According to the Tanner Consumer Protection Act of California (sometimes referred to as the California Lemon Law), consumers may be able to require a manufacturer to repurchase a vehicle if the vehicle has a defect that cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts. Additionally, according to the Lemon Law, within the first 18 months of owning a vehicle (or 18,000 miles of driving – whichever comes first), if any one of these three conditions is met, the vehicle is presumed to be a lemon, and a buyer may be entitled to a replacement car or a refund of his money:
- The owner has made two (or more) attempts to fix a problem that makes the car unsafe to drive – without success.
- The manufacturer (or authorized dealer) has tried to repair the same defect four times or more – without success.
- Your motor vehicle has been rendered out of service for more than 30 days due to warranty repairs.
A skilled attorney will tell you that even if the above "presumption" conditions are not met, you may still be entitled to your money back or a new car if your vehicle cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts. The rules, however, governing manufacturer repurchases can be quite complicated, and the Lemon Law is subject to reasonable interpretation. Manufacturers, for instance, might claim that the damage is not "substantial," that the car has indeed been repaired, or that the consumer is making up the problem or blowing it out of proportion.
One important term to know is "nonconformity." A nonconformity is a problem that substantially impairs the use, value or safety of a vehicle to the leaseholder or buyer. Essentially, it's what most people would call a defect.
Not all defects will be substantial enough to merit a manufacturer buyback, however, such as:
- Problems with a radio or CD player
- Car paint irregularities
- Less than optimal gas mileage
Some problems may be hard to define. For example, if your engine light doesn't work, this may or may not be considered a substantial nonconformity, as it may just be a broken light or an indication there is a serious engine problem.
In clear cut cases, such as the car's brake system repeatedly failing even after multiple repair attempts, consumers may have a (relatively) easy time demonstrating that they deserve a buyback, replacement or other compensation. But, in more harder to define cases, manufacturers may fight your case vigorously, drawing on expert testimony and leveraging the power of skilled attorneys.
Other times, manufacturers may offer an unsatisfying halfway solution – providing bad repairs, partial refunds or a replacement car that does not match the vehicle originally purchased.
On related subjects, you have lemon law rights if you bought a used car still protected by the manufacturer's warranty or if the warranty repair attempts occured after the 18 months/18,000 miles presumption period. The Lemon Law also has a four-year statute of limitations – that is, you have up to four years from the time you knew (or should have known) that your vehicle was indeed a lemon to take legal action.
According to the Tanner Consumer Protection Act, if you purchased a lemon vehicle in California, you may be entitled to a replacement vehicle or a refund of your money. Here are the essential differences between these two kinds of compensation.
You select a vehicle similar to the lemon you purchased. You need to return your old car, and the manufacturer supplies you with a new one from it's own stock.
If you opt for the refund option, you also must return the old vehicle. As explained in our section about the California lemon law usage fee, the manufacturer can exact a usage fee based on how many miles you drove the vehicle before you made your first defect repair attempt. The usage fee also applies when you choose a replacement vehicle as your compensation.
Your refund can include compensation for:
- Loan or lease payoff
- Monthly payments you made
- Down payment
- Licensing fees
- Registration fees
- Taxes paid
- Costs of repair, towing, and rentals you needed while you awaited servicing
To qualify as actionable under the Californian Lemon Law, a defect or nonconformity must substantially impair the use, value or safety of your vehicle. For instance, if you have a problematic transmission that does not respond after a reasonable number of repair attempts, your car would likely be deemed a lemon.
To determine whether a defect is a "substantial impairment" affecting the use, value or safety of the vehicle, consider the following factors:
- The amount of time and cost necessary for the repair
- Whether attempts in the past to repair the vehicle have worked
- The nature of the defect
- The degree to which you could use the car while waiting for the repair to be done
Not every defect will be deemed substantial. If your air conditioner is slightly underpowered, this may not be seen as substantial enough to merit filing a lemon law claim.
Contact a Consumer Advocate Attorney Today
To navigate your options and get fair and prompt redress, connect with the Law Offices of Howard D. Silver at 818-597-2610. Howard Silver has a high success rate and has been practicing for decades, helping consumers like you get results.
Browse this lemon law website for more information, fill out our online contact form, or call our veteran lemon lawyer today for a free consultation.