has been in the shop multiple times and its issues have not been resolved, you should take the following steps to remedy the situation:

  • Keep close record of your issues, your maintenance, and your repairs.
  • Do not drive a car that has a dangerous defect.
  • Carefully read both your leasing contract and your car’s express warranty.
  • Alert your leasing company that you believe you have leased a lemon.
  • If your claim is denied, consider getting legal help from an experienced California Lemon Law attorney.

If you have leased a lemon and can prove it, the leasing company may need to replace your vehicle, reimburse you for your payments, and/or cancel your lease. An experienced attorney can help you prove that you have a lemon by:

  • helping you understand the law,
  • collecting evidence, and
  • putting together your claim.

Leased Cars & California Lemon Law: Exceptions to the Rule

Although leased cars are covered by the California law, there are still exceptions to the rule for all vehicles. Here are a few common restrictions that could foil your case:

  • Your vehicle’s defects are not considered material defects, such as a defect that affects the use, value, or safety of your vehicle.
  • Your car or truck is defective because of an aftermarket auto part, such as an exhaust system or suspension system.
  • Your vehicle is defective because you have failed to properly maintain it according to the warranty or because you have misused it.
  • Your vehicle is not registered under the California Vehicle Code because they are considered off-road vehicles. This is often the case for dirt bikes, three-wheelers, and four-wheelers.
  • Your vehicle was not leased with an attached express warranty, or the defect in your vehicle is not covered by the express warranty.

Leased Cars for Your Business & California Lemon Laws

Generally, vehicles that your company leases for business purposes are protected by California laws in the same way as your personal vehicles. However, there are two important exceptions, both for cars purchased or leased by businesses:

  • The vehicle in question must weigh less than 10,000 pounds. In other words, the vehicle must be a car, truck, SUV, or motorcycle and must not be a commercial truck or a piece of heavy equipment.
  • Your company must not own or lease more than five vehicles. California law protects small businesses who may be affected by lemons, but does not protect larger companies that have fleets of vehicles. For this reason, your business can only take advantage of this law if you have purchased or are leasing five or fewer vehicles.

Is Your Leased Vehicle a Lemon? Talk to a Skilled California Attorney about Your Case Today

Owning or leasing a lemon can be an extremely stressful, maddening, overwhelming, and frustrating ordeal. You should know that if you have leased a car or truck in California that has undergone an unreasonable number of repairs without being fixed, you have rights under the law. Douglas D. Law and his legal team are here to help. With over 33 years of combined experience in handling lemon cases across the state, we can quickly and economically help you get what you deserve, whether it is a reimbursement or a new working vehicle.

We want to hear your story. If you believe you are leasing a lemon, we invite you call or stop by our office today to learn more about your case, ask a question, or get guidance. Contact us to see how the Lemon Law applies to your vehicle lease.

What Our Clients Say


"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."

- Anonymous


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