Skip to main content


Cali Lemon Lawyers Logo

We Get You Paid Nosotros te pagamos

Fast & Easy 🍋 Rápido y fácil 🍋

California Lemon Law for Replacement Vehicles and New Cars

California Lemon Law for Replacement Vehicles and New Cars

| by Michelle Yang, Esq.

Has your car had issues recently despite multiple repair attempts? The California Lemon Law exists to protect consumers who have purchased or leased a defective vehicle.  If you’ve recently faced challenges with a leased or purchased vehicle in California, understanding the California Lemon Law is crucial.

The lemon law requires that vehicle manufacturers are held accountable for manufacturing defects that meet specific criteria. This article will provide you with everything you need to know to qualify and file a claim for a refund, replacement or cash compensation. 

If you’ve purchased a defective car from a dealer in California you may be entitled to a new replacement vehicle. Please contact Cali Lemon Lawyers for a fast and free lemon law case evaluation. ¿Hablas Español? Contáctenos ahora para recibir más información.

Hiring an experienced California lemon law attorney is an effective way to ensure a favorable outcome and give you the best chance of receiving compensation. With over 40,000 case reviews and thousands of satisfied California lemon law clients, we have the knowledge and experience to help you

What is California Lemon Law?

What is California Lemon Law?

California’s lemon law dictates that in the case of a defective vehicle (as outlined below), the automobile manufacturer must replace it with a new vehicle or refund the cost in full. The law applies if multiple repair attempts have failed to restore the vehicle to a standard that conforms to the manufacturer’s warranty.

Lemon law is different in every state, as it is not a federal law. The qualification requirements are pretty similar across the board, but some states have additional allowances or stricter rules and regulations. California, for example, includes used cars under certain circumstances, whereas other states do not.

California Lemon Law for Replacement Vehicles Vs New Cars

There is a distinction between new and used cars. California only allows for lemon law claims on used cars if the warranties are in place and they meet the necessary criteria. 

California Lemon Law For New Cars

Brand new cars are the most common for successful lemon law cases, mainly because they are under warranty and it is far easier to determine whether or not a defect is the fault of the manufacturer. The rules are generally straightforward and the proceedings are simple.

With new cars, any issues should cause alarm as there has been limited opportunity for any damage to occur. Because of this, buyers are more likely to suspect the vehicle is a lemon. Additionally, all new cars come with an express written warranty and are covered for repairs for a set length of time, increasing the chance of making a viable claim.

California Lemon Law For Used Cars

With more mileage, an increased risk of wear and tear, and more possibility that a fault was caused by driver error, proving your car is a lemon is more difficult, but still possible. California lemon law specifically states that any damage caused during a car’s use does not qualify for a claim and is not eligible for refunds. However, some used cars have minimal usage, mileage, or damage, and may still be under warranty.

If a used vehicle is sold via a dealership, distributor, or manufacturer and comes with any kind of warranty, a subsequently discovered defect falls under their liability. Even if the original warranty has expired, one that is issued by the current seller is still valid. Most dealerships offer a short-term warranty on used cars (around three months) in case of any undetected faults.

A used car lemon claim is a lot more complicated than with a new car. The claimant must be able to prove that a fault is not the result of use and must have a valid warranty in place. If the vehicle was privately purchased, it is almost impossible to pursue a claim.  Seeking legal advice is a necessity in order to successfully navigate the system and to increase the chance of carving out a viable claim.

California Lemon Law Qualifications

California Lemon Law Qualifications

There are several qualifying factors to consider under California lemon law to determine if a defective vehicle qualifies as a lemon. First, the vehicle must be purchased or leased within California and have a registration issued in the state. The car must also be covered by an active manufacturer’s warranty (other than exceptional cases) at the time of the claim. As long as both these criteria are met, used vehicles would also qualify. 

In terms of faults and defects, lemon law considers the following incidences eligible for a claim:

  1. There have been multiple repair attempts (within the warranty period) by the manufacturer or dealer through an authorized repair facility but the defect persists.
  2. The vehicle has a substantial defect that significantly impacts the functionality, value, or safety of the vehicle. A fault is considered substantial if it affects the owner’s ability to drive the car, impairs the safety features of the vehicle, or detracts from the advertised value.
  3. A defective vehicle is simply not possible to repair, despite reasonable attempts. A manufacturer must be given a fair chance to resolve the issue to determine that it is legitimately truly unfixable.
  4. In most lemon law cases, a used car should have less than 18,000 miles on it and be no older than 7 years old. This is not an all-encompassing law by any means but it does provide a guideline for consumers.

Lemon Law Presumption

California lemon law has an extra layer of qualifying specifications, making it unique to other states. Under California Law, lemon law presumption means that a vehicle is presumed to be a lemon under certain unusual circumstances.

A vehicle qualifies as a presumed lemon in California if the vehicle in question spends more than 30 days out of service due to repairs, meaning the owner has lost at least that length of time of use. The lemon law in California also specifies that any more than four repair attempts during the manufacturer’s warranty period is no longer considered a reasonable number of attempts, meaning a presumption claim is viable.

Additionally, California lemon law specifies that the faults cannot result from driver error, abuse, or any other external factor. There must be a defect that was present in the original vehicle at the time of sale.

California is also strict with time limits when compared to some other states. It is very rare for any claim to resolve successfully if not filed within the constraints of the manufacturer’s express written warranty. According to the statute of limitations, California law allows up to four years for a lemon law claim.

Lemon Law Case Entitlement

Lemon Law Case Entitlement

If the vehicle manufacturer cannot restore the product to the warranty-level condition and all other criteria are met, the consumer is entitled to a cash settlement or a vehicle replacement. Some straightforward cases are settled quickly and privately if there are minimal additional costs involved for both the consumer and the manufacturer.

Law offices step in to provide legal advice when a consumer feels the private offer is unreasonable and works to resolve the case without the need to take it to trial. It is rare for a lemon law case to reach court in California as the law is clear and defective vehicles are not uncommon. Contacting a California law firm with experience in the lemon law process is a wise decision to ensure maximum settlement in a minimal time frame.

Lemon Law Buyback VS Replacement Vehicle

There are two options when resolving a defective vehicle dispute under California lemon law. Lemon law buybacks refer to incidents where the manufacturer repays the cost of the vehicle to the consumer, essentially buying it back. Alternatively, the manufacturer replaces the purchase with a substantially identical vehicle.

Many clients are unsure about what route to take when pursuing their claim, and it may depend on what the manufacturer wants to offer. Here is some additional information about what each solution entails. Always seek legal advice before confirming either a lemon buyback or a vehicle replacement.

Lemon Buyback

Lemon Buyback

Essentially, a lemon buyback is a refund. The cost of purchasing or leasing the vehicle (both the down payment and any monthly payments owed) is, in most cases, paid back in full. That applies to vehicles bought outright, on payment plans, paid for on loan, or obtained through an extended lease agreement.

It is not only the purchase price that is refundable through California’s lemon law buyback policy. Various other fees and charges may be claimable as part of the buyback plan, from tow expenses to sales tax, although exactly what depends entirely on the individual case.

Some possible inclusions in a lemon law buyback are:

  1. Payment of any outstanding loan balance and finance charges
  2. Purchase down payment
  3. Towing charges
  4. Repair expenses
  5. Registration fees, license fees, and other official fees
  6. Sales tax
  7. Cost of a rental car

People who have been forced to pay significant amounts of money between the first repair attempt and the final tow expenses before deciding to file a claim may benefit more from a buyback.

Arrange a free case evaluation with our dedicated and experienced lawyers to find out how much you may be entitled to, and to ensure you receive the entire amount.

Reasonable attorneys’ fees are also covered as part of a lemon law settlement under Californian and Federal laws – if not in full, then at least a significant contribution. This is discussed and determined on a case-by-case basis.

California Lemon Law For Vehicle Replacement

The alternative is vehicle replacement, where the original vehicle (the defective vehicle) is exchanged for a substantially identical model. What that means legally is that the new vehicle must be the same car to all extents and purposes. Model, make, year, color, interior, etc.- everything should be as close to identical as possible. The service contract should also be the same. As should the warranty period and all specifications under the agreement.

If a claimant opts for a vehicle replacement agreement and decides to continue in the established service contract, they are still entitled to a refund for any tow expenses and the cost of a rental car hired in the interim, via monthly payments and a down payment as per the specified agreement. Vehicle replacement is the best option for someone who loves everything other than the vehicle’s defects. Rather than receiving the money only to repeat the process of buying the very same car, it is easier to cut to the chase.

Cost Deductions

Cost Deductions

Manufacturers are required to repay the fees that typically accompany a reasonable number of repair attempts, associated costs and registration fees, and the defective vehicle itself. However, California lemon law allows for a mileage offset.

A used car or other used vehicle can be eligible for a lemon law claim under certain circumstances, but there are additional specifications. If a car has a fair amount of additional miles on it since the date of initial purchase, the manufacturer can apply to reduce the monthly payments to accommodate a reduced vehicle value. Mileage Offset adjusts the proposed value of a car from the date of purchase and can reduce the overall final claim.

Why Hire a Lemon Law Attorney?

A California lemon law attorney can provide expert legal advice and guidance throughout the claims process. Our experienced attorney team offers a free case evaluation to determine the validity of a lemon law claim before embarking on the legal journey.

The lemon law process can be complicated and long-winded, with many elements that must align in order to successfully complete a claim. A lawyer works on the client’s behalf to pursue cash settlements in full, or to obtain a suitable and approved replacement vehicle. If there is a valid lemon law claim to fight for, our dedicated and experienced attorneys are ready to deliver results.

All interactions and proceedings are protected under the attorney-client relationship confidentiality agreement, and the attorneys’ fees are determined on a case-to-case basis.

California Lemon Law Frequently Asked Questions

How long do proceedings usually take?

There is no set time that a lemon law claim is expected to take, as every case is unique. 90 days is a reasonable time for an experienced lemon law attorney to resolve a case, but some may take far longer. It is rare for a lemon law case to go to trial, but if it does, it may take as long as a year.

The best way to ensure maximum compensation as soon as possible is to contact a lemon law lawyer as soon as you think you may have a case. Most attorneys do not charge any fees unless they are able to successfully win your case.

Does Lemon Law apply to a leased vehicle?

Yes, it does. Almost all faulty vehicles under 18 months old or with less than 18,000, either leased or bought outright, are eligible for a claim under California lemon law. The only exceptions are pre-owned motorcycles, some off-roading vehicles, and certain motor homes. Classic cars that are registered under section 401 of the vehicle and traffic law are also not eligible.

Is my rental car covered in a California lemon law claim?

According to California law, a vehicle is presumed to be a lemon if it spends more than 30 days in-shop and out of commission. If a driver must hire a rental car in the interim in order to continue with normal life then the manufacturer is liable for those fees. If you hire a rental car during the first repair attempt only, it may not be recoverable, as a reasonable chance was not given to the manufacturer to repair the faults.

What should I do if I suspect I have a lemon vehicle?

The first thing a person must do in the event of a suspected lemon law case is to report it directly to the vehicle manufacturer. Notifying them of the possible defect is always the first step, regardless of the state. After the formal notification is provided, then the process may differ. Contacting an experienced attorney at the beginning of your claim is the best way to ensure all steps are followed correctly, compliantly, and efficiently.


California Lemon Law is an essential legislation that helps to protect people from faulty equipment and motor vehicles. Defective vehicles are out there and are incredibly frustrating to deal with. If you have purchased or leased a faulty vehicle and believe that you may have a viable lemon law claim, do not hesitate to contact our team.

Arrange a free consultation to discuss the details of your case or to acquire additional information about lemon laws in the state of California. There are no retainer fees if you decide to pursue a claim with the assistance of our fiercely dedicated team, nor are there and upfront costs to get the ball rolling.

A manufacturer’s fault is not the consumer’s financial responsibility, so do not let it go un-repaid.

Contact our California lemon law experts to receive the compensation you deserve.

(866) 352-0208


See If Your Car Qualifies for Compensation!

Start Your FREE Case Review

or give us a call at:

(310) 627-2665

5 Stars
See If You Qualify for Compensation!

Start Your FREE Case Review

5 Stars
Skip to content