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The California "Lemon Law"

The California Lemon Law (officially known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty act, found in California Civil Code sections 1790 et seq.) is a law designed to protect consumers who purchase or lease warranted motor vehicles. If it is determined that a motor vehicle is a "lemon," the motor vehicle's warrantor must repurchase or replace the motor vehicle from the buyer.

In order to have a valid Lemon Law claim, the following elements must be met:

1.) The vehicle must be used some of the time for personal, family or household purposes. If a vehicle is used exclusively for business purposes, the Lemon Law will not apply, but other laws may provide certain remedies.

2.) The vehicle must have problems covered by a warranty. There is a simple rule: no warranty means no Lemon Law case.

3.) The warrantor must be unable to repair the vehicle's warranty problems after a reasonable number of repair attempts. What constitutes a reasonable number of repair attempts will vary depending on the problem. For example, if a vehicle's brakes fail, two repair attempts may be enough to establish a reasonable number. Generally, safety-related or drivability concerns will require fewer repair attempts than those which are not safety-related or affect drivability. However, only one unsuccessful repair attempt is never sufficient to establish a lemon law claim.

Also relevant to determining whether there has been a reasonable number of repair attempts is the number of days the vehicle is out-of-service due to warranty repairs. The more days out-of-service, the better the chance of establishing a reasonable number of repair attempts.

There is a common misconception concerning the Lemon Law, that it only applies to vehicles that are less than 18 months old and have less than 18,000 miles. This belief is not true! The Lemon Law will apply to a vehicle regardless of how old it is or how many miles is has, so long as the vehicle is having problems that are under warranty.

Even if the warranty has expired, the Lemon Law may apply. If the vehicle is still having problems that were complained about and never properly repaired during the warranty period, a valid Lemon Law claim may exist.

4.) The vehicle must contain a problem covered by the warranty that substantially impairs the vehicle's use, value or safety to the buyer/lessee. The Lemon Law, generally, will not apply to vehicles with trivial or minor defects. Nevertheless, each case must be judged independently taking into account the particular needs and expectations of the particular vehicle's owner/lessee.

If the above mentioned elements are met, the vehicle is a lemon. The vehicle's owner/lessee will be entitled to a replacement vehicle or a refund of the vehicle's purchase/lease price.

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