Understanding California’s Lemon Law

Under California’s Lemon Law, you are protected as a consumer when a vehicle you have purchased is deemed defective and cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of repair attempts. This helps keeps dangerous vehicles off the road, leads you with legal recourse if you are sold a faulty vehicle, and helps get you back on the road safely. Here are a few main points to help you determine if the Lemon Law applies to your case.

What Vehicles Does California’s Lemon Law Cover?

Most new vehicles (whether leased or purchased), which are still covered under their manufacturer’s new-vehicle warranty, are covered under California’s Lemon Law.

  • Used vehicles which are still covered under their manufacturer’s new car warranty also are covered by California’s Lemon Law
  • Active-duty, full-time members of the Armed Forces, whether stationed or living in California at the time they lease or purchase the vehicle, are protected even if they bought their vehicle or registered it outside of California

When Should a Manufacturer Replace a Vehicle?

Replacement or buyback may be required if the vehicle’s problems cannot be fixed after what is considered a “reasonable” number of attempts to repair it. The problem with the vehicle must:

  • Be covered by the manufacturer’s new-vehicle warranty
  • Impair substantially the value, safety, or use of the vehicle
  • Not be caused by the unreasonable or unauthorized use of the vehicle after it has been sold

How Many Repair Attempts is Reasonable?

What qualifies as a reasonable number of attempts to repair the vehicle is determined by several key considerations, among them being:

  • The car’s problems first happened within 18 months of the car’s delivery to you or 18,000 driven miles, whichever comes first
  • You notified the manufacturer of the vehicle about the problem (if required by owner’s manual)
  • The vehicle has been brought in for repair by the vehicle manufacturer or its agents:
    • Four times or more for the same problem and it remains unfixed
    • Two or more times for the same problem, but that problem could cause death or serious injury and remains unfixed


  • Your vehicle has been under repair for more than 30 days (not required to be in a row), and out of service to you

What is a Lemon Law Buyback Vehicle?

As it sounds, a Lemon Law Buyback vehicle is one that is being resold after having been bought back from an owner after the required repairs have failed. These are easily identified by a lemon sticker placed on their door. Any such vehicle must be disclosed as such to the consumer, sold as-is. If this does not happen, the buyer of such a vehicle could still be protected under the Lemon Law.


You are protected against purchasing a defective, potentially unsafe vehicle by California’s Lemon Law if you meet certain requirements. Consulting a law firm should be your first line of defense if the dealer and/or manufacturer do not meet the standards set by the Lemon Law itself.

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