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How Long Can a Dealership Hold Your Car for Repair?

| by Michelle Yang, Esq.

Knowing the answer to the often-asked question of how long a dealership can hold your car for repair is important.

Leasing or purchasing a vehicle comes with the expectation of safety and reliability. However, many car owners encounter unexpected issues, leading them to seek repairs at dealerships. The duration a dealership can hold your car for repair often extends beyond initial estimates, causing inconvenience and concern.

This article explores the various factors that determine the repair duration at a dealership, offering clear guidance for car owners facing extended repair times.

If the dealership has had your car for an extended period of time you may be entitled to compensation under California Lemon Law. Prequalify below or call (310) 627-2665 for a free case evaluation. ¿Hablas Español? Contáctenos ahora para recibir más información.

How Long Does the Dealership Legally Have to Repair Your Car?

how long does the dealership have to repair your car

Regardless of if your car is new or used, the car dealership has 30 days to repair your car as long as the vehicle is under warranty. This 30-day period does not have to be consecutive days. If multiple trips to the dealership result in the dealership holding your car for more than 30 days, you are likely entitled to compensation.

Your car also qualifies for compensation under the lemon law if it was under warranty during two or more repair attempts (Could be less than 30 days).

How long can a mechanic legally keep your car to fix it?

When it comes to independent mechanics or repair shops, the duration they can legally keep your car to fix it is not specifically regulated by law. Unlike dealerships, there is no standard timeframe set for repairs. The time taken to fix your car can vary depending on the complexity of the issue, the availability of parts, the workload of the mechanic, and other factors.

Typically, when you bring your car to a mechanic, they will provide an estimated timeframe for the repairs based on their assessment of the problem. However, it’s important to note that unforeseen complications or delays can arise during the repair process, potentially extending the time it takes to get your car back.

when did you purchase the car

Communication with the mechanic is crucial in understanding the timeline for repairs. It’s recommended to ask for an estimated completion date and regular updates on the progress of the repairs. If the repair process is taking longer than anticipated, it’s advisable to have a conversation with the mechanic to clarify the reasons for the delay and to ensure that work is actively being done on your vehicle.

While there is no specific legal limit on how long a mechanic can keep your car, it’s reasonable to expect that repairs should be completed within a reasonable timeframe. If you feel that the mechanic is unreasonably delaying the repairs or failing to provide adequate communication, it may be necessary to discuss the issue with them or consider seeking assistance from a consumer protection agency or a legal professional.

How Long Can a Dealership Hold Your Car For Warranty Repair

is the car under warranty

Another important factor to consider when determining how long a dealership should hold your car for repairs is whether the vehicle is covered by a warranty. If your car is still within the warranty period, it’s advisable to contact the dealership and inquire about the reason for the delay in repairs. Depending on the nature of the repairs needed, it’s possible that the necessary work may take a significant amount of time to complete.

In the case of used cars, they often come with a limited warranty that has specific conditions. It is crucial to carefully read and understand the details outlined in your warranty before reaching out to the dealership or filing a complaint. Filing a complaint without the protection of a warranty may not yield the desired outcome.

By reviewing your warranty, you can determine the specific rights and remedies available to you in case of a delay in repairs. It’s recommended to pay attention to any stipulations regarding repair timelines or the resolution process. Understanding your warranty will help you navigate the situation effectively and take appropriate action if necessary.

Remember that warranty terms and conditions can vary, so it’s essential to review the specific details of your warranty coverage and consult any relevant state or local consumer protection laws to understand your rights fully.

Did You Get an Agreement From the Dealership?

did you get an agreement from the dealership

One of the crucial steps you can take to ensure that you receive your car back from the repair shop within a reasonable timeframe is to have a written agreement that specifies the expected duration for the repairs. While there is no legal requirement for a signed agreement before repairs, having a written document outlining the timeframe is highly recommended.

By having a written agreement, you have a tangible piece of evidence to support your claim in case the dealership holds your vehicle for an extended period. This agreement can serve as proof of the expected completion date and can be used to establish the dealership’s obligations. It is always advisable to retain a copy of this agreement for your records.

It’s important to note that insurance companies typically allow around 10-20 days for repairs. While this timeframe may be sufficient for warranty repairs, it may vary depending on the nature and complexity of the repairs needed. However, the specific duration can differ between insurance policies and individual circumstances.

Remember to communicate openly with the repair shop and request regular updates on the progress of the repairs. If the repair process exceeds the agreed-upon timeframe or if there are significant delays without a valid reason, referring to the written agreement can help facilitate discussions and potentially resolve the issue more effectively.

How Can You Receive Compensation For A Defective Car?

how can you receive compensation for a defective car

The Lemon law protects consumers who have purchased bad cars. If you purchase a vehicle experiencing issues due to a manufacturing defect, it’s a lemon and may be protected under the lemon law.

Lemon laws are not uniform across the nation but regulated from state to state. If you think you have a lemon you’ll want to look at lemon laws in your state to learn what rights you have. In general, lemon laws consider the car’s issues, how long the owner has been without a vehicle, and how often the owner has sent it for repair.

After considering all the information, the manufacturer may be required to repurchase the car or provide you with a replacement vehicle. 

When opting to make a complaint against a manufacturer, make sure that your paperwork is in order. Documenting everything that happens with your car will help you file a successful claim.

You should document when you started having troubles with the car, what those issues are, when you took the vehicle to the repair shop, how many times, receipts, and how much money, if any, you have spent attempting to get your vehicle fixed.

Steps You Should Take If The Dealership Has Held Your Car For Too Long

After you have given the manufacturer a reasonable amount of time (30 days) to fix your car and gathered your paperwork, your first course of action would be to contact a lemon law attorney

The attorney will gather all valid proof like work orders and invoices for your case. You’ll also want to state what you see as a proper solution, but be clear about what that solution is. If you want a refund, request it. Don’t leave any action you want done unsaid.

An attorney will review the merits of your case at no cost to you. They will then handle any and all communicate with the manufacturer to handle your case.

Cali Lemon Lawyers can do the work and help you get what you deserve. California’s Lemon law states that you may be eligible to get your money back or get another car if your new car can’t be fixed by the dealership, even after several attempts. The law is on your side! 

If you are in this predicament, contact Cali Lemon Lawyers to assist. Let’s turn your lemon into lemonade!

Comments (15)
  • car has been at shop approx. 6 weeks it was towed on Nov.14 2022 for transmission problems it is under the Extended warranty Ford Motor Warranty. the warranty company says if they say its the transmission all they have to do is call them for authortion to replace it. the dealer says they have to tear it apart and send the warranty com. pictures. Warranty company disagrees. I purchased the car new from this dealer. it’s a 2016 ford escape Has 80000 miles on it with a the warranty is good for 160000 miles with a $500.00 deductable. so far i’v paid over $2000.00 in cash for a rental to get back and forth to work. Now I’m a 72 year lady still working to make a living and i can’t continue to pay this money out. Please give me some info on how to precede with this problem.

  • I have a 2013 Hyundai Sonata. My car has been at the dealership for engine failure recall repair for more than two months. They don’t give me any estimated completion days! once they did, the first week of January but they said their mechanic and service manager quit, and now they can’t give me any date… He said months. They don’t give me a loaner because of the volume of waiting for other cars/customers, the corporate only provides a low $ amount for rental and I have to pay everything up front and get reimbursed. Too much money to spend, I can’t do that.

    I need my car. They shouldn’t be able to tell me there is nothing we can do!

    • Have you received any update? I’m in the exact same boat, same year and model as well. Mine blew up March 5, 2023 & they still have my car today, May 5, 2023 without any update. Says they’re waiting on diagnostics to approve the repair/replacement. Unable to give loaner due to number of cars waiting for repairs as well.

  • I bought my 2014 Jeep Cherokee with 27K miles on it from Autonation in June 2022. Late 2022, the transmission light came on and I took it to the dealership. They said it the computer codes just needed updated and it wasn’t covered by warranty so I paid $400. Well, in December I relocated to PA and the transmission light came on again so I took it to a dealership in PA on 12/21/22. They said they just cleared some codes and it was fine. Then Jan 4th the light came back on and I took it back to them. It took them over a week to diagnose my car because they ordered the transmission on 1/18/23. Today is 2/16/23 and I still do not have my car and it only has 35K miles on it. My extended warranty gave me 10 days rental car for up to $35/day. I’ve used up those days and I still do not have my car. It’s been over a month. The transmission was ordered on 1/18/23 with an initial eta of 1/30…then 2/1….then 2/7….then 2/15 and now 2/22. I always have to call the dealership because they never call to give me updates. However, when I reached out to Chrysler to open a case…they dealership let me know that chrysler called them and it’s not their fault….I understand but the dealership is not giving me a loaner and now I have to pay out of pocket. That is not fair and I need my job for work. I paid a car note, car insurance but I don’t have my car and it seems like nobody cares. MOPAR was rude and told me due to the year of my car and mileage, I need to deal with the dealership. Well, the parts come from them. This is frustrating and not fair to the consumer.

    • I feel your pain, as I am in a similar situation with a 2019 Jeep Cherokee that I bought from Autonation. Nobody seems to be able to diagnose the problem and the shop (Spitzer) they had me take it to for repairs has had it since 4/20! That’s 134 days (nearly 4 and a half months) with no end i is n sight. I have spent more than $3600 on car rental (my 10 day/$350. Extended warranty coverage barely helped) and am creating a huge amount of debt for myself being that I still have to make car payments on top of that each month. Nobody and the extended warranty insurance company, the Jeep dealership or Autonation really seems to care.
      If would love to know the outcome of your situation if possible because I am beyond frustrated don’t know what to do.

  • Francisco Guzman

    I purchased my 2023 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited cash in late November 2022. I was at work, used my car and the check engine light came on. I took it to the Hyundai dealership where I purchased it on March 06, 2023 and left it there with them… I did not receive any loaner or anything and had to use Lyft to get back home. They diagnosed my vehicle seven days later and I finally received a loaner vehicle. My new car which I purchased cash and only had 1,169 miles on it is still with them and it has almost been two months. They keep telling me that they have no ETA of when the part will arrive or when I will be getting my vehicle back. I am at the point of just telling them to give me a new car since my car is practically new itself.

  • Have a Jeep Cherokee that the ptu went out under warranty. Been at the garage for 3 months, they claim there is no parts in the country to fix the vehicle. Could this be considered a lemon?? Could be many more months or even over a year till we get it back it if stops at that.

      • Jared I’m dealing with the same exact issue with my 2021 jeep Cherokee the PTU went out for the second time while I was driving back ordered until who knows when

  • I took my car to the dealership it’s a 2017 Ford mustang 5.0 with ,45,000 on it I took it initially I had a a burn out the clutch and check engine light was on so they had it for 2 weeks I finally went and got it and all they do is fix the clutch they were supposed to do a recall too on the backup camera and check the AC fix the seat they didn’t know that they took them two weeks to fix the clutch then I took it back up there a week later or so and for the check engine light and it was for a misfire and for somehow or another it had a rolled bearing is what they say and but the warranty covered in everything so I get a new motor but now it’s going on 30 days that they have my car the second time the first time they had it 16 days then now this time they’ve had it for 30 days so that’s that’s crazy I want my car back

  • I took my 2019 Kia soul to Kia after paying $350 to a mechanic who told me my head gasket was blown. I’ve only had the car for about 8 months and it’s under warranty. Kia still has it going on week 2 and keep saying they need an estimate from the warranty company. They don’t have any loaner vehicles and I feel like I’m about to be out of a car for a while now. They also mentioned making me sign something if they do remove the engine that if anything doesn’t work after that I will be responsible for paying for it.

  • We took our 2021 Kia telluride in to get serviced, later I noticed the sunroof was tilted open and wouldn’t close, we took it back in to get repaired on April 18th, its been 3 months, they still have the car saying the part is backordered and they don’t know when it will be in and they can’t just put the sunroof back on because the rails are broken and there’s nothing we can do until the part arrives. Last time we stopped by to get some stuff out of the car it was sitting in an open parking lot with the sunroom disassembled in the trunk of the car with and nothing covering the top of the vehicle. I don’t know if its been covered since but it rained for a whole week and the temperature is reaching mid 90’s…..They did provide a rental but its small and smells like sweat.

  • Hello. I trade in my old vehicle and bought a brand new VW Taos in August 2021. Then on April 18, 2023 I dropped off my car to the VW dealer for repair due to a warning light on the dashboard about the coolant. Morning of Day 1-2 they didn’t have a loaner for me so I had to take BART and UBER to get to work. I inquired about a rental reimbursement but that was ignored. Then, day 3 they provided me a crappy loaner 2013 VW Passat so I took that one. Still, I asked for a different loaner after maybe three weeks because the steering wheel was so hard to maneuver and to be honest, it was embarrassing to drive. They then provided me with another VW Taos loaner that I’ve been using since May 2023. To get a long story short, my car is still at the dealer for the same reason they tell me every time I ask for an update because it’s almost six months now. Their reason is that some parts already came in but still waiting one that is still on backorder. ”

    I’ve been paying on my auto loan and vehicle insurance and even renewed my vehicle registeation in August. My vehicle that’s been dropped off at the dealer has only 10,620 miles. Do I have a case here?

    Please advise.

    Thank you kindly.

  • We purchased a 2017 Hyundai Elantra brand new. It has 107,584 miles. Purchased extended warranty for extra $3,000. In August it just quit in the middle of the road. Called Crain Hyundai of Fort Smith was told they couldn’t look at until September 28 at 11am. Had the car towed in on September 27. Been calling every couple of days since for an update. Keep being told they still haven’t gotten to look at the car. It’s been 2 months. Every time I call get told something different, 2 of the guys no longer work there, new service manager as well. Every time I do call the service manager acts like he has no clue I called a day or two before, like it’s the first time we are speaking! Can’t get a loaner until they find out if it’s covered. What can I do now?

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Consumer protection laws in California and nationwide actively protect buyers of vehicles and other consumer goods. They hold a particular importance when purchasing or leasing a new vehicle. The California Lemon Law grants legal rights to those who find themselves with a vehicle that continually fails to function properly, providing a pathway to seek resolution and potential compensation.

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