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California Vehicle Lemon Law Process

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Protection Act, California’s Lemon Law, gives California consumers remedies for qualified defective vehicles. However, the California vehicle lemon law does not apply to vehicle issues that are not covered by a warranty, such as problems that arise from the buyer’s unauthorized or unreasonable use of the vehicle.

In order to qualify under the California vehicle lemon law, the consumer must

  •     Own or lease a vehicle that is covered under warranty; and
  •     Give the manufacturer or its authorized dealerships a reasonable number of opportunities to repair the defect.

The vehicle must be repaired within the warranty period. If a consumer waits to have the vehicle repaired until after the expiration of the warranty, California vehicle lemon law protections will not apply.

Consumer Remedies Available Under the California Vehicle Lemon Law

If a California consumer believes his or her vehicle is defective, the consumer should deliver the vehicle to the manufacturer or its authorized dealership for repairs. If the authorized repair facility is unable to repair the vehicle after a reasonable number of repair attempts and the car qualifies under California’s Vehicle Lemon Law, the consumer may elect to:

  •     Return the defective vehicle to the retail seller for a repurchase; or
  •     If offered by the manufacturer, return the defective vehicle in exchange for a comparable replacement vehicle.

Vehicle Repurchase

For vehicles meeting the requirements under the California vehicle lemon law, a repurchase recovery includes:

  •     a refund of a down payment made;
  •     refund of monthly finance payments;
  •     pay-off of the outstanding loan;
  •     reimbursement of incidental expenses (such as rental car expenses, repair costs, towing costs, etc); and
  •     collateral charges (such as sales tax, finance charges, etc).

For leased vehicles, repurchase damages include:

  •     a refund of the lease inception payment;
  •     refund of monthly lease payments;
  •     payment of remaining lease obligations;
  •     reimbursement of incidental expenses (such as rental car expenses, repair costs, towing costs, etc); and
  •     collateral charges (such as sales tax, finance charges, etc);

With vehicle repurchase involving either a purchase or a lease, the manufacturer will be entitled to a credit for the consumer’s good use before the vehicle was first presented for repair. This mileage offset credit will be deducted from the consumer’s recovery.

Vehicle Replacement

While replacements are recognized under the Lemon Law, they have not been commonly offered by the manufacturers for the past decade or two. If the manufacturer elects to repurchase the car and refund the consumer’s money pursuant to the Song-Beverly Act, it may do so in lieu of offering a replacement. That is, a consumer cannot demand a replacement vehicle instead of a repurchase if a replacement vehicle is not being offered by the manufacturer. This is likely due to scarcity and inventory issues that may arise.

Similarly, a manufacturer cannot force a replacement on a consumer. A consumer has the right to demand a repurchase instead of a replacement, presumably because many consumers will have lost trust in the make or model.

In sum, the manufacturer has the following options to address the defective vehicle:

  •     Service or repair the defective vehicle to conform to the applicable warranty within a reasonable number of opportunities; or
  •     Repurchase the vehicle pursuant to the California vehicle lemon law, including refund to the buyer and taking the vehicle back; or
  •     Replace the defective vehicle with a vehicle that is reasonably comparable to the defective vehicle (if the manufacturer offers and the consumer so elects).

Talk with an Attorney About the California Vehicle Lemon Law

If you feel you have a California vehicle lemon law claim, it is important that you consult an experienced lawyer to evaluate your case. Our office provides free attorney document consultation.

Moreover, California’s vehicle lemon law requires the automobile manufacturer to pay hourly attorney’s fees for consumers who bring a successful lemon law action against the manufacturer. This enables Bickel Sannipoli APC to represent all our clients on a contingency basis and with no up-front fees.

Questions About California Vehicle Lemon Law? We Can Help

Contact the California vehicle lemon law attorneys at Bickel Sannipoli APC for assistance with your lemon law claim. To reach our experienced lawyers, call us at 888-523-4790 or contact us online to speak with a California lemon law attorney.

We have offices in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

 

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BICKEL SANNIPOLI APC