What Relief Are Consumers Entitled To Under California’s Lemon Law?

Experienced Lemon Law Attorney for Consumer Relief

A purchaser, or lessee, of a motor vehicle has clearly defined rights under California’s Lemon Law. Section 1793.22 of the California Civil Code provides that if a motor vehicle does not perform as provided by the express written warranty and the manufacturer or its agent is unable to fix the motor vehicle after a reasonable number of repair attempts, consumers may seek relief under the Lemon Law. But what exactly does “consumer relief” mean, and how can the owner or lessee of a vehicle access that relief?

If, after a reasonable number of repair attempts, the manufacturer or its agent is unable to resolve a defect covered under the warranty that affects the use, value or safety of the motor vehicle, the manufacturer is required to replace the motor vehicle or refund the purchase price to the consumer.

Consumers should note, however, that even if their motor vehicle qualifies under the Lemon Law, the consumer does not automatically receive a replacement vehicle or monetary compensation. The manufacturer is afforded an opportunity to argue to a judge or arbitrator that:

  • They have not been afforded a reasonable number of repair attempts.
  • The vehicle does not qualify under the law.
  • The defect is not one covered under the express written warranty.
  • The defect is not a material defect and does not substantially affect the use, value, or safety of the vehicle.
  • The defect was caused by abuse or lack of proper maintenance on the part of the consumer.

If a manufacturer argues that you do not qualify for relief under California’s Lemon Law, you can counter the argument with your own facts and evidence. This could include maintenance records, repair records, proof of warranty, and proof of material defect.

How To Seek Relief After Discovering You Are Driving A Lemon

It is not out of the ordinary to have a mechanical or electrical issue with a vehicle, even if it is relatively new. However, it is not in any way normal to buy or lease a vehicle that suffers from chronic issues that land it in the shop repeatedly for extended amounts of time. If your vehicle is spending more time with a mechanic than in your possession – and if the issues it suffers from are covered by its warranty – you may have rights when it comes to seeking relief. To begin the process, be sure to:

  • Keep maintenance records of your vehicle, to prove that you cared for your car or truck as outlined in the warranty.
  • Keep repair records of your vehicle, so that you can establish that your car or truck has spent an unreasonable amount of time in the shop, without proper results.
  • Closely read your warranty to make sure that your vehicle’s defects are covered.
  • Talk to a California Lemon Law lawyer about the details of your case.
  • Report your case and request relief through written notice.

The Two Types Of Relief Under California Lemon Law

If the arbitrator or judge determines that the motor vehicle is considered defective under the law and that a consumer is entitled to relief in the form of a replacement vehicle or monetary compensation – the choice as to form of relief is left solely to the consumer.

Monetary compensation includes money paid by the consumer for manufacturer installed items but will not include aftermarket items installed by a dealer. If the consumer chooses monetary relief, he or she is entitled to a refund of all monies invested in the defective motor vehicle, which could include:

  • The down payment
  • Monthly finance payments
  • Payoff of the finance contract

The consumer is also entitled to recover expenses such as towing costs, rental car fees and repair costs. Whether the consumer chooses monetary relief or a replacement motor vehicle, the manufacturer is responsible for all sales and use tax, official fees including license and registration and any incidental damages incurred during the repair attempt process.

California’s Lemon Law does provide a specific formula for new motor vehicles. This formula is used to offset mileage caused by consumer usage prior to the first warranty repair attempt. These definitive rules for new motor vehicles may not apply to used vehicles because there is no set formula for determining the value of consumer usage for a used vehicle.

Choosing Between Monetary Compensation and a Replacement Vehicle

Some consumers wish to replace their defective vehicle, while others wish to have their vehicle repurchased by the manufacturer in exchange for a refund. How should you choose between the two options?

You should understand that if you accept a replacement, it will be with a vehicle that is either identical or equivalent to the one that was a lemon. While this may be a good option for a buyer or lessee who was mostly happy with their car and would simply like to move on from their lemon, it may not be the best choice for those who fear that an identical or equivalent car may suffer from similar issues.

On the other hand, getting monetary compensation includes recovering your down payment, your finance payments, related expenses, and incidental expenses. You can use these funds to buy another vehicle, pay for alternate forms of transportation, or for anything you choose.

Relief When You Have Been Leasing a Lemon

In California, you can seek relief from your lemon whether you have purchased a vehicle traditionally, or whether you have leased a vehicle through a leasing company. Everything about the process is the same, from proving that your vehicle has a material defect, to proving that you have taken reasonable steps to fix the defects through repair. However, relief may look slightly different for people seeking compensation for a leased vehicle rather than a vehicle they own. The leasing company will owe you compensation for the money you have put into the car or will have to replace your car with one that does not have material defects. Winning your lemon claim will allow you to break your lease agreement and rid yourself of the faulty vehicle.

A refund for leasing a lemon may include:

  • All payments made under the lease agreement
  • Incidental expenses such as towing costs, alternative transportation, and repair charges
  • The amount of any trade-in

Get Consumer Relief After Buying Or Leasing a Lemon In California by Speaking with a Skilled California Attorney Today

Driving a lemon is stressful, frustrating, expensive, and possibly dangerous to you and your family. Getting relief can mean once again having a safe and reliable form of transportation. If you believe that you have purchased or leased a vehicle with material defects, a knowledgeable California Lemon Law lawyer can help you better understand your case, review your legal options, and ultimately help you get relief for your car or truck, whether in the form of a reimbursement or a replacement vehicle.

At the Law Offices of Douglas D. Law, our legal team is ready and waiting to help you with your lemon case with thoughtfulness, care, and compassion. To learn more about our legal services, to ask a question, or to start the process of ditching your lemon, contact us today about the relief provided for consumers under the California Lemon Law.

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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