What is California Lemon Law

Overview of Lemon Laws in California

A vehicle is an essential and valuable asset for any resident in California. Generally, people buy cars for added convenience and freedom to commute. Even so, you can accidentally buy a car that turns out to be a lemon, resulting in inconvenience through frequent breakdowns and visits to repair shops.

Fortunately, California and other U.S. states have enacted consumer protection laws—lemon laws— to regulate complaints surrounding lemon cases. In a nutshell, California Lemon Law protects consumers whose vehicles cannot be rectified after a ‘’reasonable’’ number of repair attempts.

Moreover, lemon laws apply to vehicles purchased or leased in California and covered by the manufacturer’s new warranty. Here’s what you need to know about lemon laws in California. To discuss a specific concern, reach out to a lemon law attorney in Anaheim.

Which Vehicles Does California Lemon Law Cover?

California lemon law covers new or used vehicles with a vehicle warranty from dealers or manufacturers. Here’s a breakdown of the covered vehicles:

  • Motorcycles, vans, SUVs, pick-up trucks, and cars
  • Chassis cab, chassis, and drivetrain of a motorhome
  • Multiple vehicles purchased or leased for business use
  • Vehicles that are leased or purchased for personal, household, or family reasons

What is a Lemon?

Lemon laws in California stipulate that vehicles must meet several requirements to qualify.

Existing Warranty

The vehicle must have an express and active warranty. An express warranty is a written contract where the dealer or manufacturer promises that the vehicle will perform as it should for a particular time. For instance, a warranty for a new vehicle based on age or miles, e.g., an 18months warranty or 18,000 miles— whichever comes first.

Vehicles From a Dealers or Manufacturers

The lemon laws cover vehicles sold by registered dealers, not private parties.

A Reasonable Number of Attempted Repairs

There’s no set number or repairs to qualify as a lemon. Even so, repairs must meet the below conditions:

  • The dealer or manufacturer hasn’t successfully fixed the defect after four or more attempts.
  • The vehicle defect is still in place after two unsuccessful repair attempts and can cause death or severe injury.
  • The vehicle has been in a repair shop for more than 30 days for a vehicle defect covered by the warranty.

Material Defect

The problem should be a substantial defect that alters the vehicle’s ability to function.

What Are Your Rights If The Manufacturer or Dealer Can’t Fix the Vehicle?

The California lemon law provides the following remedies to vehicle owners.

  • Cash settlement; and payment of lemon law attorney fees and costs
  • Replacement of the lemon car
  • Refund the purchase price

Furthermore, the statute allows the vehicle owner to collect civil penalties if the manufacturer willingly violated California’s lemon law. Keep in mind that civil penalties can be worth twice the vehicle damages. Lastly, it’s advisable to work with a lemon law attorney who has a deeper understanding of rights, damages, and civil penalties.

Time Limit For Filing a Case Under Lemon Laws in California

By principle, every legal proceeding has prescribed time limits. California lemon laws have several time limits that guide car owners on how to file a lemon lawsuit, including:


  • The vehicle defect should have occurred during the warranty period. Any defect that occurs after the warranty is not covered.
  • The California lemon law statute of limitation requires the complaint to be filed within four years of noting the defect.

How Does California Lemon Law Apply to New Cars?

Lemon laws in California cover new and used vehicles that meet the criteria of lemons. It’s prudent to always take cars for repairs to the dealer or manufacturer. In addition, ensure the service crew includes all details of the substantial defects and repair attempts on the service order.

Valerie Campbell

Graduated from graduating UCLA School of Law. After spending years working to defend manufacturers, Valerie realized she was on the wrong side of justice. She now works as a California lemon law attorney for consumers just like you, helping you fight to get your money back so you can purchase a safe, reliable vehicle.