The California Lemon Law does not provide a clear definition of which cars will be considered a lemon; therefore, it is important for consumers who believe that they may have a defective vehicle to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable lemon law attorney. In general, the lemon law protects consumers who have purchased a defective vehicle that exhibits problems covered under an express written warranty. After the manufacturer, or its agent, has been afforded a reasonable opportunity to fix the vehicle’s problems, and has been unsuccessful in doing so, it is likely that the vehicle will be considered a lemon under the lemon law.
There are many factors to consider when determining whether a defective vehicle will be considered a lemon. The initial consumer concerns will likely revolve around the problem the car is having. The consumer should consider whether the problem is covered under the manufacturer’s express written warranty and also whether the problem is considered a material defect under the lemon law. A material defect, also referred to as a nonconformity, is defined under Section 1793.22(e)(1) of the California Civil Code and is considered material when it substantially impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle. Courts will evaluate a material defect from the buyer or lessee’s point of view when deciding whether the use, value or safety has been impaired. However, even if the judge finds in favor of the consumer and determines that the problem is considered a material defect, the defect must still be one that is covered under the manufacturer’s express written warranty. When purchasing or leasing a vehicle, the consumer should secure a written warranty from the manufacturer ensuring the performance and structure of their purchase. Should the consumer fail to obtain this warranty, they will likely receive no relief under the lemon law for their materially defective vehicle.
When considering whether their defective vehicle is a lemon, the consumer must recognize that a judge will make the final determination as to whether their vehicle qualifies under the lemon law. The consumer must still have complied with all aspects of the law by presenting the vehicle to the manufacturer, or its agent, for a reasonable opportunity to repair the defects. The consumer must also have not abused the vehicle by failing to properly maintain its performance and structure. To assure that vehicle abuse does not thwart a lemon law claim, consumers should follow the maintenance schedule as detailed in the manufacturer’s express written warranty. The vehicle should be taken to the manufacturer or an authorized dealer to perform the necessary repairs and, following the repairs, the consumer should receive and save all repair orders showing the problem described by the consumer, the mileage on the odometer at the time of the repair, the date the vehicle was in the repair shop and the date the defective vehicle was returned to the consumer.