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California Lemon Law Basics

California Lemon Law Basics

Vehicles covered

The California lemon law covers motor vehicles (including the chassis cab of a motor home, a dealer-owned vehicle, a “demonstrator”, or other vehicle sold with a manufacturer’s vehicle warranty) that:
• is used or bought for use primarily for personal, family or household purposes, or
• has a gross vehicle weight under 10,000 pounds and be bought or used primarily for business purposes by any person or business to which at least one but not more than five motor vehicles are registered in California.

In addition, the motor vehicle must have been:
•purchase or leased at retail in California, or
•purchased or leased by a full-time active duty member of the Armed Forces who was stationed or residing in California at the time of purchase or lease or at the time the claim is filed.

Consumers covered

The lemon law covers a “consumer,” defined as:
1. Any individual who buys or leases a new motor vehicle from a person engaged in the business of manufacturing, distributing, selling or leasing new motor vehicles at retail;
2. A lessee for a term exceeding four months; and
3. Any individual to whom the vehicle is transferred during the duration of a written warranty or who is entitled under applicable state law to enforce the obligations of the warranty.

“Person” means any individual, partnership, corporation, limited liability company, association, or other legal entity that engages in such business.

Problems Covered

The lemon law covers vehicle nonconformities, which are defined as any vehicle defect or malfunction that:
1. Is covered by the manufacturer’s written new vehicle warranty and
2. Substantially impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle to the consumer.
The California lemon law does not cover vehicle problems that are caused by the unauthorized or unreasonable use of the vehicle after sale.


If the manufacturer or its representative in California is unable to service or repair a vehicle to conform to the applicable express warranties after a reasonable number of attempts, the manufacturer must either replace or repurchase the vehicle. 

remedies under the California lemon law


The California lemon law provides that the manufacturer must refund to the purchaser the following amounts when repurchasing an owned vehicle under the lemon law:
1. Purchase price or lease payments plus pay-off. The actual price paid for the vehicle, including any charges for transportation and manufacturer-installed options, but not including charges for nonmanufacturer items installed by a dealer or the consumer;
2. Collateral charges. Official fees associated with the sale of the vehicle, including sales tax, license fees, and registration fees; and
3. Incidental damages. Reasonable expenses incident to the vehicle problem for which the manufacturer is repurchasing the vehicle, not including charges for which the consumer is justly responsible. Incidental damages include but are not limited to the following:
•Reasonable repair, towing and rental car costs actually incurred by the consumer. •Prepayment penalties, early termination charges and earned finance charges, if actually paid, incurred, or to be incurred by the consumer.


The lemon law provides that a replacement vehicle must be new and substantially identical to the vehicle replaced. The replacement vehicle must be accompanied by all express and implied warranties that normally accompany new motor vehicles of that kind. When replacing a vehicle, the manufacturer must pay for collateral charges incurred in connection with the replacement vehicle. The manufacturer does not have to pay for collateral charges incurred in connection with the purchase of the original vehicle.

This is information is not meant to be legal advice.  for a complete understanding of the law surrounding issues with your vehicle, contact us for a no-hassle, no-obligation, free consultation.

Ray Naderi