a consumers new car broke down

The Lemon Law

If your new car cannot be repaired, you may be entitled to a replacement or a refund.

The Lemon Law


California’s Lemon Law protects you when a new car you buy or lease cannot be repaired.  In some cases, you may be entitled to a replacement or a refund.

What does California’s Lemon Law cover?

The California Lemon Law covers new cars. It covers used cars too if there is still time remaining on the manufacturer’s warranty. The Lemon Law covers:

  • Cars, pickup trucks, vans and SUV’s. It also covers the chassis, chassis cab, and drive train of a motor home. After-market parts such as van conversions are not included.
  • Dealer-owned vehicles and demonstrators.
  • Vehicles purchased or leased for personal, family, or household purposes.
  • Many vehicles that are purchased or leased primarily for business use.

The Lemon Law does not cover:

  • Vehicles that are not registered under the California Vehicle Code, such as off-road vehicles.
  • Vehicles that have been abused.

When does the Lemon Law apply?

California’s Lemon Law applies when a “reasonable” number of repair attempts have been made. This is called the Lemon Law Presumption.

The Lemon Law Presumption applies if all the following are true:

  • The problems your car is having are covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.
  • The problem first occurred within 18 months of delivery, or within 18,000 miles, whichever came first. (For major defects after this time frame, talk to an attorney.)
  • The problem reduces the use, value or safety of the vehicle to you, and the problems were not caused by abuse.
  • If the warranty or owner’s manual requires it, you have notified the manufacturer about the problems. (It’s best to have this in writing).

And if any one of the following is also true:

  1. You’ve taken the car in for repairs four or more times for the same problem and it’s still not fixed.
  2. You’ve taken the car in for repairs two or more times for a problem that is severe enough to cause death or serious bodily injury and it’s still not fixed.
  3. The vehicle has been in the shop for more than 30 days (not necessarily in a row) for repair of any problem covered by the warranty.

If your vehicle meets these criteria, the Lemon Law presumes a reasonable number of repair attempts have been made and you may be entitled to a replacement or a refund.

What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a free and relatively simple way of resolving warranty problems. Both you and the manufacturer agree to allow a neutral third party (an arbitrator) decides whether a reasonable number of repair attempts have been made to fix your car.  The arbitrator decides what should be done.  Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Possible outcomes include:

  • An additional repair attempt.
  • Replacement of your vehicle.
  • A refund of part or even the entire purchase price.
  • Reimbursement for incidental expense (towing, car rental, etc.)

What are some advantages of arbitration?

It is free, and faster and less complicated than going to court.

Decisions are made within 40 days of the program receiving your application.

You can accept or reject the decision.  If you accept it, the manufacturer must accept it too.  If you reject the decision, you can still sue in court.

For more information, contact the California Arbitration Certification Program.

County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. Last change: Apr. 14, 2011

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